Researching Online: Tracking down one of Britain’s youngest transportees

The research process when planning your Prison Voices post can, unsurprisingly, feel like a very daunting task. However, the best piece of advice I can offer up is that taking the idea that fascinates and inspires you the most will always lead to the highest quality of work.

The story which peaked my interest and captured my imagination was that of a young 18th Century girl named Mary Wade. I found out about Mary Wade simply by searching for interesting stories of transported convicts on the internet and I discovered an independent blog which gave some detail of the life which Mary had lived. The information was thin on the ground and lacked any real scholarly references but the idea had sparked an interest and that was enough for me.

Transportation document from www.nationalarchives.gov.uk
Transportation document from www.nationalarchives.gov.uk

I found that persistent searching of the internet threw up a whole host of different paths down which I could take my research of Mary Wade. However, first and foremost I had to find myself some real historical evidence that her story was in fact true. I managed to find out some minute yet incredibly interesting details of Wade through excerpts from a 1789 edition of The Times newspaper which I obtained using the LJMU online databases, all of which we have access to on Blackboard. Additionally, I discovered shipping records from The National Archive which confirmed both her existence and her transportation to Australia and I was away. Online archives such as these hold infinite relics of history which, with a simple search, you can dig out and really develop your blog and provide that historical weight to your writing.

Ensuring that the information you have is historically reliable is key because this is the basis of the entire blog. If the blog is factually incorrect it can call into question the integrity of all your work so although it may be taxing it is better to be safe than sorry! Archives, newspapers and scholarly articles are all great sources of information and each source contributed heavily to my own blog post.

The Times Archive
The Times Archive

Of course it goes without saying that as well as the abundance of web resources at your fingertips a trip to the library would never go amiss. Finding texts that suit your idea and moulding them to your primary research may take a couple of laborious note-taking sessions in the library but for me this really gave me a perspective upon my research which set it apart as my own individual piece of work.

My research blog became almost story-like in its development and the more I discovered and pieced together about Mary Wade, the more the narrative of her life came together. With thorough research the pieces slowly begin to align and form your blog cohesively. It felt incredibly rewarding to establish and execute my blog and I’m sure if you apply yourself to the research aspect of your blog then yours inevitably will too!

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