A COMPREHENSIVE new database compiled by a pair of dedicated volunteers charts the Second World War experiences of nearly 8,000 military personnel from Rotherham.
Andy Featherstone and Jayne Daley have each spent five hours a week since last September combing copies of the Advertiser from 1939 to 1947.
The result is an impressive log organised by name, rank and regiment - giving you exact page references to turn to in our back issues, which are stored at Rotherham Archives.
Jayne (63), from Bramley, said: “A lot of people come in here looking for specific individuals, family members, and they haven’t got weeks to go through in detail all the papers.
“And with this database, there might even be people looking themselves up!”
Historian and author Brian Elliott said: “These two modest characters have been working away here for the best part of 20 years and deserve tremendous recognition.
“Anyone with Rotherham ancestry or connections would be able to make use of this.
“There are so many names and the little biographies they help you find tell so much more of their stories.”
“As a historian, I’ve seen databases in different parts of the country but never anything as comprehensive as this.
“And elsewhere, when it has been done, it’s been a whole team of people working on it. For Andy and Jayne, it’s a labour of love.”
The Second World War database is the latest of several compiled by the pair - who even discovered they were related as cousins by marriage while researching Jayne’s family tree.
They have other logs covering the home front, the Boer conflict, Korea in the 50s and names on the borough’s war memorials.
Jayne said: “Newspapers are still an under-rated resource in terms of military and family history.
“There are records in the Advertiser which go back to Egypt in the 1880s.
“The staff here are so helpful too. I think some people are put off because they think they’ll be officious and expect you to have a degree in history, but it’s nothing like that.
“A lot people are amazed when they first come here.
“And because of the loss of service papers during the Blitz, newspapers can bridge that gap.”
She added: “It sounds dead simple, just copying names from the memorials but you have to check everything and it’s a very long process.”
Andy (54), of Clifton, said: “There are some very moving letters, which family members sent in response to the appeals for names on memorials.
“You can’t really get any more personal than those.
Archives assistant John Nash said: “The databases are really, really beneficial to us.
“People who come in don’t have six or seven weeks to go through paperwork, so it’s brilliant to be able to go straight to the name they want.
“Andy and Jayne have done a marvellous job.”
The database is free to view at the archives - open Wednesday to Saturday at Clifton Park Museum.
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