What Is an Ancestral Biography?
If you have done any work on your ancestry yourself, you will know that what you tend to end up with is a lot of interesting (and sometimes not so interesting) information, which can include names, dates, occupations, addresses and, if you are lucky, details of property owned, crimes committed, travels made or other itty bitty details that can go only a little way to give you an idea of the person.
What you may not end up with is any kind of cohesive ‘story’. Sure, you might know that a person was born in such a date, that they got married to so-and-so, how many children they had, were living in such a place in 1851, and then they changed career and moved to the city by 1871; and you’ll know when, where and perhaps why they died. For many of us, that’s about as much as you’ll be able to find out from the available documents.
My Ancestral Biography service provides a detailed written account of a person’s life; not just the vital facts, but the history, both local and national, behind those facts. For example, if your ancestor was a shoemaker, I would write about what his life would be like as a shoemaker in the period he was living. If he moved from a rural village to a big town, I might surmise that his work was probably affected by the industrial revolution and that he moved to the town or city to find work in a factory. I will research the area where they lived and see what local and national events may have affected them.
Unless you have a solid knowledge of British history, it would be difficult to do this yourself without lots of reading and research. When I look at some of the details that clients have provided me with, I look to find interesting little bits of information which I can ‘read’ against the background of contemporary history and fill in the missing information. For example, I have recently been working on a biography for a client whose ancestors were husbandmen and yeoman farmers. In the mid-18th century one ancestor left a substantial amount of money in a will. By the middle of the next century that man’s great grandson was a pauper, previously ‘agricultural labourer’. What, I asked myself, had caused such a decline in fortune? The answer was of course the agricultural enclosures of the late 18th and early 19th century which gradually caused many agricultural families who had been modestly well-off to slip into lives of poverty.
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