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Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Did Your Ancestor Work in Lancashire?

In my latest feature for Your Family History magazine (issue 35), I give tips for exploring occupational sources for Tracing Your Lancashire Ancestors.
The county was the cradle of the industrial revolution. Faster roads, the pioneers of the canal system, and the new-fangled railways all helped to make the county the 'workhouse of the world'. Men, women and children worked in a huge variety of industries. 
The county was most famous for its cotton and coal, but it was home to other industries such as glass, transport, engineering and ship-building.   Many Lancashire products were on show at the Great Exhibition of 1851.   

Cotton goods were still Britain’s largest export at the turn of the twentieth century. The Manchester Ship Canal, which opened in 1894, had rejuvenated Lancashire manufacturing after a trade slump.  But two world wars, and foreign competition, led to an inexorable decline in the fortunes of Lancashire’s most famous industries: one by one, cotton mills and coal mines closed their gates for good.  

If your ancestor worked in Lancashire, then try searching local record office catalogues for accident registers, apprenticeship records, cash books, friendly society records, sick club records, staff records, pensions, wage books, trade union records etc., which are all useful sources for genealogy.

Images from author's collection:
Steam manufactory, Bolton, Lancashire Illustrated, 1832. Rothwell, Hick & Co.’s works made steam engines and industrial machinery. Horse power was still important even during  the age of steam;  horses were used to haul locomotives round the factory. 

Wigan pit brow lassies. Cassell’s Illustrated History of England Vol. IX, (Cassell, Petter and Galpin, c.1874).

Shipment of Lancashire locomotives and rolling stock at Manchester Docks, Lancashire Industrial & Commercial, 1935.
Bridgewater Foundry, Patricroft, founded by James Nasmyth. Pictorial History of the County of Lancashire, 1844.