Most family historians will find their ancestors living and/or working in London at one point in time or another. This week, we are going to focus on some amazing and often unknown resources which may help in locating more information about your forebears. If nothing else, they should give you some fascinating reading, even if unrelated to your own family!
The first offering of the week is the Charles Booth Online Archive which is a searchable resource giving access to archive material from the Booth collections of the Archives Division of the Library of the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE Archives) and the Senate House Library.
This collection contains the original records from Booth’s survey into life and labour in London, dating from 1886 to 1903. The survey was published initially in two volumes in 1889, with the full and final version published as Life and Labour of the People in London (17 volumes, London, 1902-3).
The online project contains a the vast archive of original survey notebooks compiled for the survey by Booth and his team. Material include 450 original survey notebooks recording information about households, as well as notebooks of observations and interviews carried out on police ‘walks’ in almost 50 districts of the capital. The survey and notebooks relate principally to metropolitan London.
Six notebooks containing transcriptions of Stepney Union casebooks, 1889-1890, have been digitised and are available online. The name and age (or birth date) of all individuals mentioned have been included in the catalogue entries of these volumes. The volumes record detailed case histories of the inmates of Bromley and Stepney workhouses and of people who received outdoor relief from the union.
Case histories provide an enormous amount of information relating to the family history of the inmate. For example, Samuel Gallefeant – no relation to our Managing Director’s Sillifant family! – who was admitted aged 39 to the sick asylum in 1888. He has been a ‘Seaman AB’ and the cause of pauperization is recorded as ‘illness paralysis’. The casebooks detail his uncle, John Gallefant (also in the Union Workhouse on the following page), his sisters’ names (and where appropriate, their husbands), his parents’ names and their current residence.
Booth also conducted in-depth interviews with Londoners to understand the conditions in which they lived and worked, and the results provide extraordinary insight into what life must have been like for so many of our urban ancestors. As well as the narrative account of his findings, Booth produced a series of ‘Maps Descriptive of London Poverty’, with each street colour-coded to show the exact economic conditions, ranging from black (lowest class, semi-criminal), dark blue (chronic want) through various shades of purple and pink, to yellow (wealthy). These online maps are available in an interactive format.
More tomorrow ….