Improving Our Findings

For someone like me who has been researching for ages, it is really easy to fall into the habit of finding people new to the tree without going back over old information. My sort-out of my census data has flagged up such a situation.

I have been amazed at how many people on my tree have been born but who, according to my data, haven't died. Gosh, some of them must be hundreds of years old—Meluselah, in fact, if it were true. So that is the next project—finding deaths and burials.

In the meantime, my census tidy-up has been an interesting exercise in that it has indicated the ways in which peoples' lives and circumstances have changed— for the better, in many cases. It has shown how society has changed with innovations left, right and centre.

It is interesting to see how families adapted to changes introduced by the Industrial Revolution. Some continued in their family 'tradition' of agricultural labourer, but most families have at least one person who moved with the times, whether voluntarily or by necessity, and improved his or her skills. From agricultural labourer to traction engine driver, from farm waggoner to bus driver, train driver or to owning a carrying business. Migration to cities features strongly with the rise of large textile factories. Those families who were born in more advantaged circumstances had their ups and downs. Some continued to thrive where others went in the other direction, to the workhouse. Some are listed as lunatics. It makes me wonder if these last inherited the poor mental health gene or whether circumstances drove them to their so-called lunacy.

Something that was brought home to me was the number of families who had a child, if not several, who died as infants or children. Social class was not a factor. Diseases wrought havoc amongst rich and poor, although many illnesses correlated with living conditions. What a difference compared with nowadays. Sometimes a couple who were closely related had no children born alive or children who lived long enough to be baptised but died soon after. The cruelty of the Established Church struck me when unbaptised children were not allowed to be buried in consecrated ground. Wow. Talk about adding insult to injury. Real Christian values coming out there (says she, ironically).

It is a really enjoyable exercise finding out the backgrounds to the various circumstances. Being a Kiwi, I've had to learn heaps about the United Kingdom's history to try to put it into some kind of context. I've drawn up a timeline. Maybe it will help someone.

So, the journey continues.

Jan Powell