Working Forebears – Week 2 National Family History Month 2016 blogging challenge

20 August 2016

NFHM 2016 blog challenge badgeAlex Daw (aka FamilyTreeFrog) has set up a weekly blog challenge for National Family History Month 2016. I like blogging challenges as they usually get me writing about topics that I might not normally do. In Week 2 blogger Anne Young reminds us that the Shearer’s Strike Monument was dedicated on 16 August 1891. This week’s challenge is about remembering your working forbears and the challenges they faced.

This post is timely as I purchased My Ancestor was a Coal Miner by David Tonks while I was at the Auckland Family History Expo last weekend. If you missed my review of the Expo, read it here. A while back Findmypast released a lot of new Staffordshire entries and I was keen to see if there was anything new on my Price ancestors. My GGG grandfather was Henry Price and I have not been able to take that line back any further.

Burial entry for Henry Price, image from Findmypast

Burial entry for Henry Price, image from Findmypast

I suspected that he had died before the 1841 census as his wife Elizabeth (nee Peplow) was living with her six children aged between 15 and 2 years of age. The family were living at West Bromwich in Staffordshire. The search in Findmypast was successful in locating a reference to Henry’s death on 2 Feb 1840 at Wednesbury, aged 51 years. The burial register gave his residence as West Bromwich and that he was killed in a coal pit. A search of digitised newspapers didn’t show any reference to the accident, although I need to have another look.

Most of the Price family were coal miners and even in Australia they were miners. Henry’s grandson Thomas Price was also killed in a mining area, although he accidentally fell from a bridge. Other descendants also worked in mines. As Price is my mother’s main line, I’m keen to learn more about them and when I saw the book at the Expo I couldn’t resist. It includes background history and social context on what it was like to be a miner and there are specific references to the Wednesbury area. There are also quite a few references to websites I haven’t come across which need to be followed up and lots of published books relating to the mining industry in the UK.

Thomas Price, Henry's grandson died at the Wee McGregor Mine in western Queensland in 1918

Thomas Price, Henry’s grandson died at the Wee McGregor Mine in western Queensland in 1918

One of the books referred to is Michael Pollard’s The Hardest Work Under Heaven: the life and death of the British coal miner which I purchased some decades ago. I’m happy to say that it has survived my many moves over the years and is now in my pile of must read again books. By following up the research suggestions in Tonks’ book I’m hoping to find more information on Henry Price which might lead me to his parents and any other siblings.

Sometimes we can’t go straight back using the usual genealogical resources. Then we need to look at things like a person’s occupation and any clues it might provide on the family. Now that I know Henry Price died in a mining accident in 1840 I’m going to look for reports on the accident, both official and in the newspapers. It might not be online but it will have been recorded somewhere (I hope). Even if I don’t find anything specific to Henry, I will know more about what his work involved and his day to day life as a coal miner. It was definitely not an easy life and led to his early death and left his wife and children in desperate circumstances. Have you explored an ancestor’s occupation?

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Shauna has been tracing her own family history since 1977 and is a Fellow of the Queensland Family History Society. In 2009 Shauna received the Australasian Federation of Family History Organisations (AFFHO) Services to Family History Award for her achievements in Queensland, Canberra and Victoria.

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