The new data release – 3 months in

Hard as we find it to believe, it’s nearly three months since we released the new project data. We’ve been promoting it wherever we can, to ensure people know about it and are using it. It’s core to our project that you do use it, for whatever you’re interested in. In today’s blog post, we wanted to reflect a little on this process – and to ask for your help.

We’ll start with the request. If you haven’t already done it, do please let us know what you think of the project, what you’re doing with the project data, and how it’s helping you. Some of you have contacted us – thank you. It’s a real help. We share the comments with our volunteer teams, and it gives us all a boost. We’d be really grateful for more examples of this.

It also helps us show our institutional supporters (the University of Portsmouth, the National Railway Museum and wider Science Museum Group, and the Modern Records Centre at the University of Warwick) how what the project is doing is having an impact. In turn that strengthens their commitment to the project.

We’re also open, of course, to suggestions for future project work. We can’t guarantee to do it, but the more we hear from you about what you’d find useful for the future, the better the chance we can act on it. And we welcome corrections, if you should spot a mistake in the project data. It absolutely happens, and once we know about it, we can take steps to check and where appropriate amend.

With around 23,000 cases in the project database, covering Britain and Ireland 1900-1939, there’s a lot on offer, whatever your interest. This might be history (railway, family, local, labour, social, or some other ‘type’ of history), railway operation, or something else entirely.

What we’ve heard so far has been very positive! Sometimes it’s been very general – no less the pleasing for it: ‘it’s fantastic that such progress has been made.’ Sometimes it’s been about research brick walls that have been broken down. Chris noted: ‘Well, that sorted the Family History wall that we hit some years ago. We knew he was an H Jones and that he died in 1901. You try looking for that on Ancestry. It returns one or two of them! Stunning work! Well done chaps.’ Sometimes we hear from people reminded how things have changed, and the importance of being aware of how we’ve got to today’s position, as in this comment from a current medical practitioner:

Screengrab of a Tweet, quoting from the project and noting 'we can always learn from history and remember why we have health and safety regulations.'

 

Whilst the accidents found in the database happened at least 80 years ago, their consequences and the impacts they had – have – still reach to the present. One example came in recently, from Linda:

‘Just wanted to thank you for all your hard work in pulling together such a useful resource on railway accidents. The link to your website serendipitously popped up in my husband’s Facebook feed this morning, just days after my search began for details of my aunt’s father’s accident in Merioneth. No newspaper reports had cropped up on British Library records in FindMyPast.’

Her Great Uncle’s accident featured in the database and as a result we were able to clarify what had happened, providing comfort for her Aunt.

Looking purely at the stats, since the data release we’ve had 3001 downloads of the database, and the website has had over 23,300 views. That only tells us so much, of course – and nothing of what you’re actually doing with the data. So, we’d much prefer to hear from you about how you’re using the data!

We’re also delighted that a number of you have already been good enough to put together guest posts for the project blog, involving cases in the new data release. They include:

Genealogist Susan Fabbro, on the accident that killed Rowland Winn, who had at the time been her Grandma’s boyfriend;

University of Portsmouth student Jenny Leng, on two accidents in the Linegar family;

Family historian Rosie Rowley, on the wider life of shunter Frederick Webb; and

Project volunteer Michael Davis, on accidents involving drowning.

We’ve also got more guest blogs coming that involve cases in the new project data release, which we’re delighted to see. This includes Linda, noted above, on her Great Uncle; Pam Smith on a young porter’s accident in Yorkshire and how he was a part of the local community; Chris, noted above, on the elusive H Jones; and family historian Pauline Sieler who found her Great Grandfather in the project records.

We’re tremendously grateful to everyone who writes for us. It really helps us understand the people and places involved better, and get beyond the moment of the accident. It also means that those stories are told, which we know is important for the authors.

As a project, we very much see our aims as collaborative. One part of that is ensuring that there’s a place for you to tell the railway staff accident stories relevant to you. Another part is our hearing back from you, on what you’re finding in the project and how you’re using it. So, do please get in touch with us to let us know.

You can tell us via email (railwayworkeraccidents@gmail.com), our contact form, Twitter or Facebook. We look forward to hearing from you!

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