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The SOG and ‘the pandemic’
The SOG and ‘the pandemic’

The SOG and ‘the pandemic’

So recently I decided to play grown-up and go through my email inbox and have a bit of a tidy up (I know, I know….adulting 101 right!).

I have a bit of a system, which should result in an empty inbox. But the problem with any ‘system’ is that it’s only as good as the muppet supposedly using it – in this case me! So over the past few months I had read a few emails and not filed them away or deleted them… (You know it’s ok to delete emails. Honest. I tried it and they just go to the deleted box and you can get them back if you want…and the world didn’t end. Oh. wait. Maybe Covid is my bad for deleting my emails! sorry!).

I digress.

There in my email inbox was an email from the SOG. Society of Genealogists. This made me happy and sad and everything in between.

“You sentimental old fool” I hear you say. “It’s just a jolly email!”.

“Yes, yes I am a sentimental old fool” (aren’t all family historians??). So why did I get all sentimental about an email from the SOG?

Dear Member…

Well…it was a ‘Message from the Chairman’. Ed. And Ed was thanking those of us who are members for our ongoing support during ‘the pandemic’. (Not sure why that needs parentheses but I do feel like those words need to be sectioned off on their own….quarantined…).

Anyhow, Ed was thanking us for all supporting the SOG and provided a rather lengthy (and appreciated) update on the SOG. A while back members were told that they were looking to sell the building and move to new premises. Well, it seems that the project is underway.

Don’t worry – they aren’t about to move anytime soon. There is a long-term lease on the site and a dedicated team looking at the options for relocation. It’s worth saying, that by relocating, it gives the society an opportunity to review the collection. A stocktake as it were. And much of this is to eventually go online. Yippee! All of this will improve and develop a secure future for the SOG. So there is a lot to look forward to. A lot!

So why did i get all sentimental about this?

Back in the good old days….

Well, I was suddenly transported back to that magical moment walking in the front doors. Let’s be honest, it’s no architectural wonder, but hidden in the floors above and below are treasures. And that’s not even counting the wealth of knowledge from the volunteers and speakers in the lecture room.

There is a particular lady on the first floor…or is it the second!? It’s been so long I can’t remember (the shame). Anyhow, I don’t know how many people attending courses make it upstairs, but she alway, always, there to welcome you into her fabulous world of books with a smile and ‘Can I help you?’.

I never have any questions because I just love perusing all the books.

There are parish registers which I know are mostly online now….but it’s always worth a bo-peep to see if perhaps an online transcription was wrong. There are all sorts of books on very, very specific subjects too. I’m pretty sure if you wanted a book on agricultural implements used by farmers in Devon during the 1850’s…there would be a book.

I love it because I get to pretend I am back in the old days of research. A time when people had to get dressed and go out and look in books and be sober (yes…a lot of my research is done at home in my pj’s with a glass of red wine or a G&T.).

One day though I will have a questions for that sweet, kind, helpful lady.

…back when we could see people

But the other thing in the email from Ed, that made me sigh and be all sentimental, was thoughts of the people. The other visitors.

This can be a lonely hobby and so that tea room on the ground floor was a great hive of chat and activity.

Comparing notes and resources.

Competition on who had gotten back the furthest.

Who had the most wicked relative.

All tut-tutting at the state of the world.

Wide indignation at the terrible inaccuracies of online Ancestry family trees.

General fist-shaking at those shaky green leaves.

Laughing at the indescribable folly of those that accept as fact (on those dreaded Ancestry trees) life events after the person would have died (oh the frivolity!).

In the past, I have got annoyed with all that negative conversation and, I’m not going to lie, I often avoided the ‘tea room of gloom’. But now I miss it.


The other thing I miss about the SOG, and I can’t even believe I am typing this, are the cranky frustrated researchers.

Now let’s be honest this hobby is mostly for those at the later end of the age scale; and if we’re really being honest with ourselves it takes a certain type of person to get really, really into it.

The minute attention to details. The need for accuracy. Keeping logs and records. Noting Sources. Neat and tidy edges. Why else would we devote so much time, energy and money just to find a Great, Great Grand Uncle who seems to vanish in the 1861 census!

Why else do we lay awake at night brain-storming that brick wall (please tell me I’m not the only lunatic family historian! right?)

Books….glorious books!

But all those many frustrating years of searching for the smallest clue…can also make us a tad grumpy. So often I have been buried in a book on the second floor of the SOG and there is some person at the other end of the quiet room tut-tutting as they leaf through a book trying to find an elusive date or relative or place.

One particularly memorable afternoon, I actually had to remove myself. I had a ‘sigher’ on one side and a ‘tut-tutter’ at the other. It was library hell. And it really brought down the vibe. Up to that point, I too had been having a wonderfully pointless time in my research, and was 100% engaged in the frustration. Quietly.

Are they ok?

But now as we have spent much of the year confined to our homes, I can’t help but wonder about those dear wise ones in the tea room. The sighers and tut-tutters on the second floor. I hope that they are safe; that they are writing down their memoirs; and they are keeping in touch with friends.

One day, we will all meet again in the ‘tea room of gloom’ and talk instead about all the research we did at home and how much we missed the SOG library. And how excited we are about a move! You know how much we all love change…


ps. Although we can’t go to many of the archives at the moment, the shiny silver lining of ‘the pandemic’ is that a lot of the SOG courses have moved online to zoom.

To say this is amazing is an understatement. BC (Before Covid) I had to do that whole ‘get dressed/be an adult’ thing…but now I can be sipping on a cuppa tea and in my pj’s (camera off…) while listening to a wise person speak. Brilliant. Check out their programme of talks here.