Husbands, wives, fathers, mothers, children, siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents – these are the relationships that structure the family tree and fascinate the family historian. But how much do we really know about how our ancestors lived out these multiple roles? Buffeted this way and that by economic developments, legal changes, medical advances, Two World Wars, the rise of the Welfare State, women’s emancipation and many other factors, relationships between members of our family in the past were subtly different to those of today and continually transforming. This book is both a social history of the period 1800-1950 and a practical guide on how to set about tracing and better understanding the relationships between members of your own family. What did it mean to be a father in this period, but also, how might you discover the father of an ancestor if his name is not mentioned on the birth certificate? What common ideas were held about the role of wives and mothers, but also, how were multiple births, stillbirths, abortions and infanticides dealt with in the records? What factors might have influenced the size of your ancestor’s family, but also why were its children named as they were? Did pecking order in a family matter, but also, was it legal to marry a cousin, or the sister of a deceased wife? How long could people expect to live, but also what records can tell you more about the circumstances of your ancestors’ last years? A final chapter considers relationships with neighbours, friends and club associates.
Targeted Age Group:: 16+
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
Having been writing about family history for well over a decade I realised that whilst the characters in old photographs are all unique to our individual family histories, they also played familiar roles in society – of fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, infants, aunts, uncles and cousins. I wanted to see what more could be deduced about these roles from the photographs themselves and from the social history of the Victorian period and early twentieth century in general. Readers should enjoy drawing on these photographs and this knowledge to find out more about the ancestors in their own specific family stories.
It is a fascinating thought that most of our nineteenth-century ancestors will have had experience either of being a child in a large family, or of being the parents of numerous children or both. Until the third quarter of the nineteenth century, unrestricted childbirth was the regime for the majority of married women. For many generations in the distant past, indeed, your family tree probably resembled a pyramid with couples tending to have more children than their parents… At the same time, there was an intensity of connection between what we now call the nuclear family and its other branches. Aunts, uncles and cousins may have been almost as much a part of your nineteenth century ancestor's life as parents and siblings. Grandparents, great-grandparents and other elderly relatives might have lived nearby or within the family home. The social circles of these people (their friends, neighbours and the people they associated with in clubs and organisations) which are also investigated in the last chapters of this book, were generally localised, and interconnected with family life.
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