I’ve just renewed my subscription to Ancestry.com.
It’s worth every penny – I pay for full access to the worldwide records. As many of my ancestors emigrated (or were transported…) – to Australia, to the US, to New Zealand, to Canada – I need to be able to access everything. And as hobbies go, it’s cheap – I don’t play golf, or go horse riding, or smoke!!
I have well over 13,000 people in the tree, and I’m still finding new people, or they’re finding me. I was contacted just yesterday by someone who is the grandson of one of the people in my tree. From the information I had, my relative had married twice and had two children – but I had no names for the children, and I didn’t know which of his wives was the mother. He’s filled in some detail for me – the names of the children, dates of birth – which meant that I could search Ancestry for the names of their spouses and so on. So that’s three more people added to the tree – bringing the grand total so far to 13,371!!
I’ve just started an in-depth look at the relatives who are descended from my 5x Great Grandfather’s brother, who was transported to Australia in 1814.
I’ve looked at each one in turn, and where possible I’ve researched their address and occupation. It’s easier once we hit the 20th century, as there is an electoral roll roughly every 5 years that gives exactly that information.
I’m interested to see how the family spread out from Wiseman’s Ferry in New South Wales, where Matthew Pearson Thompson originally settled. How many stayed there, how many moved away? Matthew was a farmer and a school master – did his family continue to farm, or did they branch out into other occupations?
And that brings us on to the problem with women. For the majority of this period, women only had one job. In the Australian electoral rolls it’s recorded as ‘Home duties’. In the early years, this was the occupation even of unmarried women still living with their parents. Slowly it became normal for a woman to have a job outside the home until she married, and later still women continued to have a job outside the home until the first child was born. But a married woman with children? I haven’t got evidence for a single woman who continued to work outside the home after the children came along.
When you look at the men’s occupations, you can get a feel for what their lives were like – you can see their careers progress, you can see changes and decisions and setbacks (the man who went from farm hand to dairy farmer to labourer in the space of 10 years, for example). But in the women’s records you get none of this – home duties, home duties, home duties. To get a feel for what their lives were like, you have to look at their husbands’ records. The life of a woman whose husband was a miner was likely to be very different from the life of a woman whose husband was a clergyman, or a salesman, or farmer, even though their job title was identical.
I’ve been researching the tree off and on for probably 17 years. But it’s taken on a new significance now, due to lockdown. I can’t visit my real actual living and breathing family – but I can at least make a coffee and spend time with my ancestors.
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