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From: Stephen Hayes
To: All
Date: 2002-12-18 05:46:06
Subject: Re: Question on validity

* Forwarded (from: GEN_BRITAIN) by Stephen Hayes using timEd/2 1.10.y2k.
* Originally from Roy Stockdill (8:8/2002) to All.
* Original dated: Mon Dec 16, 18:00

From: roy{at} ("Roy Stockdill")

I THINK it is about time we introduced a bit of common sense into 
this debate.

I stated in an earlier message that the vast majority of people 
cannot hope to prove an ancestral line much beyond the English Civil 
War and I stand by that. I do not deny that a few - a very small 
number - will find it possible to trace their ancestry back 
earlier, indeed in some cases for centuries earlier, but they are a 
tiny minority. Those who are lucky enough to find their ancestors 
mentioned in the proceedings of manorial courts - and remember that 
to be so mentioned usually meant that they had to be involved in some 
dispute or controversy - may be able to show a line back to the 
Middle Ages, but they are rare indeed.

Most genealogists agree that the majority of English pedigrees (I say 
"English" because I am not concerned here with Welsh, Scottish and 
Irish ancestries which demand different sources and approaches), 
should be traceable back to somewhere around 1800, using civil 
registration (birth, marriage and death certificates) and census 
returns, without too much difficulty unless there are unusual factors 
i.e. adoption, immigration, changes of name, etc. It is then, when 
we approach the parish registers, bishop's transcripts, wills, etc, 
that we may get into choppy waters. Many factors intervene.....

1) An uncommon surname is obviously easier to trace, but what may be 
an uncommon name nationally may be very common in a particular
isolated part of the country. How, then, do you identify and 
distinguish two men of the same name in the same village? Well, if 
they follow different occupations is one way, also the repetition of 
certain family forenames, but even that is not conclusive.

2) A family that remains in one place and follows the same 
occupation will be easier to trace than a family that moved about and 
changed its occupation frequently in a bid to be socially upwardly 
mobile. Thus, it may, ironically, be easier to trace a family of 
humble ag labs who never moved from the same parish for 200 or 300 
years than it is to trace a family the eldest son of which went to 
London and founded a business.

3) During the Industrial Revolution in England, families were pouring 
into the growing towns and cities from the countryside in huge 
numbers; therefore identifying a person of a particular name with a 
person of the same name in a different location may be impossible. 
This stumbling block puts an end to many pedigrees between 1700 and 

4) The Civil War is a barrier because a great many parish registers 
did not survive it. Further, during the Interregnum when 
births, marriage and deaths were a civil matter and taken away from 
the church, many families who were royalists and traditionalists 
refused to have their events recorded by Justices of the Peace, 
or they may have had them recorded years later but with imperfect 
recollection of events. Thus, many pedigrees end here.

5) Before 1538 when Thomas Cromwell introduced parish registers, 
hardly anybody at all had anything recorded, except the very wealthy 
2% or so who owned virtually all the land in the entire kingdom. They 
are the ones who may appear in manorial courts, land deeds, feet of 
fines, etc. But they were a VERY small minority. The vast majority of 
ordinary people, peasants, even many yeomen who held modest land 
holdings, simply did not figure in any records.

Therefore, we may say "finito" to the great majority of ordinary 
people's pedigrees and anything else is wishful thinking, as I keep 
saying. It follows without saying that alleged pedigrees back to 
Noah's Ark and Adam and Eve are pure Disneyland! Sure, mathematical 
equations suggest that the number of living descendants of 
Charlemagne and Alfred the Great probably run into millions. But how 
many can actually prove it with documentation? There's the rub.

Roy Stockdill (Editor, Journal of One-Name Studies)
Guild of One-Name Studies:-
Newbies' Guide to Genealogy & Family History:-

Never ask a man if he comes from Yorkshire. If he does he will tell you, if
he does not why humiliate him? - Canon Sydney Smith

___ NewsGate v1.0 gamma 2
 - Origin: (8:8/2002) 

--- WtrGate v0.93.p9 Unreg
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SEEN-BY: 633/267 270
@PATH: 7106/20 22 7102/1 140/1 106/2000 1 379/1 633/267

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