Do your background reading

This guide was last updated in 2009

Part of any research project is to place your findings into a wider historical context – to discover whether your ancestor’s experiences were typical, and learn about the events and forces that might have affected them.

There will be books in your local library or archive telling you about the history of the area, and thus how your ancestor fitted into the larger scheme of things.

You may also find histories of particular trades or types of business: you may be able to discover what a butcher’s life, for example, was likely to have been like – where his supplies come from, who were they sold to and what kind of social position your ancestor might have enjoyed.

You may read of social or economic changes that affected your ancestor, and resulted in a sudden abandonment or growth of the business.

To find out more about historical trade directories, have a look at:

For further research ideas and background reading, have a look at:


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