A is for…

In two earlier blog posts we talked about the ongoing project to catalogue Southern England Railway employee cards. We’re very happy to announce that the railway employment cards for employees whose surname begins with the letter ‘A’ are now online in the Record Office catalogue http://www.westsussexpast.org.uk/searchonline/default.aspx and can be found by typing SEREC into the Quick Search box.

An example of a railway employee card for Alfred Ayling

In the course of cataloguing the cards, volunteers have uncovered some fascinating facts about employees with surnames starting with ‘A’.

The earliest year of birth among the ‘A’ cards is 1856, less than 20 years after Queen Victoria ascended the throne. The most recent is 1952.

The earliest start date of an ‘A’ card employee is 1877, and the most recent is 1980.

Only 15 of the ‘A’ card employees have their nationality stated. These are Nigerian (5), Italian (2), Jamaican (2), Anglo-Indian (1), Ghanaian (1), Indian (1), Jordanian (1), Maltese (1), and West African (1).

The reverse of an employee card, which includes a record of the fact that this man was on active service until 1919.

Although the railway cards are from the Southern Region, not all the employees began their railway employment with the obvious railway companies. The majority of the ‘A’ surnames started work with British Rail / British Railways (852), Southern Railway (390), or London, Brighton & South Coast Railway (152). The remainder are with London & South Western Railway (60), South Western Railway (60), South Eastern & Chatham Railway (41), London, Chatham & Dover Railway (8), London & North Eastern Railway (6), Great Western Railway (6), South Eastern Railway (4), Great Eastern Railway (1), Kent & East Sussex Railway (1), Lynton & Barnstaple Railway (1), and several where the company is not specified.

Among the more unexpected first jobs are 2nd Officer (Naval), Assistant Cook, Chambermaid, Chef, Dining Club Assistant, Divisional Medical Officer, Gardener, Locksmith’s Apprentice, Photographer, and Stableman.

There will be a further blog post each time the cards for one letter of the alphabet have been completed. There are 72 boxes in total, two of which were for ‘A’, so it is obvious that there are still tens of thousands of names to be listed. It is anticipated that the project will last for two to three years, so anyone interested in a surname towards the end of the alphabet will have to be patient!

Katherine Slay, Archives Assistant

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