Compared to the 21st century, the prospect of a long journey that crossed an ocean was a completely different one for our ancestors 400 years ago. When the Pilgrim Fathers travelled to Massachusetts on the Mayflower in 1620, they took their lives in their hands. The ship was beset by storms that threatened to sink it, they probably suffered from scurvy, and their Atlantic crossing took 66 days. By 1936 the liner Queen Mary could cross the same ocean in just four days. Nowadays a transatlantic flight is just eight hours or so.
Old family photographs passed down the generations sometimes bear hand-written messages, and photographic evidence demonstrates that portraits with personalised greetings from the subject to a recipient were especially popular at Christmas time. The fashion for creating seasonal cards from picturesque photos such as mother and baby, cute children, schoolgirls in fancy dress and family groups emerged in the late 1800s, reflecting wider photographic trends, and, quite likely, improved levels of literacy at that time. The custom advanced with the launch of divided-back postcards in 1902, the new ‘real photo postcards’ (as they were initially called) displaying a portrait photo on the front with designated space overleaf for personal communication. Soon the commercial possibilities of card-mounted photographs began to be realised, some studios offering clients portrait postcards ready printed with the year and Christmas greetings. Similar details also featured on the new folding card photographs and other formats that became popular from the 1920s onwards.
Mumbles is a village at one end of Swansea Bay, popular with locals and tourists who are drawn to the walks along the coast, the views from the top of the hill, its proximity to the Gower Peninsula and its ice-cream shops. It’s where my own family are from, and the location for many a happy holiday in my childhood. Beyond the main shops, in the direction of Caswell and Langland Bays, is Mumbles Pier, and behind it Mumbles Lighthouse.
Even if this now controversial verse from the hymn ‘All Things Bright and Beautiful’ summed up what some Victorians thought about the social order when it was published in 1848, the seeds of change had already taken root. Complacent members of the upper and middle classes might have considered that status in the world was bestowed at birth, but riches-to-rags stories demonstrate that a prosperous family could fall from grace. It was equally possible for the child of an impoverished family to rise above the apparent limitations imposed by their lowly origin. It is not unusual for a working-class family tree to have at least one branch that began to grow away from the haunting threat of poverty towards economic security and social betterment.
‘I know really very very little about our family history. I never met three of my four grandparents. My assumption is that we always lived in Norfolk through the generations.’ Edward Michael Balls is a British broadcaster, writer, economist, professor and former Labour politician who served as Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer from 2011 to 2015. Ed was born on 25 February 1967 in Norwich, Norfolk. Apart from his time in politics he is also recognised for his acrobatic appearances on Strictly Come Dancing and his TV documentaries. As a child he grew up in a family that wanted to make the world a better place. Ed knows very little about his family history and his mother Carolyn’s dementia means she can’t share their roots with him. This being the case, he set out to discover what kind of characters his ancestors were. His discoveries were aired in the episode of Who Do You Think You Are? broadcast on BBC One on Tuesday 30 November this year.
A subscription to TheGenealogist allows you access to unique records and tools to tease out your elusive ancestors, and this year the site has added vast numbers of new datasets to help all family historians. The icing on the cake is that there are even more additions to come in the new year
An important domestic and commercial product throughout much of Britain and, especially, in Ireland and Scotland since the 1600s, during the Industrial Revolution the manufacture and use of linen textiles entered a period of gradual decline. Mechanisation came to the industry from the 1700s, beginning with water-driven, later motorised machinery that progressively accelerated the harvesting and dressing of flax, the spinning of fibres and, eventually, in the early 1800s, the weaving of linen cloth on factory power looms. However, new technology revolutionised the production of other textiles too, some better suited than linen to mechanised manufacture. The rise of a new material, cotton (used for thousands of years in hotter climates) – cheaper to produce, lighter to wear and easier to launder than linen – heralded the end of linen’s pre-eminence in the west as the most widely used cloth deriving from a vegetable fibre.
Lincolnshire originally derived from the merging of the territory of the ancient Kingdom of Lindsey with that controlled by the Danelaw borough of Stamford. For some time the entire county was called ‘Lindsey’, and it is recorded as such in the Domesday Book. Later, Lindsey was applied only the northern core, around Lincoln, and emerged as one of the three ‘Parts of Lincolnshire’, along with the Parts of Holland in the south-east and Kesteven in the south west.
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