A research development in my family tree

Photo by Mike WilsonI’ve had a satisfying development in my genealogical stuff.

For a good while, we’ve known quite a lot about the dominant two lines in my family tree, the people who produced my mother. One half has lived in Wallasey, on the Wirral, across the River Mersey from Liverpool, for centuries. They have four-hundred-year-old headstones in the churchyard. The other half came from Ireland, where many of them were seamen of various types, until they migrated to Liverpool and mostly continued their association with the sea.

The genealogical work one of our daughters and I have been doing recently has been to find my father’s line. He was orphaned before he married my mother, and he died young, so his family history has been quite a mystery. All we knew was that they came from Hull, a fishing town on England’s east coast.

Earlier this year we traced half of the Hull line to 18th century Chelsea, where they were house painters, and the other half to Carlisle, in Cumbria, NW England, where they all worked in the cotton industry. Some evocative job names in the censuses.

Then, in the mid-1860s, they (the working generation) left their aged ones in Carlisle and moved to Bradford for a generation, and then the next generation moved on farther east to settle in Hull, where they presumably used transferrable skills to become rope makers, etc. rather than cotton spinners, etc. Plus some fishermen, obvs. And a blacksmith.

Anyway, I’ve been wondering what triggered that first migration, and today I found it. The cotton famine of 1861-6. I vaguely remember the name of it, from Industrial Revolution history lessons at school, probably, but none of the details. So this morning I read up on it.

When the cotton industry people of NW England, mill owners and workers, declared their support for slavery abolitionists in the southern states of America, cotton growers in those states responded by placing an embargo. Other regions, mainly Yorkshire, imported cotton from India as well as America, but in difficult times the American embargo proved to be the final straw that killed the industry in NW England. No cotton, no industry.

I can now visualise my people walking away from their homes and everything they knew in Carlisle to find work in Bradford, Yorkshire, when the mills in their towns died. Sad. But a definite answer to my question.

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6 Responses to A research development in my family tree

  1. But we in America are grateful for their sacrifice.

    • Thanks, Patty. I’ll never know how much my individual relatives knew and cared about the issues, or even if they supported the decision. I like to think they did, but must be careful not to project my social justice warrior inclinations onto them.

  2. There are some sad stories when we delve into our part, but finding the information can be exciting. I’ve traced my maternal side back to the 1500s, but my paternal side from Ireland and only one very common name of Mary Murphy has left me hitting a brick wall.

    • There are, Keriann. And it really can be exciting. t’s a shame about you hitting the wall in Ireland. We have too, with our family over there. So few details available online because of the great national records fire. If we can’t get there in person to track people in parish records, we won’t get very far.

  3. That’s always wonderful when you discover cause and effect even when it’s a sad story. Their lives would have been very different had the mill owners and workers not made that dangerous decision to support what was right.

    You might double check as some parishes have put their historical information online. I used one of the parish records to choose names, though this was in England, not Ireland.

    One of my cousins tracked my father’s family to a village in Ireland, but there’s no McGaffey’s there anymore, and while our spelling seems pretty unique to relatives, it is derived from son of Geoffrey, so at some point was one of the more common spellings.

    • Yeah, Ireland’s a case on its own when it comes to tracing your family. My daughter employed a professional genealogist for our Irish line. She came back with the limited information that’s available and said the only way to get more is to go there in person.

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