My experience of family and local history research dates back to the early 1960s when I started researching my own family. With my family's connections with Shropshire, Worcestershire and Herefordshire, I have built up an extensive knowledge of the sources available from these areas. In particular, my archive of private transcriptions of south Shropshire and north-west Worcestershire material is extensive.
With a degree in classical languages from Cambridge, I was particularly interested in documents in Latin, and so I came to transcribe much Church Court material from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, where abbreviated Latin was extensively used. A sabbatical term at Christ Church, Oxford, in 1989 cemented this interest. Recently I have been involved in the national project, based upon Roehampton University, to transcribe, edit and publish Hearth Tax records of all counties. So far, I have, with a colleague, completed a transcription of the Herefordshire Hearth Tax for 1664, and part of the West Riding of Yorkshire for 1682.
My working life was in education, and for 23 years I was Headmaster of Old Swinford Hospital School for boys 11-18 in Stourbridge. In 2001, I was awarded the O.B.E. in the New Year Honours for services to Education.
I was Chairman of the Ludlow Historical Research Group from 2005-2008, and Chairman of Cleobury Mortimer Historical Society from 2003-2008. I am past President of Stourbridge Historical and Archaeological Society. Having been Churchwarden of St. Laurence's, Ludlow, I was fortunate to help with one of the finest Parish Churches in England. I am now writing a history of the church with two colleagues.
I have carried out family history and local history research for people in England, USA , Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Apart from carrying out genealogical research, I am often asked to transcribe Wills and other documents.
My wife is from the United States and was born in San Francisco. Her grandfather researched the family's history and published a small book in the 1930s. He himself owned an Advertising Company that came up with the slogan 'Say it with Flowers'. An interesting part of her tree is the Clark family and she has a close connection with William Clark who accompanied Lewis in the famous expedition west after the Louisiana purchase.
My own male Potter line goes back a long way in south Shropshire, mostly around Cleobury Mortimer, Stottesdon and Neen Savage, where there survives the black and white cottage the Potters lived in from about 1560 to the late 1600s. The family's fortunes waxed and waned but reached a low point in the 1840s when my 3x great grandfather John Potter of Cleobury Mortimer was an out-pauper of the workhouse.
In contrast, my paternal grandmother's family, the Smiths, of south east London, who originated from Kirby Malham in Yorkshire, had a rapid rise to good fortune in the later 18th and early 19th centuries when Leny Smith who was born in Kirkby Malham in 1760 came down to London as a young man and eventually bought a snuff mill in Hackney Wick, with finance from his father in law. He turned the mill into a crape manufactory (used for funeral clothes) and by 1801 was employing 600 people in his mills. He built himself a large house in Hackney, Sydney House, and had his offices in Paternoster Row near St Paul's Cathedral. He became a Freeman of the City of London, but his fortunes later declined when crape imports from continental Europe undercut his price.