From the office: A sense of community

By Editor, 25 May 2017 - 4:00pm

Moved by recent events, Who Do You Think You Are? Magazine editor Sarah Williams considers the role of community in family history

Sarah Williams is editor at Who Do You Think You Are? MagazineThursday 25 May 2017
Sarah Williams, Editor
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Beach outing group photo

The events in Manchester have made me think a lot about community recently.

As family historians we sometimes try to slot our ancestors into communities based on religion, nationality, industry or location.

And this can help your research.

I loved reading about the London Welsh in our May issue. I had no idea that the Welsh flocked to London in their droves to supply the expanding capital with milk and the discovery led me to browsing numerous fascinating websites, from Spitalfields Life documenting the Jones Dairy to one persuading me to visit the Museum of Soho to see their Welsh dairy collection.

Knowing that your family worked in a London dairy might help you make Welsh connections that might lead you to chapel records (or even wills, see our new video here). It can also help explain why they did what they did or married who they married.

In our current issue we’ve got features on Catholics and Quakers. Both communities kept their own distinctive records that reflect the values and beliefs of those people. I love Quaker marriage records with their numerous witnesses – a true community document.

But our ancestors never belonged to just one community. Those Welsh dairy workers were also part of the Spitalfields or Soho communities, Irish Catholics became an important part of Liverpool and Quakers were an influential part of many business communities.

This week in Manchester we saw people helping others they had no known connection to. There has been much talk of Manchester’s community spirit, but on the actual day I think what people shared was humanity.

Nobody understands better than family historians the interconnectedness of this world. The more you look into your family’s past the more you realise that we are all part of one giant family with community groupings that shift and merge with others.

Communities are important. They give us a sense of belonging and they give us support. But the biggest community that we all belong to is global and we must try not to forget that.

 

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