I hope you find some of these websites useful for expanding your family story.
Dictionary of Old Occupations
One of our ancestors, Mark Starling, worked as a coal whipper. I didn't have a clue what that job entailed and a good starting point for finding out was the
Dictionary of Old Occupations.
The Dictionary of Old Occupations includes over 2000 old occupations, jobs, archaic trades and similar historical terms and is easily and freely searchable.
List of Traditional Nicknames in Historic Documents
Michael's aunt was known as Aunt Fan but that wasn't her birth name.
She was really Frances Magnus but as far as we know she was called Fan or sometimes, Fanny for the whole of her life.
If you find that one of your ancestors has a rather more obscure nickname you might find this List of Traditional Nicknames in Historic Documents helpful.
Surnames of England and Wales
How rare or common is your surname?
If you want to find out how many people share your surname check out this site: http://www.taliesin-arlein.net/names/
Charles Booth's London
Charles James Booth (1840-1916) was an English philanthropist and social researcher. He is most renowned for his innovative work documenting working class life in London at the end of the 19th century. You might have seen the BBC2 series The Secret History of Our Streets which referred to the Charles Booth Poverty Maps throughout the series.
This link will take you to The Poverty Maps and they are fascinating.
The population is categorised from the lowest class (Vicious, semi-criminal) through Poor (18s to 21s a week for a moderate family) to the top of the scale Upper middle and Upper (Wealthy). Click on "Legend" on the left of the map to see the categories in more detail and to understand the colour coding of the streets and their associated poverty levels.
You can zoom in and out of the map and if you're interested in particular streets then use the search box top left.
And not to mention the notebooks! I used the notebooks when I was researching my blogpost about Star Street and Planet Street.
If you've ancestors in London during the era this resource is a gold mine of information.
The History of the Workhouse
Probably most family history researchers have found one or more of their ancestors ending their days in the workhouse. To find out more about life in the workhouse then a visit to The Workhouse - the story of an institution is a must.
It's a massive website filled with information about every conceivable aspect of workhouse life but I've found that the most useful part is the directory of workhouse addresses with links to the pages of individual workhouses.
This is the link to the directory part of the site: http://www.workhouses.org.uk/addresses/
then just use the A-Z to search for the town you want and click its link.
If you think your ancestor might have been involved in a railway accident there may be some information at the Railway Archives website.
I've explained in other posts about a diary written by my mum (Doreen Buckle) in the first months of 1947 and how I've used some of her diary entries as starting points for finding out more about that era.
One day in 1947, Doreen wrote: “Mr Eaton was killed today on the Railway”. Doreen’s father worked on the railway so Mr Eaton’s death must have been particularly significant. The Railways Archive website has 32 accidents listed for 1947 but none of them seem as though they would have involved the Mr. Eaton mentioned in Doreen's diary. Further scrutiny of the accidents recorded for 1947 show there were a staggering 111 fatalities and over 800 injuries. The worst accidents of 1947 were at Gidea Park (7 fatalities and 45 injured); Doncaster (18 fatalities and 118 injured); Burton Agnes (12 fatalities and 32 injured); South Croydon (32 fatalities and 183 injured); and Goswick (28 fatalities and 90 injured).
The causes of these terrible railway disasters were:
Goswick: excessive speed and human error resulting in derailment and the train splitting
South Croydon: signaller error resulting in derailment
Burton Agnes: collision with a road vehicle
Doncaster: signaller error resulting in rear collision and derailment
Gidea Park: fog, excessive speed and human error resulting in rear collision and derailment.
Reading these appalling statistics made me re-appraise what might have happened to Mr Eaton. I'd assumed he'd been killed while working for the Railway: now I'm not so sure.
(Interestingly, sixty years later, in 2007, 54 accidents were reported on the railway in which there were 6 fatalities (5 were caused by collision with a road vehicle) and in the majority of cases there were no injuries at all.).
The Railways Archive is easily and freely searchable and might provide you with interesting background for your family's story.
When I was researching the background to my dad's wartime diary I found an amazing clip of film on the Pathe News website. My dad was a Royal Navy recruit and the film showed some of the recruits at their training camp, HMS Royal Arthur aka Butlin's Holiday Camp in Skegness. It really gave me a great insight into the sort of experience my dad would have had when he was there.
It's well worth taking a look at British Pathe. It's easily searchable and even if you don't find anything directly related to your own family history I'm certain you'll find something amazing.
British Newspaper Archive
You need to pay for a subscription to access the records of the British Newspaper Archive. But it can be searched for free,
Recently a BNA Picture Search has been introduced and as well as being freely searchable, the images can also be seen without a subscription. The range of publications included in the picture search is limited but it's an interesting resource.
Hansard is the edited verbatim report of the proceedings of both the House of Commons and the House of Lords in the British Parliament. It is a fantastic resource for adding detail to your family story. When I was researching the background to I Think I Prefer the Tinned Variety: The Diary of a Petty Officer in the Fleet Air Arm during World War II I was trying to find out about the Mobile Naval Air Bases (MONABs) that were set up to provide back-up for the British Pacific Fleet in 1945 and I found a fascinating reference in Hansard. I also found a report in Hansard about a school that features in my family story which was most interesting. Go to the Hansard On-Line search page and enter the person or place you're interested in. You'll go to a page where you can narrow your search down or follow up on some of the suggestions. Well worth a visit!
Geograph: photograph every grid square
If you want to know what a place in your family history is like today, then the Geograph website is for you. It's a marvelous repository of photos taken by enthusiasts from all over the country of the many places where they live or have visited. It's particularly useful if you want to visit a church that is connected to your family history without actually going there on a visit.
I don't know if the project has managed to cover every inch of the British Isles yet but I shouldn't think there are many places that haven't been captured.
This is my favourite Geograph image. Our Starling ancestors originated in Beaumont cum Moze in Essex and emigrated to London in the nineteenth century. I think the remains of the Thames sailing barge in this photo are so evocative and we often speculate that it was on a boat like this that the family made their move to London's East End.
Thanks for reading my blog today and I hope you've found it useful.
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I'm a former primary school head teacher now enjoying family history, e-publishing and gardening. I'm the author of "Cabbage and Semolina: Memories of a 1950s Childhood" and was delighted when the book became an Amazon 2015 bestseller in the Social History category. I'm the founder of Spurwing Ebooks which is at http://www.spurwing-ebooks.com for book details and information about new releases and special offers. Details of my books are at https://www.amazon.co.uk/C.-Murray/e/B009R7CRVC and the other books I've published are at https://www.amazon.co.uk/Michael-Murray/e/B007AQZMZK