Alan Crosby's blog: Paying tribute to a hero of family history

By Jon Bauckham, 17 February 2016 - 3:21pm

Alan Crosby pays tribute to his friend and towering figure of family history, David Hey, who died last week

Dr Alan Crosby is the editor of the Local Historian and a columnist for WDYTYA? MagazineThursday 18 February 2016
Alan Crosby
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Professor Hey was a prolific author of local and family history books

On Sunday, came the very sad news of the death that morning of my friend David Hey.  

He was one of the towering figures in local and family history during the past 50 years, and his name will be familiar to many family historians up and down the country who have heard him talk in his deep and rich South Yorkshire accent, or who have read and enjoyed his fine books, or consulted the bible – the Oxford Dictionary of Local and Family History, which he edited and has run to several editions. 

David grew up in a remote moorland hamlet outside Penistone, west of Barnsley, and his fascination for family and locality was fashioned there. He recalled the revelation that the unusual surnames of many local families were traceable not just to particular villages but to individual farms which had been there for 700 or 800 years.

But he was also passionate about the magnificent history and townscapes of the nearby metropolis, Sheffield, about which he wrote eloquently, and by the history of his home county, Yorkshire – he published a superb book on that subject in 2005. 

David became Professor of Local and Family History at Sheffield University, the only person ever to have had a professorship in an English university which embraced ‘family history’.

A brilliant communicator and inspiring teacher, immensely learned but never the slightest bit pretentious, a fine writer and great campaigner for accessible, comprehensible history about real and often very ordinary people, he was much loved by very many people. It was a privilege to have known him as a friend, and we are much the poorer for his passing.

Alan Crosby lives in Lancashire and is editor of The Local Historian. He is an honorary research fellow at Lancashire and Liverpool universities.

 

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