3 websites to help put your ancestors' lives in context


30 April 2019
The-Storm-99294.png The Storm by Daniel Defoe
Discover 3 websites that can help you explore your ancestors' lives in context – and enrich your family history research

None of our ancestors lived in a bubble. Their lives were shaped and even completely changed by the world around them.


By exploring our families’ lives in context family history enthusiasts can enrich their research beyond measure.


Professional researcher Kim Cook shows you how to gain a richer knowledge of your ancestors’ lives by focusing on 5 key research elements, along with a wide range of topics to explore within these core areas, in the June 2019 issue of Family Tree.


Here we select 3 handy websites chosen by Kim – some of them free –  that could help you investigate your families’ experiences in context, providing a deeper level of understanding of the events in their lives.


1) British Newspaper Archive (£)
For violent, accidental, or unexpected deaths, search the British Newspaper Archive online (also at Findmypast) for coroners’ and/or inquest reports. If you suspect an epidemic, bad harvests, or freak weather contributed to the death of an ancestor, check local and regional newspapers for records of such events.


2) Old Maps 

Look for old maps, preferably produced at the time ancestors lived there. You might find a map produced by an early cartographer, and there’s a good chance of finding a tithe map, showing local properties, numbered, with their boundaries and owners. Find the National Tithe Maps collection at TheGenealogist.co.uk (£) or, for London ancestors, try the free Charles Booth's London poverty maps site.


3) The Great Storm 

Extreme weather often caused severe disruption to regional economies. In January 1606/7, what is now recognised as a tsunami raced up the Bristol channel. Floods spread inland as far as 14 miles in Somerset: over 350 miles of coast were breached, 2,000 lives were lost, livestock drowned, and land soured.

The Great Storm of 1703 saw a series of gales sweep from west to east across southern England and Wales. Daniel Defoe toured England to collect data on the Great Storm, publishing his report in 1804. It is freely available to read at Archive.org and gives a vivid picture of the effects in the devastated regions.


• Read Kim Cook’s article, Putting your family history into context: 5 key research approaches to enrich your genealogy, in the June 2019 issue of Family Tree.


• Check here to find more expert articles listing Useful genealogy websites!