Wednesday, May 23, 2012


What a sink hole of time is genealogy.  You tell yourself that you will just have a quick look, figure out who your great-great grand parents were, get a bit of a sense of the family history.  Then the next thing you know you are spending your spare time transcribing 19th century church records into spreadsheets, so that some reasonable level of correlation and analysis is possible, and chatting to other researchers about interpreting really difficult handwriting.

And I mean bad: I've worked for doctors and lawyers, and they are not even in the running for illegibility compared to some of what I've dealt with recently.  Between the erratic spelling of place names - some of which are pretty strange to begin with (Hurtletoot, I'm looking at you), the splotches and smears caused by old fashioned ink pens, and the extremely indifferent handwriting of people who had little or no formal schooling, and you begin to look forward to the entries where the officiating minister wrote all the names, and everybody else just wrote an "X" next to the words "his mark" (or "her mark").

However, the marriage records make interesting reading.  You can follow the changes in occupations - almost none of the brides had occupations before about 1955; after that, few of them didn't have an occupation, unless they were very young.  And the change in given names is interesting - in the early records they are all James, John, Mary, Margaret, Archibald, Alexander, William, Elizabeth, Annie, Jeannie; but 1965 there are people called Stanley, Gerald, Nancy, Pauline, Dora, Josephine.  The big change comes at the beginning of World War II, when there must have been soldiers and airmen stationed near the town I am working on, people from other parts of the country.  They started marrying local girls, and in quite a few cases it appears that a brother or sister who attended the first wedding met someone they liked while they were there, and a few months later there would be another wedding.

And the men's occupations change - originally the men were all farmers or worked in the flax mills, or as weavers.  Slowly engineers begin to crop up, school teachers, chemists, business managers, lorry drivers, even a detective.  People began to live longer, and marry later.

The end is in sight: two volumes of marriage records to go.


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