Social History & Genealogy

Being aware of the situation in a geographical location over a given time period, will assist those who are researching their family tree. That background may well give some if not all of the reasons as to how and why an event has occurred and what the consequences may be for the population in that specific area.

For example knowledge of what the principal living conditions were for the workers in an area may well be a contributing factor towards the incidence and spread of disease. So, knowing what the going weekly wage was will have a bearing on what housing they could afford to rent, which in turn gives an insight into how much money was left to spend on nutrition.

One of the earliest social history projects was the Enquiry into Life and Labour in London (1886-1903), by Charles Booth. The maps and (now) digitised handwritten notebooks and the London poverty maps, give a stark insight into London’s poor. Even if your ancestors were not in London, the details in the collection probably mirror what was happening in many urban areas. Further insights include historic photographs and maps held by museums throughout the United Kingdom are well worth visiting, as well as exhibitions in national museums and archives.

There are many regional Family History Societies, who have their own archived material of their location as well as a team of local folk who can bring you up to speed regarding information about you family. Looking on The Family History Federation website should be your first port of call to establish which society is the one to contact regarding localised history to the area your ancestors lived and worked in.

I don’t know a single Family Historian who doesn’t own book(s) about his or her’s ancestor’s town, county and the trade(s) they practised. Of course you don’t have to buy books necessarily, as you can probably find many titles (and advice) at your local library. Many libraries also have details of common interest groups (e.g. Family History) who meet routinely to share expertise, advice and guidance. Libraries also have access to some of the on-line Genealogy Commercial websites.

NB Currently the accessibility of public organisations such as libraries, museums and galleries is under a cloud due to the Covid Pandemic. I remain optimistic that that “cloud” will be lifted. One day!


There are also many on-line non-commercial and commercial websites, forums and archives which have resources available for you to view. Many Family History Societies have transcribed local records onto CD’s, DVD’s etc for purchase (their volunteers having transcribed data from local sources). My list of such organisations include:

Links to British Genealogical Websites

NB. Specific lists of of linked sites for overseas records, and records for trades and occupations are available in the web-links section

Lets move on to the next page, Finding your Ancestors – Tips and Hints

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