One of the things that fascinates me as a genealogist is how our ancestors moved around the country following the ebb and flow of economic fortune. Except, in my case, I’ve the feeling that, until recent generations, my ancestors didn’t move around much. To examine this further I’m looking at two different generations; My great-grandparents, born during the height of the Victorian age, and their grandparents, born roughly 60 years earlier, around the start of the nineteenth century.
To show the earlier generation I’ve mapped the 32 ancestors that are my ggg-grandparents. They are clustered into groups of four based on my eight great-grandparents (shown in black). There is a good reason for doing it this way. When the “Peoples of the British Isles” Project were looking for sample DNA they looked for people where all their four grandparents were born within 80 kilometres of each other (the Irish DNA Research Project uses this same methodology). This was basically their definition of someone who was “born-and-bred” in a particular region. Looking through my own ancestors it’s only when I go back 3 generations to my great-grandparents does this test hold true, as shown below:
As you can see 23 of my 32 ancestors are mapped. Round circles on the map show a point where multiple ancestors were born in the same place. The other 9 ancestors I do not have enough information on.
Given that this post is about mobility let me start by showing a little about my great-grandparents and their lives.
|Name||Year of Birth||Birthplace||Year of Death||Location of Death||Distance between birth and death|
|George Grass||1864||Mundford, Norfolk||1954||Knaresborough, Yorkshire||212|
|Elizabeth Ann Basham||1860||Santon, Norfolk||1928||Markington, Yorkshire||234|
|Thomas Lambert||1859||Ormesby, Yorkshire||1899||Great Ayton, Yorkshire||5|
|Sarah Sturdy||1852||York, Yorkshire||1952||Kirby-in-Cleveland, Yorkshire||54|
|Robert Smith||1846||Gt Broughton, Yorkshire||1909||Gt Broughton, Yorkshire||0|
|Hannah Cornforth||1848||Hawnby, Yorkshire||1926||Great Broughton, Yorkshire||15|
|Robert Stewart||1859||Lissan, Derry||1926||Middlesbrough, Yorkshire||336|
|Maria Singleton Armstrong||1856||Darlington, Durham||1928||Thornaby, Yorkshire||21|
As you can see they were all children of the Victorian Era. The earliest born was Robert Smith (1846), the latest born George Grass (1864). The youngest to die was Thomas Lambert (age 39), the oldest Sarah Sturdy, who lived to be 100. Out of curiosity I measured how far they moved from the place of birth to the place they died. As you can see, Robert Smith never moved, whilst Robert Stewart moved the furthest, going from Lissan to Middlesbrough. On average they moved c.109 kms in their lifetimes.
My Great Great Great-Grandparents
These are the grandparents of my great grandparents. As you can see from the map they married and raised their children close to home. I haven’t measured the distances, but as you can see they were a lot less mobile. All of my Great-Grandparents would certainly have qualified under the Peoples of the British Isles 80 kilometre rule.
To put a little context on them, of my 32 ancestors, three are unknown and another six have no reliable birth information. Of these nine unknown my gut feeling is that they would all have been born local to their grandchildren – I just can’t yet prove it. Anyway here is the breakdown of my great-grandparents’ grandparents !
|Great Grandparent||Known Grandparents||Grandparent with Birthplace||Notes|
|Elizabeth Ann Basham||4||4||all born in Brandon, Suf.|
|Robert Smith||4||2||Curse of being a Smith|
|Hannah Cornforth||3||2||Mother was illigitimate|
|Robert Stewart||2||0||Curse the Irish records|
|Maria Singleton Armstrong||4||4|
Among the 23 remaining ancestors all were born between 1777 and 1816, roughly 64 years before their grand-children. As the map shows the grandparents of Elizabeth Ann Basham all lived in the same place, whilst another two families, those of Maria Singleton Armstrong and Hannah Cornforth had multiple grandparents born in the same village. The most significant outlier in this group is John Whittle 1778-1872 (marked in dark blue) who was the grandfather of George Grass. I’ve marked him as being born in Henham, Suffolk (as per the 1861 census), but equally he could have been born in Hingham, Norfolk (1851 census) or Henham Green, Suffolk (1871 census).
So looking at the map I believe my great-grandparents represent good proxies to the average location of their grandparents. Having researched even further back among my ancestors I’m reasonably confident that they all lived and died close to their children, often in the same parish. This statement does come with a caveat. In the times before my ggg-grandparents there were no British Censuses, so the major sources of information are the local parish registers. As a result the identity of your ancestors goes from definitely, to likely, to merely possible. Like all good genealogists I have a healthy scepticism about the quality of my family tree at such points.
Out of curiosity I went to the geomidpoint.com website and used it to estimate a geographic midpoint of all 8 great-grandparents. It turns out that, on-average, my ancestors come from a point between Harrogate and Wetherby in North Yorkshire.
I’m now looking forward to seeing the results of a LivingDNA.com test I’ve taken. This company is run by some of the people involved in the People of the British Isles project. One of their key selling points for the test is that “If you have British ancestry, we are able to break that down among up to 21 regions“. Once I get the results I’ll post them here, so people can see how well the results match my research.
[Update March 2017] My LivingDNA test results have arrived. You can read about them here.