Things past

Testing times.

We gave our students the first Progress Test from the book today. The writing task was

Think about something important that has happened in your country.
Then write about:
  • what happened and when
  • why you think it happened
  • the effects it had on the people of your country
  • the effect (if any) it has had on your family

Since I had nothing better to do, I wondered what my ancestors did during significant periods of English history. Most of my forebears come from Yorkshire or southern Scotland, and I would assume that they were probably fairly sedentary for most of the past thousand years.

What were they doing in 1066 when William of Normandy invaded England? Did they take part in the rebellion against William which resulted in Yorkshire being laid waste? Or did they merely suffer the consequences of that?

Did they take sides during the civil war between Matilda and Stephen? Did any of them go off on the Crusades?

Some of them must’ve survived the Black Death in the mid 1300s, but how many succumbed to it? How did affect the lives of the ones who survived? Were any of them attracted by the Flagellants? Or did they decide to eat, drink, and be merry? Somehow, I think they probably just got on with things.

What did they do during the Wars of the Roses? Did they fight for the Yorkist cause? From what I’ve read, it seems likely that my ancestors were probably unaffected by the whole squabble.

What did they think about the Reformation and the Dissolution of the Monasteries? There was a popular rebellion in Yorkshire, and there were several important monasteries in the shire, including Rievaulx Abbey. My ancestors could’ve been a part of the Pilgrimage of Grace, and may only have abandoned Catholicism because of the harsh recusancy laws. Did they lament Guy Fawkes’ failure to blow up James II?

Then there was the civil war in the 17th century between the Royalists and Parliamentarians. The Parliamentary army in Yorkshire defeated the Royalists at the Battle of Naseby, suggesting that my ancestors might have fought for Parliament.

And when, over a century later, Bonnie Prince Charlie invaded England, did he have any direct affect on my forebears? Or did his army pass by without seeing them?

What impact did the Industrial Revolution have? Did they head for the towns to look for work, or had they been town dwellers all along? And what involvement did they have in the rise if the British Empire? (Apart from being mere migrants.)

I guess that for most of history my ancestors might’ve been there, but played no significant part in it. Other questions which spring to mind are whether any of them ever joined the church, and who my first literate ancestor was.


7 thoughts on “Things past”

  1. I feel a BBC series coming on, "Blast from the Past" to give it a suitable ‘dumb’ title that will be picked up by a majority of those watching the British Brainwashing Corporation! ;o)
    Seriously though, when you start to think back about ‘family’ history you certainly get some interesting speculative thoughts popping up; mine has roots in Prussia (an area approx. North-East Germany now iirc) around the early 1700s (not been able to trace it any further back that that). And from the West Indies, India and the Middle East for at least 2 generations. So that opens all sorts of ‘imperialist’ history, even slavery perhaps. What sort of battles were fought in those areas, how did they effect the ‘family’; did they emigrate to get away from the wars? Interesting stuff really.

  2. I wonder when your ancestors ended up in Prussia, because the original inhabitants were Slavs. The Teutonic Knights conquered the region in the 13th century. Perhaps one of them is one of your ancestors, although you could also be a descendant of one of the Dutch or German settlers brought there.

  3. It’s gets difficult to go back too far because as you know there aren’t that many written records about populations and their movement on an individual level, at least relative to what we know today from cencus information. It could very well be that the ‘family’ original is from one of the original inhabitants as there doesn’t appear to have been any mention of ‘movement’.
    It might be possible to ‘cross reference’ physical movement with the origin of a families surname, tracing that back and then comparing it too geographical locations could narrow things down a bit.

  4. As you know, both your parents have done extensive research into their respective family histories. Your mother has traced back to the late 15th century in England and your father to the mid 17th century in Scotland. Your origins are about 3/4 Scottish from the Huttons, Guthries (father’s side) and Macks (mother) and 1/4 English (mother). Although the name Hutton is commonly found in Yorkshire as a place name (Old Hutton, Hutton Roof etc) and surname, it is also extremely common in Lowland Scotland where your great grandfather Robert Hutton came from to NZ (1874). But there is a theory supported by considerable evidence that the Huttons emigrated over a period of time from a Yorkshire "homeland" into Scotland. The Huttons were mentioned in the Domesday Book and, it is believed, were treated well by William the Conqueror because of their earlier Viking origins.
    Your Nana Hutton (nee Guthrie) had an entirely lowland Scottish background. Her genealogy is the most detailed of your forebears, thanks particularly to the status of our Paterson forebears, some of whom were lairds, trusted tenants or significant in agriculture, the military, commerce etc, Quite a number left detailed wills which are very useful.
    On the other hand, the Huttons disappear into a mist of uncertainty before c1800, because the records are poor and erronneous, they were illiterate (even up to the 1850s) and there is evidence of illegitimacy which makes the record trail even more difficult to follow.
    The Metcalfs are a well known and well documented North Yorkshire family. Your mother has an excellent history of them published a few years ago. She can tell you about that. One interesting point is that the Metcalfs provided significant numbers of archers for King Edward Longshanks when he defeated the Scots at the Battle of Falkirk in 1296. I have not forgiven your mother for that!! But not all of your Metcalf background was Yorkshire. On the maternal great grandmother side you go back to Birmingham, Dudley and Sedgley.
    On Grandma’s side (Mack) the background is entirely Scottish – Berwickshire and Perthshire. Mum can tell you about that.
    But one of the other people who commented is fairly right. Most of us are from fairly humble origins and cannot trace individual forebears back beyond the earliest surviving church records which begin in the 16th and 17th centuries for most parishes. Perhaps if Henry VIII had not destroyed the monasteries there might have been records going back further. However, by and large, the only people whose records go right back are the landed gentry and above (Up the Ruling Classes, I hear you say?).
    As far as knowing what our forebears were doing at particular times in recorded history, we can only make educated guesses at tis for the most part. There were probably events that affected them greatly but it would be almost impossible to identify individual effects. Your research into Archibald Craig at Kew indicated how difficult it is to find out details about a private in the British Army even as recently as the 1850s.
    You may be reaching a point in your life when finding out more about your origins becomes important. It’s important that you learn something of this as it helps to complete you as a person. Both your parents have lots of information at home and can point you towards more!

  5. Hello joh don’t know if you visited my space or someone who had been on yours?(Yours is fascinating)
    But hello anyway, hope all is well with you,come back anytime to say hi! much love Miz.XXX
    (Sage Green)

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