Okay so I know there theoretical, but if time machines existed which time period would you go to?
My thoughts on this began years ago when I read Timeline by Michael Crichton. In this book a group of historians go back in time to the middle ages in France. It made me think which events and times of history I would like to go.
First off I’d love to go back millions of years to see the dinosaurs. I have to confess to having read/watched Jurassic Park far too many times. I’d love to tell the T Rex to stop being so grump (although if my arms were that short I’d be grumpy. Think about all the things you couldn’t do) and tell the Velociraptor’s to calm down and lighten up.
What other periods would I like to go to? Perhaps to when the Roman’s first landed in Britain in 55BC. Or maybe to the 14th October 1066 to see what really happened at the Battle of Hastings (at Battle). Or perhaps the 100 year war (which was 116 years long from 1337 to 1453) and was between the English and the French. You could choose the Battle of Crecy on the 26th August 1346 or even the Battle of Agincourt on the 25th October 1415. You could watch the archers in action to see how formable they were and see if the famous gesture did come from them. Or would you go to a time more relevant to your ancestors?
There are so many times I would like to go back to that relate to my ancestors. I’d love to go to all my however many back grandparents weddings to see them on their big day and see which family members were there so I could put faces to names. Also to anytime when my Grandma was alive so I could meet her. I’d also love to have seen the house I grew up in being built in the late 1880’s so I could see what my bedroom looked like new before I painted it yellow and purple and what the original feature were before everything was taken out in the 1950’s. Or how about the day the first teddy bear that was made.
Just think about what you could learn. If your ancestor was a mason working on a great Cathedral or a castle you could see which parts they built and perhaps some beautiful carvings they did. If your family were farmers you can see what life was really like for them and how that compares to how we believe it was.
You could also be present for the great events in your ancestor’s life. If you have gaps in your family tree you could go back to the time to try and find out what happened, and just imagine the blanks you could fill in by solving the illegitimacy questions. You could share the good times and the bad times with your ancestors. Be there for births and deaths, new jobs and new adventures.
But would it have to have been a personal date to your ancestors or an event that shaped their lives? What about the signing of the Magna Carter in 1215 or the peasants revolt of 1381? A coronation of a monarch or how about the opening of a building where you live.
I suppose it’s all pie in the sky as I don’t think you’ll ever be able to do it, but as a historian you can dream. Or perhaps it already exists and we don’t know. Perhaps Michael Crichton new something we didn’t and Timeline was true all along. If it is though I’m not going in one as knowing my luck I’d get stuck somewhere nasty or end up in the middle of the sea!
One of the greatest problems in genealogy is reading the handwriting on old records. They writing can range from really clear on easy to read to virtually illegible. And it’s not just the writing itself, it’s also the way it was written. I can’t read Latin to save my life and why did they have to write so small and bunched up (OK I know this was to save paper).
I don’t know if it’s just me, but sometimes I find it very difficult to read the writing on the records.
The study of old handwriting is called palaeography. There are many courses available and I have done the free one run by The National Archives.
These courses are designed to help you interpret what people have written.
We should remember though that writing didn’t start on paper or even papyrus or animal skin. It started on stone and wasn’t necessarily even writing. Cave painting are the oldest know form of writing in a way. The pictures passed on the information that was needed. From here people started to make makes on stone such as cuneiform (which was a series of marks such as lines in a pattern giving an early form of alphabet) to hieroglyphics which used pictures for words or sentences. It wasn’t until the Greeks and Romans that a style of writing like we use today began when Latin developed. This was written down on usually animal skin – parchment or vellum using a quill pen and ink. Paper as we know it didn’t develop in Europe until the 11th century, although it had been available in China since approximately 100 AD.
In my experience as time has progressed the writing of people has improved greatly, but is this due to peoples handwriting improving or is it due to improvements in the writing equipment?
Let’s look at for want of a better word pens. They started out with quills which are made from the feathers from birds such as geese. The feather is cut down to a point and the hollow centre of the feather is used to hold the ink. These must have been dreadful to use as they would break easily and must have need a lot of practice to use, and with ink and paper being expensive not many would have been able to get hold of them and thus practice.
Next came the fountain pen. I hated using a fountain pen. I got more ink on me than on the paper. It came into use in the 1600’s. It worked very similarly to the quill but was made with a metal nib so was more stable. It sucked ink up like a quill until the cartridge version was developed using plastic in the 1950’s.
The 20th century brought my saviour with Laszlo Biro, when he developed the ballpoint pen in the 1930’s. A pen that didn’t smudge and could be used by anyone and most of us use them most days for notes etc. and are the go to for everyday use.
Then finally the one we mainly use now. The keyboard started on the typewriter and progressed onto the computer. Most of us use a computer or tablet every day, but they all use a keyboard. I know I couldn’t run my business without a keyboard. My handwritings awful and if I had to write report by hand no one would know what it said.
Education also brought about improvements in writing. In the Victorian times only basic writing was taught, but now neat handwriting is taught. This shows in the records. The later the records the more legible they become. The 1939 register is mainly easy to read as the style of writing and the pens used is good but the 1841 census can be really difficult to read due to the poor writing and pens used.
In general, practice makes perfect, so the more you read old records, the better you become, but doing some practice is the key. You learn styles and generally get you eye in and it gets easier.
I’ve had this thought many times over the years. I’ve thought it through from all angles and made my decision. Let’s see what you think.
Link to the past
We all studied history at school and if you’re like me it was fascinating. I especially like doing the local project on St James church in Sheffield. At the time I didn’t know I had family who were parishioners of the church and thus had baptisms and marriages at the church. If I had known this then, it would have been even more interesting for me. Also if you’re, for example, reading about the mills in Yorkshire it will mean more if your ancestors worked in mills. It will give you a true sense of what their lives entailed.
Shows patterns in family
Some families lived in one place and never moved, or they had the same occupation. If this is the case then it may surprise you if you work in a similar industry or live close to where they did. I found I had ancestors living close to where I grew up in the 1800’s. I had no living family living there when my family moved in as my maternal family weren’t from the city and my paternal family lived the other side of the city. This links in to above as another link to the past.
Shows interaction between families
They say the family that plays together, stays together. The same was true in the past. Most families lived on the same street as one another and even lived in the same houses even after they have married. Also it can show how families club together at times of hardship and to help improve lives of the children. My great grandfather was raised by his grandmother after his father died and his mother had to find work and his brother lived with a distant relative where he trained to be a dentist.
Shows hereditary aliments
We now know about hereditary illnesses and through looking through our ancestor’s lives and deaths we can find out how far back the condition goes. This could help with the conditions as they use the information to try and map out the illness throughout the family. It can not only show things such as sickle cell anaemia but also susceptibility to certain cancers or even mental health issues – it does run in families.
For anyone with an interest in history what better subject to learn about than your own family. Yes we can learn everything we want about say Cleopatra, but not many people even know their great grandparents names. Surely knowing who we are descended from is just as important and who knows what we made find out and what avenues our studies will take. Also we learn from the experiences of others, so why can’t we learn from the experiences of our ancestors? If they went through something bad and survived it we could use their experience if we’re in the same situation. I’m not saying we won’t handle it differently, but it could give use some pointers.
Find living relatives
Your family history research may lead you to finding living family members you never knew about. You may feel you want to contact them electronically or even in person. They may know things about your family members that you don’t and may be able to help fill in the gaps.
Let’s face it, anyone with a love of history will find their own ancestry even more interesting than generic history. I adore reading about the history of the monarchy and probably have read far too many books on the Tudors. This is great, but now I know more about my own family I can link it in with what I have read and in a sense put flesh on the bones of history.
So what decision have you made? I think that no matter what you feel about history you can make a case for saying that genealogy is important and I think learning about yourself and your past can help you understand yourself and help you in the future.
So there is to be another royal birth in the UK with the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge expecting their 3rd child who will become 5th in line to the throne.
This got me thinking which monarch of England/Great Britain had the most children. So being the sad Muppet that I am I had a look. I started at King William I and went up to the present day. Since 1066 there have been 41 monarchs who had 215 legitimate children between them. Of these, 9 had no children (mainly as they died young or never married). So who was the most prolific monarch? Well the winner is……. King James II. He had 20 children by 2 women. He had 8 children by Anne Hyde including Queen Mary II and Queen Anne, and 12 by Mary of Modena including James the Old pretender (the father of Bonnie Prince Charlie).
The man who is supposedly had the most amount of children was Genghis Khan. It is alleged he fathered over 1000 children, and as many as 2500. It’s a wonder he had time for all the fighting he did. Good job he didn’t have to raise them all at home. Can you imagine all the shoes lines up by the door?
The most prolific European Monarch was either King Augustus of Poland (1670 – 1733) or King Philip IV of Spain (1605 – 1665). Augustus is rumoured to have fathered between 356 and 382 children (only one of which was legitimate) and Philip had 13 legitimate children and 30 illegitimate. Whether these figures are true or not is conjecture as unless the recognised the children we can never be sure.
But it’s not just royalty who had large families. It was not unusual for a couple to have 10 children before the modern times. The most I’ve found in my family is 12. So I took to the internet and found out in the UK the couple who had the most children was John and Elizabeth Mott of Monks Kirby, Warwickshire. Between 1676 and 1720 the couple had 42 live children. Can you imagine having that many children? It must have been crowd control. I suppose the raised each other. Assuming Elizabeth was say 20 when she got married she either popped one out every year for the rest of her life or she must have had multiple, multiple births. Poor woman would have needed a cushion.
But surprisingly other couples have produced more kids. In Russia between 1725 and 1782 Mr Vassiyev fathered 87 children. By his first wife he had 69 children. There were 16 sets of twins, 7 sets of triplets and 4 sets of quads. So in total she was only pregnant 27 times, but even so. When his first wife died My Vassiyev remarried and had 18 more children from 8 births. Wife 2 had 6 sets of twins and 2 sets of triplets. The couples must have needed ear plugs and deep pockets to raise them all. I know there were none of the things kids want these days, but just feeding and clothing them all must have cost a fortune. They must have been producing most of the food they ate themselves and the kids must have lived in hand me downs.
In nature it’s not uncommon for animals to have lots of children as unfortunately most will not survive infancy. It’s not uncommon for mice to have around 10 pups at a time and can have up to 10 broods a year so that’s 100 kids a year. Since mice only live about a year that make them more prolific than the Vassiyev’s. But then I suppose the mouselets are on their own within weeks so it does make life so much easier for Mr and Mrs Mouse.
Whatever the number of kids in a family the award should definitely go to Mrs Vassiyev for producing so many kids!
So it’s nearly that time of year where the kids go back to school and embark on the next phase of their education. Be it at primary, secondary, college or university level.
Education of the masses first became compulsory in 1880 in England. Before that the only education children would get would depend on their place in society. Children of the rich would have access to tutors and the best education establishments the country had to offer. Those from the poorer sectors of society would have attended Sunday School at the local church, or if they were really lucky they may have got into a ragged school (this was a free school started by John Pounds in 1818 which could be found in various places throughout the UK. The building for the school in Chesterfield still stands today).
From 1880 all children between the ages of 5 and 10 and from 1893 the age was raise to 13, had to attend school. This wasn’t well received in the poorer families who needed their children to work to help support the family. The financial loss to the family of a child going to school could be great, especially since children as young as 8 could work full time.
The school buildings were basic, with benches with tables attached and a black board at the front. The children would write on small chalk boards and have had access to very few books. They would have been taught the 3R’s or reading writing and arithmetic. How they could call it the 3R’s when only 1 started with an R is beyond me and surely implied bad education.
They would have been taught the basics which would have been enough for most for when they went back to the factories and fields. For some it would have perhaps lead them on to further education and maybe even a scholarship to go to university and given them a real chance to make a better future for them and their families.
I don’t envy the children going off to school. I hated school. The best part of the school day was the end. I wasn’t so much the education I didn’t like, although I still don’t get maths that’s what the calculator was invented for, no it was the other kids I didn’t like. School would have been fine without them. When they pulled my old secondary school down the other year to rebuild it I would gladly had done it for them. Same with my old college when it was pulled down this year.
I was lucky at primary school in that I had the best teacher in the world in Mrs Pryjomko. She really was great and I liked the 2 years she taught me for. I also loved the head teacher Mr Clark, he was like a granddad to us all.
The primary school I went to was built in 1928 and is still standing and used as a school today, although I think it has been modernised a lot. The old leaking classrooms in the playground have gone. Kids don’t know what their missing with buckets in the classroom when it was raining. Same to with the 1960’s secondary school I went to. Broken windows which didn’t shut and a ¼ mile walk between building in the pouring rain. My favourite is the college I went too. Most of it was built in the 1960’s but part of it was built in the 1990’s while I was a student there. They pulled it all down this year!
So good luck to you all with your studies, and good luck to the 4 munchkins of my extended family who start school this year. May you have a great time and learn all you can and enjoy your education. It’s only 12 years till you can leave or carry on if you want.
Hello and thank you for taking the time to read my ramblings on genealogy and history in general. I hope you find it informative and hopefully funny!