Okay so I know there theoretical, but if time machines existed which time period would you go to? Would it be a particular period of history or would it be 2019 when things were so much better?
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 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!
Many families have traditions in their families that they do year on year. They can range from things they do to presents they give. This year things may be different for all of us but that doesn’t mean that all the traditions have to stop.
A lot of family’s probably have similar traditions. I always got a little orange and a bag of chocolate money (except Father Christmas forgot my chocolate money last year!) and a pillow case with my presents in. My parents always got a new pair of slippers. Some may always have visited the same people on the same day. For us my grandparents always came for Christmas day Other traditions for us include a real Christmas tree every year and Lilly the fairy going on top of the tree. Lilly was made by my Great Grandma Weeds in the early 1950. She’s had a refurbishment this year and a bath but she is still the same girl just tidied up.
But how many of these traditions stem from necessity. Yes it was great that your ancestor’s got a new pair of slippers every Christmas, but if you think about it they probably needed them, so they got what they needed as a present. I can remember getting a new winter coat which makes a great present and is something I needed.
The further back you go through your ancestor’s the more this probably happened. Children probably just got the new clothes they needed and little else, or if they did they were most likely homemade and it would have been rare that the adults got a present, unless they were from a wealthy family that could afford to buy them.
Another form the traditions may take could relate to Christmas food. Tradition today for Christmas dinner is a full roast with turkey. In the Victorian era and before it would more likely have been goose. I’ve had a variety of strange foods for Christmas dinner. I’ve had a BBQ, a fry up and even pizza. Just because it’s Christmas day doesn’t mean it has to be turkey and Christmas pudding. Going back through your ancestor’s it may be that the family scrimped and saved just to have a small piece of meat for Christmas Day (think of the Cratchit’s in a Christmas Carol). If they were farmers like many of my ancestors were they may have had a better dinner as they had the land to grow their own veg and raise animals just for themselves.
Traditions could be things the family did. Pre WW1 it’s most likely that your ancestors would have attended church on Christmas morning before going home for the day. Many a time the man of the house may have gone to the pub after church before going home for lunch. Other traditions could be that on Boxing Day the family went for a long walk or went carolling in the days coming up to Christmas Day.
We need to remember though that the further you go back through your ancestors the less likely it would be that that had any kind of Christmas. Tradition for them could have been that Christmas was a non-event as any kind of celebration would have been beyond their means. Those in the workhouse could have had a better day as even they got a little more food on Christmas day.
Each new generation probably has a new a new set of traditions. Some may combine the traditions of their parents along with new traditions. Each generation will have access to new ideas, beliefs and material things which will mean they can have new traditions that your ancestor’s could never have imagined. Can you imagine your Georgian ancestor’s ever thinking that you can put electric lights on a tree in your house or even covering their houses in them?
So why not start a new Christmas tradition this year so that in the future your descendants can wonder where the Christmas traditions they do come from.
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all from Family History Research England.
On the 24th April 1888 my Great, Great Grandparents suffered the loss of their daughter Laura. So how did they let people know?
First some background.
Laura Dent was born around April 1880 in Wisbech, Cambridgeshire. She was the 9th child of 11 born to William Thomas Dent and his wife Louisa Dent nee Payling. William was a farrier and also ran the Red Lion Inn on North Brink alongside Louisa. In total the couple had 3 sons and 8 daughters born between 1864 and 1884. They were Louisa 1864-1940, William 1865-1945, Marion 1867-1937, Richard 1870-1877, Jane Ann 1871-1943, Ella 1873-1959, Maud Mary 1875-1876, my great Grandma Eva 1878-1918, Laura 1880-1885, Myra 1882-1966 and George 1884-1887.
The family had already know tragedy as in 1877 they had lost their son Richard aged 7 and their daughter Maud Mary in 1876 who was under 1 when she died. Loosing Laura would have been heart breaking for the family. She was just short of her 5th birthday. Laura was buried in St Peter’s churchyard on the 26th April 1888 alongside her siblings.
Laura’s parents announced her death in the Cambridge Independent Press on the 02 May 1885 but by now she had been buried. Her family had a funeral card produced to inform family and friends of her passing.
These would have been sent to members of the family who may not have been able to travel to the funeral. Louisa, Laura’s mother was from Long Sutton in Lincolnshire which although only 10 miles away may have meant members of her family may not have been able to travel to the funeral. The card would have given them a memento to remember little Laura with.
Now Laura’s card was typical of the time. Most cards were on heavy card and embossed with a grave and a boarder. On the grave was the information of the deceased along with some uplifting words or phrases intended to offer solace to the recipient.
As time went on and printing techniques evolved the cards became more elaborate. They would include a picture of the deceased and may have gold lettering on black card rather than white card with black lettering. As with everything the more elaborate to the card the more expensive they were.
As time went on the cards evolved into folded cards with more information on and became more of an order of service for the funeral along the lines of what some people have today.
So what use are the funeral cards to genealogy. Well to start with they are a great insight into social history. They give an indication into the times your ancestors lived in. The more plain the card the earlier they are.
In terms of for genealogy they give an insight into the financial situation of the family. A poor family would never have been able to afford to spend money on funeral cards. So if you have a funeral card in the family the deceased family must have had some wealth. Then the card itself can indicate the level of wealth. The better the card, the more it costs so the more wealth they had.
I know William and Louisa Dent had 2 businesses with the farrier shop and the pub around the time Laura died and that this continued as they also had cards made 2 years later when their son George died. There is no card for the death of William Dent in 1900 but in 1911 when Louisa died she had a folded card to announce her death and burial. Also other family evidence indicates they were better off as in photographs I have of Laura’s sisters in the early 1900 they were well dressed and in a nice garden setting.
So it may be just a small card announcing the death of a little girl but the information beyond what is found on the card can give you an insight into the family’s situation.
One thing I both love and hate about genealogy is the amount of information you can find out about your ancestor. With time, patience and skills you can find out where they lived, what they did and so much more. But you can’t find out everything as even within the family many things were never noted.
I got thinking about this when on Pinterest I saw a video of a little girl taking her first steps. Can you image being able to capture this momentous event for posterity. But for our ancestors we will never be able to find out this information as to when they took their first steps unless it’s recorded in an old family book or become folk law in the family.
So for the record I learnt to walk when I was 7 months old and used the Christmas tree to practice pull myself up and then I eventually toddled out of the sitting room. Needless to say in the practices the tree may have fallen down on me, but a piece of string to tie it to the radiator stopped that. First test flights usually have hiccups. I was tiny and am told I looked like a baby walking. The shoe shop had to specially order shoes for me as my feet were so small and I wanted to use my new skill as much as possible.
We may never know when our ancestors first walk, what their first words were, what they liked and disliked and even what they may have looked like. Now no amount of searching online will ever tell us when our ancestors took their first steps or said their first words. But is there information we think we may never know which may be available.
Well let’s start with the newspaper archive. They are a wonderful source of information. From the old averts for things which you would never get away with selling these days to the articles about sheep sales they are a wealth of information. So how can these help. Well in more local newspapers you may find a mention of one of your ancestors. If you read my blog on musical ancestors you’ll know I found a mention of a piano duet played by my twice great Grandad and his brother. This meant I could google the piece of music and here it being played. So I know the level of musical skill the brothers had. Another way is if they is a description of you ancestor. Maybe they were involved in something shady and a description was circulated so people could be on the lookout for them. Another way I have used the newspaper archive to learn more about my ancestors was when I found a description of a wedding day. The article described what the bride and bridesmaids wore and even what the mother of the both the bride and groom wore. The descriptions were fantastic and gave me a true insight into their special day.
Another great source for learning about our ancestors is military records. In all records will be a description of the soldier. It usually states their hair and eye colour, how tall they were and their chest measurements. Also if they have any scars or marks on their body this may be noted. So suddenly we can have an image of their build and colourings. Military records can also give you an indication of their character. Where they often on a charge, or did they have an exemplary service. Did they spend long periods in the hospital or even have more mental conditions. I once read a military record of a very distant ancestor in which the medical assessor described him as insane.
So although there are things about our ancestors we definitely will never be able to find out, there are things we can discover with time, skill and a whole lot of patience and sometimes a lot of look.
The SS Great Western was at the time the fastest way to cross the Atlantic Ocean. This meant that passengers could get from England to New York much faster. Thus emigrating to America would have been quicker for our ancestors.
So first a little about the ship. She was built by the Great Western Steamship Company owned by amongst others Isambard Kingdom Brunel. She was built at the Patterson and Mercer ship yard in Bristol. She was 76.8 metres long and 17.5 metres wide. She was an iron cladded wooden ship with 2 steam engines giving out 750 horse power which was used to power 2 side mounted paddle steamers. She also had 4 masts for sails just in case. In total she had 60 crew members to run the ship which could house 128 1st class passengers (with their 20 servants). On her maiden voyage leaving from Bristol on the 8th April 1838 she arrived in New York on the 23rd April. The Great Western was in service from 1838 until 1846 when she was sold after a number of incidents including a grounding to the Royal Mail Steam Packet Company. She ended her life after the Crimean War where she had been used for troop transport.
Now I know the ship only transported 1st class passengers but she did open the doors to faster transatlantic travel. With a sail powered ship in the early Victorian period it could take up to 6 weeks to cross to America. SS Great Western did it in 15 days on average.
So what did this mean for our ancestors? Well for many 6 weeks to cross the Atlantic was far too long a prospect. It perhaps stopped them from making the journey to a new life. I know I wouldn’t want to be on a ship for that long, I’d have gone stir crazy. 4 and half hours to Jersey was enough for me thank you very much. Now with the advent of these new faster ships that meant that you could get to New York faster and faster. Admittedly it probably cost a lot more than going by sailing ship and initially probably only attracted the wealthier but things were heading in the right direction.
Now a lot of us will probably have ancestors who left our shores for America and Canada. I know I have. I have ancestors who left in the mid 1840’s on board the sailing ship Hottinguer. They were druggists (chemists) in England and moved to New York State to set up a successful business Hudson County. Now John and Hugh Wardle were just19 and 20 and from Leek, Staffordshire when they left so I would assume a first class ticket on board a steam ship was beyond their reach. But did they ever use a steam ship if they ever came back to England? (I don’t think they did as their mum was dead and their father died in New York State so he must have joined them).
But the advent of the steam ship didn’t just reduce sailing times across the Atlantic. You may have had ancestor who decided that Australia was they place they wanted to emigrate to. Warm sun, gorgeous beaches, wombats why not! But by sailing ship this was a voyage of around 4 months. 4 months of seasickness, cramped conditions and poor food, that probably wasn’t mentioned in the brochure. Enter the steamships. In 1888 the SS Australasian could get you from London to Sydney in just 50 days with 640 passengers on board.
So SS Great Western was the first of the steam ships built with the purpose of crossing the Atlantic and by doing so she paved the way for faster travel for our ancestors and thus made the prospect of emigrating to a new country and my quicker one.
Well it’s Mothering Sunday in the UK this weekend. This means I have, as is tradition in our family, made a card for my Mum. I’ve actually made 2 as I didn’t like the first one. But what is Mothering Sunday. Well for years I always believed it was the day we pampered our Mum’s, and it is, but not completely.
Traditionally Mothering Sunday is actually a religious thing which has morphed into what it is today. On Mothering Sunday people were encouraged to attend the service at the church they were baptised in. This could have meant a great deal of travelling to get there. As a side effect of this you may have returned to where your parents still lived and thus visited your mother. In many respects it was like a family reunion as most people were granted the day off work to return home. Even those in service would be given this day off.
I remember as a kid being given daffodils at Mothering Sunday Church Parade (I was a Brownie and then kicked out of the guides – a fact I am proud of!) to give to our Mum’s. This practice can from the fact people would pick the wildflowers on the way home to give to their mum. That why we still give our Mum’s flowers or as I always did made daffodils for my Mum.
So in truth what did this mean for your ancestors? Well it could have been a very long journey. I do wonder if people really undertook the trip home. My 4 times great Grandad was born in 1816 on the Isle of Wight. He lived in Sheffield so it was unlikely he was undertake the journey home. It’s around a 230 mile trip, and a boat journey. I believe a letter would have been the best way for him to contact his mother.
But it wasn’t just George Parkin who would have had to make long journeys especially in the Victorian era. It was a time of great industrialisation in the UK. People were leaving the countryside and moving to the towns where the new industries were developing. They were also moving around the country following their industry. If the coal field was fully excavated where you lived you move to the next one. That’s why when the coal seams in Wales ran out a lot of Welsh people moved to the north of England to follow the black gold. Where they really going to be able to travel back to where they came from for one day, in reality no. It would probably take them more than a day to get their and the same back. If you only had one day off it was impossible. It’s my belief that’s why Mothering Sunday changed to what it is today.
So in my family I think the award for the furthest they would have to travel goes to my twice great Grandfather George Harker Dow. George was born in Govan, Scotland in 1841. By 1881 he was living in Whitechapel in London. Door to door from their house in Whitechapel to Govan old church is 410 miles. I’d like to think George wouldn’t have made the journey. And anyway how would families decide who to visit. George’s wife Eleanor was from Sunderland. So would he have been expected to go to Govan and Eleanor to Sunderland? I suppose they may have gone to Sunderland as 2 of their children were from there, but one was born in London so did they leave him behind! You can see why the practice of visiting the mother church died out and it became more about telling you Mum you loved her instead.
So this Mother’s day pamper your Mum in the way you want. As I’ve said I’ve made the card and it’s F1 for Mum to watch and I may recreate the gourmet dinner I made her several years ago, cheese on toast.
We probably all have objects in our families that have been passed down through the generations that we treasure, but have you ever thought what they can tell you about your ancestors.
Heirlooms can take many forms from a book to a piece of furniture and everything in between.
We have my great Grandma’s perfume bottle that she kept in her handbag. It’s tiny, only a few centimetres tall and lives in a velvet box. It’s probably worth next to nothing but to the family it’s worth everything. After she died the bottle went to her only granddaughter and became a treasured connection to a much loved Grandma. It still smells vaguely of the perfume it carried and thus evokes a memory of the way she smelt. Thus it’s a tangible link to our ancestors.
We also have a bible that was given to my 3 times great Grandfather Peter Arnold Wardle who lived from 1845 to 1892. It was given to him by his grandmother Ellen Wardle nee Taylor who lived from 1797 to 1867. Now as a book again it’s worth very little and has spent all my life just sitting on various bookcases throughout the family never being looked at. In fact it was only in the last 5 or so years that I even realised the inscription was there let alone the significance of the book. But just think it’s the handwriting of my 5 times great Grandma. How cool is that to have the handwriting of someone born in the 18th century. Ellen also came from a rural area and her husband was a farmer so the fact that she could read and write is fantastic and I have to say her handwriting was so much better than mine.
We also have things which we own that we hope will become heirlooms for future generations. One of mine would be my baby rattle. I still have it and it’s even in one of the photo on my website.
So what other heirlooms may you have that can tell you a story?
Well it could be a piece of jewellery that has been passed down from mother to daughter throughout the generations. It may sit in a draw never being looked at, but it does tell a story. It could give an indication as to the wealth of your ancestors. If your ancestors were wealthy then it was probably a more ornate piece or the stones were of a better quality. It could also indicate the love the giver had for the recipient. If you come from humble stock and your ancestors saved for a long time to buy the piece it’s obvious they loved the person they gave it to deeply. This could be backed up by the fact that the piece has been handed down through the family. It’s not just jewellery though it could be a pocket watch or a wrist watch which was treasured by the men in your family. Also if the piece of jewellery was a bracelet you would get an indication as to the size of your ancestors. If they bracelet is small and will not fit you then you can guess that they were of a small delicate stature.
Your heirloom may be a bit bigger. It could be a piece of furniture that has been handed down through the generations. Maybe it’s a dresser or a chest of drawers. All of these can connect your to your past. When you put your clothes away in the chest of drawers you can imagine all the previous generations that have done the same thing. Also you can think about how different the garments you’re putting in the drawers will be different for before. In my case it would be jeans and hoodies whereas ancestors may have been putting corsets and bloomers in.
So the things we use every day like furniture and the things we have put away in a cabinet or a draw are a direct link to our ancestors and as such should be treasures for the direct link they give to use. Make sure to pass on the stories behind them or better still take a photograph of it and write the information on the back or make a book about all the heirlooms you have. Why not include a family tree in as well and some information about the original owner and in a sense make a new heirloom giving the history of your heirlooms.
I was going through my genealogy files the other day and found my grandparents marriage certificates and it got me thinking about how our ancestors met each other.
So I’ll start with the stories of my grandparents. My maternal grandparents
met in a way through my Grandpa’s work. Grandpa was a travelling excise officer. He was sent to Peterborough to the sugar and sweet factories. He took lodgings as was the norm. The daughter of his hosts was my Grandma. She was also the manageress of one of the sweet factories he was to visit. My paternal grandparents met as my Grandad was lodging with the mother in law of one of my Grandma’s uncles.
How else could our ancestors have met?
Well probably the most common way was that they grew up together, especially in more rural locations. The further back in time you go the less likely your ancestors were to move around. They probably stayed in one place all their lives unless they had to move for work. This meant they probably married one of the village girls or if they were lucky a new family may move in and they may have married a girl from an exotic place such as 5 miles away.
If your ancestors did travel to a new area for work this would have led to them meeting lots of new potential spouses. If they were the new person in town they would have been highly popular. My great, great grandfather moved to Worksop from Eckington. Here he took lodging at the pub just up the road from the Priory where he was the organist. Guess what he married the innkeepers daughter.
In the towns our ancestors may have met by going to a pub. Just imagine the films set in Victorian London such as Jack the Ripper. There is usually a pub scene. The wooden bars and tables, the piano being played in the corner and the dim lighting. The raucous laughter and singing of boardy songs. What better place than to meet the future spouse. In port towns there was the chance that you could meet a sailor from foreign climes in the pub. Maybe the daughter of a ship’s captain for the boys or the son for the girls. Maybe it led to your ancestor moving abroad or to another area of the country.
If you ancestors were from a more affluent background then maybe they met at a ball held at one of the grand homes or at the musical gatherings held at the theatres. They could have married the heir to one of the local grand houses next to theirs.
It wasn’t just the wealthier ancestors who may have met at the theatre though. There was the music hall performances held in the theatres all over the country. Here your ancestors may have met. It was a lively place and they would have had a great time. The ladies may also have been able to catch the eye of a gentleman who had ventured into the town to see the latest acts.
Dances were a prime hunting ground for finding a partner no matter what walk of life you came from. Be it the big balls of the grand houses or the village hall they would have been packed full of your people. They were available to all. Again in the port towns they were have been good places to meet those from far off lands. Over time the dances would develop and during WW2 they were great places to meet members of the armed forces from abroad. How may have a GI bride in their ancestry who went of the USA after the war with their new husband, or have a Caribbean ancestor who settled in the UK.
So no matter where your ancestors came from they will have a story as to how they met their spouse. We may never how some of them met but we need to record the stories we do know so that future generations know the stories and their lives will live on into the future.
On the 11th March 1864 the then town of Sheffield suffered from a devastating flood which brought death and destruction. But what caused it?
Well in basic terms the dam wall at the Dale Dyke dam failed sending the contents of the newly constructed reservoir crashing down the valley straight for the town.
The Dale Dyke dam wall failed whilst it was being filed for the first time. The night the wall failed Sheffield was hit by a gale which caused the water to put excess pressure on the newly finished dam wall. The dam engineer John Gunson was onsite on the night of the collapse. It’s said that he noticed the crack and opened the values to reduce the pressure on the wall in an attempt to stop a collapse. However the wall failed and approximately 3 million cubic metres of water rushed out of the reservoir and into the Loxley valley. Now if you’re like me that figure means nothing but in terms of pints of beer that’s 5,279,261,959. The water swept through the north of the town from the west to the east. The flood hit the areas of Loxley, Malins Bridge and Hillsborough first following the path of the river Loxley. Loxley at the time actually wasn’t in Sheffield as the town hadn’t grown out that far yet. It was an industrial area down in the valley being home to several trip hammers and rolling mills. One was owned by the Chapman family. When the flood hit the mill and hammer were lost and 5 members of the family died along with around 12 other people in the area.
Hillsborough was next where around 42 people died as the water took everything in its path. The water then carried on down the river valley and the turned where the Loxley joins the river Don. This took the water straight towards the industrial areas of the city. For anyone who knows the city today that where Kelham Island museum and the Wicker Archers are. This took the water through Neepsend and Shalesmoor on towards Attercliffe. This area was highly populated at the time and so the loss of life was great.
In total the disaster claimed the lives of around 240 people of all ages. The youngest recorded death shows a baby Dawson of just 2 days old. Many of the victims were never found as the water took them away. Some bodies were even found the other side of Rotherham in the areas of Kilnhurst and Swinton some 14 miles away. Also the flood destroyed and damaging around 600 homes and washing away the houses contents. There was also the loss of animals and crops and infrastructure such as the bridges over the rivers Loxley and Don.
The people of the town has raised around £42,000 (around £2.5 million in today’s terms) to help those in need. Also an act of parliament meant that the people of the town could make claims against the Sheffield Water Company who had built the reservoir for loss of property and life as well as for injuries.
As always a court case ensued and John Gunson got the blame, although the water company stood by him and kept him in the company until he died. The dam was rebuilt in in the 1870’s and is still there today. If you want to go it’s near Bradfield on Strines Moor just of the A57 not far from the reservoirs in the Derwent Valley.
This is where the flood becomes kind of personal to me. My family lived around the Hillsborough area. In November of 1864 my 3 times great Grandparents Charles Beckett and Eliza Parkin married at St Philips church in Shalesmoor. The church obviously survived, but were they affected in any way. Did the loose friends? My research doesn’t indicate they lost any family and there are no familiar names in the lists of the dead which is part of the fantastic research carried out by Karen Lightowler in conjunction with Sheffield City Council and Sheffield Hallam University. You can see the research here: https://www2.shu.ac.uk/sfca/ . It is a fantastic resource. The claims section does show that Charles Becket did make a claim for loses though. He was a quarry man and claimed £13 (around £812 today) for loses of personal possession such as tables and chairs but also the tools he used in the quarry such as his hammers and picks. He was awarded only £9. Also there were claims made by who I believe to be my 4 times great Grandfather George Parkin and by 2 members of the Elshaw family who I must be related to as we are all descended from one man.
So the flood left a trail of devastation in its wake that would change the town and wiped out entire families such as the Chapmans who lost a mother, father and 3 sons. But out of the devastation it gave us genealogists and fantastic insight into our ancestor’s lives as we can read the claims for loses and get a feel for how they lived and how the flood impacted on our lives.
How many of us have an old recipe book on the bookcase. It’s probably in a worse for wear condition with the cover falling off and bits of paper sticking out from every angle. It can give you an insight into the lives of your ancestors.
By looking at the recipes it can give you an insight into what foods your ancestors could afford to make and also what they liked to eat. It could also give you an insight into their kitchen as the more complicated the recipe the more kitchen equipment they may have needed so this may indicate they were from a wealthier background. These books can also span the generations as they are passed down from mother to daughter (or father to son). There are at least 5 different handwriting's in one of my family recipe book.
I’m lucky as I have access to my Grandma’s recipe book and my great Grandma’s.
So let’s look at the recipes inside.
Well in the main meals section we find a recipe for a meat mould which is sausage meat and corn beef mixed with a tomato and an egg all mixed together. Then it is steamed for 45 mins. Then there’s a Christmas pate which involves leftover turkey and lots of butter. There is also a terrine made with bacon, veal, port, liver and chicken liver, gross, I’ll just eat the bacon thanks.
The books also packed with recipes for chutneys, soups and pickles. Then it’s my favourite the cake and puddings section - boiled fruit cake my absolute favourite. This section does give a big clue about family life. There are lots of low sugar and diabetic recipes. This indicates someone suffered from diabetes and they did. It also shows how times have changed. There are recipes for jams and curds. I know some people still make them but many do just go to the shops and buy them.
Recipe books can also show regional foods. Now this would be seriously confusing in Grandmas recipe book. She was born and raised in Northamptonshire. He mum was from Cambridgeshire and her grandma was from Lincolnshire. Add into that her dad was from Nottinghamshire and the fact that she and grandpa travelled all over the country before settling in Yorkshire. Your family recipe book may offer better clues as to where their origins lie. One example of regional foods in grandma’s recipe book is for Yorkshire parkin. For those who don’t know it’s a spiced cake made with oats, treacle and ginger. Here’s the recipe, try it’s gorgeous.
If you consider my great Grandma’s recipe book then this too will have a hodge podge of regional recipes. She was born in Sunderland but raised in London. Her mother was from Sunderland but her dad was Scottish.
You may also find some really bizarre recipes. I took to the internet to see what other recipes I could find from peoples recipe books.
How’s this for a delicious recipe, stewed sparrows anyone. This 18th century recipe calls for boiling the sparrows in ale and water. Put 3 egg yolks, verjuice (made from unripe grapes, crab-apples or other sour fruit) cinnamon and ginger and stir. Add the sparrows to the sauce. I think I’ll give that one a miss.
One which maybe you can try next Christmas, picked turkey anyone.
If you try this recipe let me know how bad it is. Picked meat sound disgusting, but I suppose it preserved the meat so it would keep longer and could be used when fresh food stocks were low. It could have kept the entire family going when there was nothing else available.
If you have an old recipe book in the family why not play make a recipe. Just open the book and if you like the ingredients in the recipe on that page, and if you can still get them, make it and see what it’s like. If your ancestors took the time to write it down then maybe it was a family favourite. Who knows maybe it will become a future family favourite to another generation of the family.
Hello and thank you for taking the time to read my Family History Ramblings on genealogy and history in general. I hope you find it informative and hopefully funny!