Greenery and fruit, sparkle and snow, colourfully-dressed tables and walls inscribed with Yuletide mottos – Christmases past were decorated using much the same general combination of ideas as Christmases today. But the specifics of the way our ancestors decorated their homes at any given time in the past depended not only on tradition, but also on what was currently most novel and up-to-date.
Christmas just wouldn’t be Christmas without the tradition of decorating the Tree, pulling crackers and greeting cards, all of which were established as part of a British Yuletide by our Victorian ancestors. It is an often repeated fact that the Christmas tree was popularised in Britain by Prince Albert, bringing a German tradition to his new home. Some of us may also be aware that the commercially printed Christmas card was a product of the mid 19th century, first being introduced by Sir Henry Cole in 1843. While Sir Henry, an English civil servant and inventor, was credited with devising the concept of sending greetings cards at Christmas time and also the introduction of the world’s first commercial Christmas card in 1843, it was the German emigré Raphael Tuck who promoted a much broader range of cards and also the launch of religious themed cards to Victorian Britain.
The Victorians are famous for their inventions but many people are not aware that they may also be seen as the inventors of foreign travel, especially to Europe. This was helped by the arrival of the railways in the Victorian era and the linking of London to the channel ports so that travel to the continent now became much quicker and easier and could be done in comfort and style. Furthermore, the enormous growth of the middle classes between 1851-1911, when numbers doubled, meant that more people had an increased disposable income available to spend on trips and holidays. This growth in the desire to travel led to the creation of travel agencies which could offer travellers packages and guided tours – Thomas Cook, established in 1841,was one of the very first companies to offer such a service.
TheGenealogist.co.uk has released more than 190,000 records for passengers who departed these shores on early migrant ships to New South Wales in the years between 1828 and 1896. These new records expand the site’s already extensive Immigration, Emigration and Naturalisation and passenger list records.
Today a milliner is understood to be the creator of stylish female hats, especially for wear at weddings, Ascot and other formal occasions. However, milliners did not specialise exclusively in producing and selling headwear until the late 19th century. Traditionally they were purveyors of haberdashery, trimmings, accessories and other small luxury articles – fancy goods for which the Italian city of Milan became famed in the 16th and 17th century, hence the term ‘milliner’. Such decorative items were integral to a lady’s costume and for many years a milliner was involved in all aspects of female dress.
The word ‘slipper’ conjures up diverse images and has been used to denote a variety of footwear, from fashionable flat pumps to the fictional footwear of fairytales and film, notably Cinderella’s glass slippers and the magical ruby slippers from The Wizard of Oz. Generally, though, we understand slippers to mean comfortable, lightweight indoor shoes made of soft materials and easy to slip on and off.
Historically, knighthood was conferred upon mounted warriors and closely linked with horsemanship from its earliest days, when men, usually of noble birth, would be awarded the status of knight after completion of apprenticeships as page (a young servant or messenger who served a nobleman) and squire (a knight’s the shield or armour bearer).
Nottingham will always be famous for its sheriff and his pursuit of Robin Hood; the city also has an important history of lace-making, and has been notable for the bicycle and tobacco industries. It became a city in 1897 as part of Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations and today is the seventh largest in the United Kingdom.
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 factors might have influenced the size of your ancestor’s family, but also why were its children named as they were? How long could people expect to live, but also what records can tell you more about the circumstances of your ancestors’ last years? These and many more issues are discussed.
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