02 October 2008

Reality genealogy

Scrolling through Google Books hits for my ancestral village of Kirklinton, in Cumberland, I came across the following footnote information in an article on clockmaker George Graham in The Worthies of Cumberland.

"The careless way in which some parish books was kept was owing to the sheer indifference of the clerk, who took for granted that the heads of families had their big Bible in which to make due records of births and deaths. On the other hand, the majority of the rural population, steeped in ignorance, cared nothing for baptismal records, owing, in part, to the indiscriminate love-making then prevailing, and a healthy propagation of the species under circumstances that offered no great inducement to publicity. The legality of weddings was then as much established by the common consent of the contracting parties and their friends, as by sacerdotal ceremonies ; whilst death, falling to every man's lot, gave to the relatives of the poor but one public anxiety, and that was a "decent burial" — the "lying tombstone " being reserved for the Squire and yeoman, upon which figured the hour-glass and cross-bones, and many bold letters proclaiming the virtues of the deceased."

I doubt Kirklinton is that much of an exception. It's a dose of reality for any genealogist who believes too fervently in a record, even an accurately cited one.

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