Monday, 13 October 2014

Looking at the full picture

I don't know about you but when I first began researching my family history, it was all data collection. I mainly collected all the dates of birth, marriage and death of my ancestors, alongside recording where they were and what they were doing every 10 years on the censuses.

As time went on I started to want to unlock some of the facts in this data collecting exercise that I'd done previously. What did it mean that my ancestor was born in January 1899 or was baptised on 25th December 1888? 

You had to look at the facts around the bigger picture...

  • What was happening in your ancestors town, village, street at the time of these significant life events? Eg mass unemployment, opening of a new railway, clearing of slums, new housing?
  • What had happened 8-10 months before a birth? Eg, a marriage only months before a birth or a father home on leave from the army?
  • What was happening in the World or the Nation? Eg war, peace, temperance movement, strikes, protests, death of a king?
  • Was there other events happening within the immediate or extended family? Eg, cousins of similar ages, a daughter old enough to have a baby which the mother was hiding as her own, children helping with house work or child care, the father out of work?
  • Where were extended family members located geographically in relation to your relative? Did that have an impact on the relationship the extended family had with one another? Eg in the same or next street, in the neighbouring town or on the otherside of the country?
Harold Poole with his wife Alice Thompson

An example which I discovered in my own family tree once I started to unpack the facts was... great grandmother, Grace Ellen Poole nee Binns died on 31st July 1917 at 2 Rose Avenue, Horsforth, West Yorkshire
...1917 was in the middle of WW1
...did she have family members - sons, husband, nephews, brothers - who had signed up & were away fighting in France?
...her eldest son, Harold Poole, was overseas in France until 1918
...Frederick Poole - Grace's husband remarried on 27th April 1918 only months after his wife had passed away
...Harold, Grace's son married on 26th September 1918 - possibly home on leave?
...remember WW1 ended on 11th November 1918 and even then it may have been 1919 before troops returned home to their loved ones grandmother always told stories that her father, Harold Poole would never talk to his father Frederick Poole, one wonders whether it was due to the fact that his father remarried so quickly after his mother's death before Harold had the opportunity to grieve for his own mother, Grace.

It wasn't until I had unpacked the facts and looked at the full picture did I realise how quick succession it was between my great, great grandmother's death and her husband's remarriage, alongside the complications of WW1 and her son, his marriage and being away in France.

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