I'm an author and creative writing tutor. I specialise in family history, social history, industrial history and literary biography. Real stories; real people; real lives.
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Wednesday, 30 March 2011
Tracing Ancestors Before the Censuses
Old newspapers and magazines can be a good way of tracking down your ancestors as they reported births and deaths in their columns.
The Monthly Chronicle for April 1758 (pictured left) mentions the death of Ralph Thrale on 8 April. Ralph Thrale was the father of Henry Thrale, Dr Samuel Johnson’s friend, who succeeded to the brewing business.
After Henry Thrale's death in 1781, there was an expectation among Johnson and his friends that he would marry Mrs Thrale. Hester Lynch Thrale, however (whose first marriage was one of convenience) followed her heart. She married an Italian music teacher, Gabriel Piozzi, much to Johnson’s disgust (and that of her children, who thought she was marrying beneath her).
Humble folk are rarely mentioned in the newspapers of the day unless there was something extraordinary about their life or the way they died. Civil, military promotions, and ecclesiastical preferments (promotions) are also usually listed.
Some newspapers also included a list of bankrupts, and it’s here you are likelier to find references to ordinary people, such as Thomas Garret, a glass-seller in Bishop’s Gate St, London, and Robert Saxby, a tanner in Kent.
Images: Monthly Chronicle, April 1758. Hester Lynch Thrale, afterward Mrs Piozzi. Johnsonia, Vol. 1, (Henry G Bohn, 1859). Author’s collection.