Posted Tuesday 2 February 2021
Researchers from Kingston University are appealing for the public's help with the transcription of rare pension records that could reveal fascinating insights into the lives and illnesses suffered by postal workers during the Victorian era.
Addressing Health is a collaborative project between academics and archivists at King's College London, Kingston University, University of Derby, University College London and The Postal Museum. It examines the pension records of thousands of postal employees in the Victorian and Edwardian period and will be the largest study of occupational health in the UK service sector in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
On 2 February, the Addressing Health project is one of four schemes featured as part of Who Do You Think You Are? Magazine's annual Transcription Tuesday event, with the aim of achieving 20,790 transcriptions by members of the public. The project will use the Zooniverse crowdsourcing platform to transcribe pension records that reveal lives and health of postal workers during the Victorian era.
For Transcription Tuesday, the project is challenging the public to complete the transcription of pension records covering the years 1860 to 1862.
The pension records, held in The Postal Museum, chronicle the working lives and retirement of tens of thousands of employees. Through this project the files have been digitised and made available online for the first time. They are unique because of the vast amount of personal detail they contain including the location and occupation of the pensioners, the reason for and date of their retirement, their length of service, and information about sickness absence prior to retirement.
The Wellcome-funded Addressing Health research project will use the information gathered by transcribers to inform the understanding of wider patterns of morbidity and mortality during what was an important period of epidemiological change. The project is the largest study of occupational health in the UK service sector in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
Dr Douglas Brown, co-investigator on the project and senior lecturer in geographic information systems and human geography at Kingston University, said the information provided through the transcriptions would provide a fantastic insight into the health and working lives of people across the UK in the Victorian period.
"Most of what we know about poor health at that time comes from death records, so it's really valuable to learn about the illnesses which people had that didn't necessarily kill them," he said. "Every extra transcription tells us more, and that's one of the things that makes this project so exciting.
"The questions we have about the health of these workers never go away - how long did people work for, why did they retire early, what places and what job types had better or worse health outcomes? And there's never been a better time to improve our understanding of the relationships between health and working and living environments."