Family historians normally focus on their own direct ancestors but these people did not live in isolation. They had neighbours and workplaces, they lived in villages with churches, schools, shops and institutions. In order to understand families of the past, they need to be 'put in their place’ by investigating the localities of which they were a part. One-place studies differ from traditional local histories in that they focus on people, their relationship to their communities and to each other; thus bringing family and local history together, to the benefit of both fields.
When Queen Victoria ascended the throne in 1837, education was, at best, an ad hoc affair. Whereas wealthy families could afford to pay for private education, for most of the population schooling was dependent on geographic allocation and the generosity of local benefactors. In the early 19th century, Sunday schools, charitable schools and ragged schools had all attempted to provide a basic education for children from poorer families. By 1851, over 17,000 National Schools had been opened by the Church of England. British Schools provided a similar education for children of Nonconformist families.
During the 1860s to the 1880s, San Francisco began to transform into a major city, starting with massive expansion in all directions, creating new neighbourhoods such as the Western Addition, the Haight-Ashbury, Eureka Valley and the Mission District, and culminating in the construction of Golden Gate Park in 1887. The city’s famous cable cars were built around this time in order to traverse the city’s steep hills while connecting the new residential developments. San Francisco also grew in cultural prominence at this time as famous writers such as Mark Twain, Bret Harte, Ambrose Bierce, Rudyard Kipling, Robert Louis Stevenson, and Oscar Wilde spent time in the city.
Researching an ancestor’s occupation can reveal a lot about their social status and how they lived. People often had surnames which derived from the occupation of a distant ancestor - such as Butcher, Fletcher or Carpenter. Crucially, finding occupations can help to distinguish between two individuals of the same name, and certain skilled occupations or trades were passed down through generations, providing evidence of family kinship.
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