Those Places Thursday – Discovering Pitton & Farley, Wiltshire, England

3 February 2011

This is my contribution to the blogging theme Those Places Thursday and I have selected one of my English parishes as I am also interested in One Place Studies.

My great grandfather Herbert William White was born in Farley, Wiltshire in 1864 and I have been researching the family since 1977. Many others are also linked into the White family as the family stayed in the same parish for generations.

As an Australian it is not that easy to visit our ancestral places but today, thanks to the Internet, it is a lot easier to learn about these places. A Google search on a place name can bring up a whole range of interesting sites.

I like to start with Wikipedia for an overview of a place. I was disappointed to see that Pitton & Farley did not have a dedicated article except for a page in Dutch which Google happily translated for me. This is basically a map showing location and basic information and statistics.

My next choice was the official Pitton & Farley site and there is lots of information and photographs although it is primarily a current site advertising what is happening and so on. It would be great if I was planning a visit and wanted to know what was coming up and things to do while there. However, there is a great section on Churches including All Saints Church and it’s history is given (built 1690) with recent photographs which are wonderful to see. My White family had a long connection with the Church as Herbert’s father Robert White was a Clerk of the Parish as was his father, also named Robert, a Clerk of the Parish.

The next website I like to explore when learning about an ancestral place in the UK is GENUKI and there is an entry for Pitton and Farley. This gives me basic information and links to Church Records and Gazetteers. For example, I learnt that in 1831 Farley had a population of 254 and in 1951 the combined population of Pitton and Farley was 452. Pitton is only one mile north of Farley and both are only about three miles north east of Salisbury.

To me here in Australia this sounds like a very tiny area as the suburb I live in is probably twice as big but then distances are much greater in this country than the UK. When I eventually get to visit Pitton and Farley (hopefully in the not too distant future) I will have to remember that I probably can’t just walk around it like I do here in my own suburb. The photos of snow blanketing everything is one giveaway that it may not be possible!

If I do a Google images search I can find lots of photographs and could spend hours looking at them all (882 results just on Pitton and Farley). There are all different types of maps as well. However, one can’t go past a live Google Earth tour of the streets of Pitton and Farley. It is just like driving around but you can’t get out of the car and explore further.

I also searched the National Library of Australia (NLA) online catalogue for references to any books or other resources on Pitton and Farley and if I log in, it will even tell me if the books are in my own local library or the State Library of Victoria. If not, I can always see if the books are available through inter library loan. A quick glance through the many titles tells me that I would be interested in quite a few of the titles.

One of the great things about the NLA catalogue is that it also links to online resources so by simply clicking on the link to The Visitation of Wiltshire 1565 (for example) it takes me directly to the book and I can search online myself. By entering the surname White it quickly highlights where all the White references are in the text and by hovering over the markers, I can view the text easily. Once I finish this blog, I will also be checking out the Visitation of  Wiltshire 1623.

In the process of writing this blog, I have accumulated quite a bit of information on the history of Pitton and Farley as well as seen maps and photographs and explored a 16th century publication. All of this while sitting at my laptop at home. Exploring your ancestral places can be quite easy but be prepared to spend several hours, or more, because it is truly fascinating!


Shauna has been tracing her own family history since 1977 and is a Fellow of the Queensland Family History Society. In 2009 Shauna received the Australasian Federation of Family History Organisations (AFFHO) Services to Family History Award for her achievements in Queensland, Canberra and Victoria.

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