This blog post is reporting the findings of an of an on going project which aimed to delve into the family history of someone from Malton.
The search began when we found a letter of indenture from Thomas Taylor to Fred Witty, which formally began the beginning of Fred Witty’s employment as a ‘Apprentice to Thomas Taylor Bakes and Confectioner Malton’ which promised Fred Witty payment of eight shillings per week from April 6th 1888 until April 1892.
This was a fully fledged out contract and even included a code of behaviour forbidding Fred Witty to’not haunt taverns or playhouses’or to ‘play at cards or dice’and instructing Fred Witty to ‘in all things as a faithful apprentice he shall behave himself to his said master’This is not just a record of employment but can also inform historians on the values and rules of the society which Fred Witty lived under, with the key distinction that Fred’s professional career dictated how he should conduct himself in several aspects of his personal life.
The main source of our information on Fred Witty’s life comes from the census data taken every ten years throughout his life, which has created a very thorough record of his life from his birth in 1871 until his death in 1936 at the age of 65. This data reveals alotof information Fred Wittys family life including his marriage to Mary Ellen and his four children. This information has been collected and is currently on display in the museum.
The case of Fred Witty shows a growing trend in the historical community as rather than focus exclusively on great man theory (seeing history as being the recording actions done by great men) contemporary history places a newfound importance on the wider society and on a brand of history known as peoples history which focuses on understanding the events experienced by the individuals who made up past societies. This way of studying history can give us a much greater understanding of the past than ever before.