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Each issue is packed full of entertaining stories, case studies, social history articles and research advice – great for anyone starting out in family history research, for experienced researchers needing help overcoming stumbling blocks, and for those with a general interest in how our ancestors lived their lives.
In early 1864, when cotton towns in Lancashire and Cheshire were impoverished by the boycott of slave-produced cotton in the American Civil war, a Stalybridge poet published 13 verses which rapidly became a cultural icon in the North-West. The poet was Samuel Laycock, the poem ‘Bowton’s Yard’ and the description of the mainly down-at-heel inhabitants of the 12 houses in the yard was recited as entertainment for decades, including at middle-class social functions.
In the spring of 1904, the case of a missing book-keeper occupied newspaper editors and writers. She had left her home to go to a regular shorthand class, but seemingly vanished into thin air. Her disappearance mystified her family and the public, but her apparently motiveless departure masked deeper issues, which, as was perhaps often the case in Edwardian England, were hidden from public view.
Hannah Mitchell (1872–1956) was in some respects an ordinary wife and a mother, but she is also remembered as a feminist, a suffragette and a socialist. Born to a poor farming family in Derbyshire, she soon became aware of the inequality between the sexes and was said to have strongly resented having to darn socks and do housework while her brothers relaxed and played cards. Hannah also had a fervent thirst for knowledge but as a 19th century female she was mostly denied an education as it was seen as unnecessary for a woman to be educated at that time. Furthermore, her mother, with whom she had a tricky relationship, was most against education and especially the reading of books. However, despite this opposition, Hannah was able to attend a local school for a brief period where she learnt to read and write and was also given access to books. She was much influenced by her teacher, Miss Brown, who taught her to appreciate and improve herself both mentally and physically. Nevertheless, Hannah found life at home intolerable with her mother›s bad temper and found her treatment of her too much to bear, so she made the brave step of deciding to leave home at the age of 14 and went to live with her brother and his wife in Glossop.
At the end of the 19th century, an Anglo-French writer produced a tongue-in-cheek book of advice for youngsters called The Bad Child’s Book of Beasts, written in rhyming couplets. His name was Hilaire Belloc and he was responsible for both that volume and also for the similar book, Cautionary Tales for Children, that was published in 1907. As a warning to those children who insist on being naughty, there is the character of Jim, a boy who ran away from his nurse, and was eaten by a lion. Then, for those who may tend to tell fibs, there is ‘Matilda, who told lies and was burned to death’ and many more. Belloc, however, was so much more than just a children’s author, as some research reveals.
TheGenealogist has been extending its ever growing Military records collection with a fascinating new record set for its Diamond subscribers, with high quality scans of the document pages and boasting more than 629,527 historic records for Chelsea Pensioners from 1702-1933.
Recently this column has examined the development of the modern synthetic fabrics that replicated natural materials, even fake furs. Along with leather, furs have been used as body coverings since time immemorial, becoming desirable fashion items and status symbols by the Middle Ages. Throughout medieval and Tudor Europe, heavy winter robes and gowns were often edged and lined with warm fur. Exotic and costly furs like lynx, ermine and miniver (the white winter coat of the red squirrel) signified wealth and high social rank, while ordinary people used common lambskin, coney (rabbit) and cat. By the late 1500s, many European furs were already growing scarce, due to shifting agricultural practices and the depletion of ancient forests through the relentless pursuit of wild animals in the name of fashion.
During the Early Middle Ages Cumberland formed the core of the Brythonic kingdom of Rheged. By the end of the 7th century most of Cumberland had been incorporated into the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Northumbria. Most of modern-day Cumbria was ruled by Scotland at the time of the Norman Conquest of England in 1066 and thus was excluded from the Domesday Book survey of 1086. In 1092 Cumberland was invaded by William II and incorporated into England. The region was dominated by many wars and border skirmishes, and the raids of Border Reivers.
How can you find out about the lives of ancestors who were involved in the world of theatre: on stage and on film, in the music halls and travelling shows, in the circus and in all sorts of other forms of public performance? Katharine Cockin’s handbook provides a fascinating introduction for readers searching for information about ancestors who had clearly defined roles in the world of the theatre and performance as well as those who left only a few tantalizing clues behind.
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