Canonesses of the Holy Sepulchre
One of the wonderful things about this project is that it brings the archive and collections of the Community to a wider audience, sometimes helping people to find out more about their own family histories. This post has been written by Richard Haly, descendant of Lelia Haly (1788-1873), S. Mary Joseph. Richard came to visit the archives a few months ago, and very kindly wrote this account of his experience and discoveries: 
"On a warm sunny morning I turned up at the archives of the Canonesses of the Holy Sepulchre in Colchester not knowing quite what to expect.  I had arranged the visit in advance and had been told that the archives contained some documents relating to a distant relation of mine who had been a member of the Community at New Hall in the early 19th  century.
 
On arrival I was made welcome and then, after a short discussion, I was allowed to go into the archives and view the documents.  What I saw surpassed my expectations.  As well as the official records kept by the nuns themselves, such as her profession document from 1813, I was amazed to be shown some letters from my relation's parents.  From reading these I found the answer to the question that I had asked on arrival: "Why might my relation have become a nun?"  It became clear that she had attended the school at New Hall and liked the Community so much that she dedicated the rest of her life to it.
 
It was fascinating to see the series of documents from her arrival at the school aged 15 when she took dancing and drawing lessons in addition to the normal curriculum, through the process of becoming a nun aged 23, to the chantresses notes on the day after her death aged 82 in 1873.  Even the financial accounts from her time as a pupil exist and record a minute level of detail of her expenditure on a regular basis.  By coincidence a book was discovered on the shelf which had been printed by her father.  All these sources provided a wealth of information on her character, when all I really knew beforehand was her dates of baptism and of death.
 
Though the Community is now based in Colchester, they still maintain links with the school at New Hall, and the archivist kindly facilitated my visit there the same day so that I could see my relation's grave.  A helpful chart of the cemetery there made finding the grave easy, and I was also shown the chapel, presumably where she had made her vows all those years ago.
 
That rounded off, for me, a very successful day.  I had learnt much more than I was prepared for, and the staff at the archives were most helpful in enabling me to see the specific documents relating to my search.  I was pleased that all the material I saw was in good condition for its age and therefore relatively easy to read."