FAMILIES in a West Oxfordshire village can explore the lives of their ancestors like never before thanks to a special eight-week exhibition.

Bampton Families, which opened in Bampton Library on Monday, September 3, charts 200 years of history for 23 families with links to the village.

The free exhibition was co-ordinated solely by Janet Newman, a Bampton resident who has records of her own ancestors living in the village back in the 18th century.

Mrs Newman produced a similar display back in 2005 and felt it was time for a follow-up, devoting two months to compiling each family tree.

She said: “I work better under pressure.

“This was one of those things that grabs you and you find yourself working up until the early hours on it.

“It’s so interesting what glued these families together.”

Starting on July 1, Mrs Newman explored the histories of each family using her previous research and websites ancestry.co.uk and English Heritage.

This was very different to her exhibition 13 years ago, when she had to painstakingly trawl through parish records, her only source.

The wonders of modern technology certainly aided her quest, but Mrs Newman received such extensive results that a print-out of her own family tree was 34ft long.

A former deputy headteacher at the village primary school, she instead created a dedicated scroll for every family and wrote short stories relating to each one.

The walls of the exhibition will display the names and pictures of notable family members, with one tree dating back as far as the 16th century.

The library is known to the wider world as a filming location for Downton Abbey and so the project should attract plenty of floating visitors.

But Mrs Newman expects a recent surge in interest in family history will also increase the number of people through the doors.

She said: “We get a lot of tourists because of Downton Abbey and plenty of new families have moved into the village so I thought the stories were a good idea.

“I wanted to create a brief look into the lives of these families to make it interesting for people who didn’t know them.

“When I did it in 2005 I was talking to a young boy at the primary school who didn’t know his auntie lived on the next road along.

“Now families are much more nuclear and there’s a hankering to know where people come from.”

Mrs Newman hopes visitors will contribute more information to the family histories during the exhibition, while a catalogue will be available for purchase.

The exhibition will run until October 28 in the Versey Room in Bampton Library Building.

It is open from 11am to 1pm and 2.30pm to 4.30 pm from Monday to Saturday and 2.30 pm to 4.30 pm on Sunday.