Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Putting Our Ancestors into Historical Context for Fun

We hear it time and time again...put your ancestor into their historical context. Learn about the area they lived and what was going on in their world at that time. Having that frame of reference is helpful to researchers in many ways. A researcher can gain clues as to where to look and not to look for their ancestor and why. Additionally, it helps us to form an appreciation for our ancestors lives. Knowing the historical context can also bring fun and  excitement to your research...which can get a little tedious now and then.

I've been following #ripperlive on Twitter these last few months. One of my Twitter friends, Gavin, posts tweets detailing the murders committed around the Whitechapel area of London in 1888 and the investigation of such. Some of the posts are very intense (and gruesome) it's almost like watching a soap opera unfold with Jack The Ripper as the star.

So, just imagine my excitement when I found my GGGrandfather, Henry Brimson, in the 1841 English census living in Whitechapel! I immediately hit Twitter with an "OMG my ancestor was in Whitechapel! #ripperlive" or something to that effect. What ensued was a chase with three of my Twitter friends (@gavmr, @archivalbiz and @susmithjosephy) to decipher the name of the street Henry lived on in Whitechapel, trying figuring out where it was physcially located and determine if there was anything still there today. It was fun, it was exciting and it really was genealogical research!

My excitement did dim as I realized that Henry died in 1848 and his family moved to the US in 1850. That meant my ancestors were not around at the time Jack was on his reign of terror in that area. Just as my excitement started to dim though I also felt a profound sense of relief. Since Henry died in 1848 there was no way HE could BE Jack the Ripper either!!! While I would love to find an exciting ancestor...The Ripper is not who I have in mind. :)


  1. Hi Jenna -
    This is the kind of thing that makes family members who aren't too hot about charts and decendency sit up and take notice. My own ancestor, Torf de Harcourt is rumored to be in the Bayeux Tapestry We know he was a knight of the Bishop of Bayeux. Congrats on the find...just another piece of the puzzle.

  2. No...definitely wouldn't want that kind of excitement, though your idea certainly does introduce an element of fun into genealogical research. It certainly would be one way to introduce others into the realm of your research. Much more interesting than dull, dry dates alone!

  3. Fred & Jacqui, yes, having a story like that to tell along with GGGGrandpa was born in 1816 makes for a more interesting story. It certainly made it more interesting for me!! Thanks for stopping by! :)

  4. What, you don't want Jack the Ripper in your family tree?!?! I do think the historical context is important...I'm still trying to work more of that into the family stories. :-)