This morning started with a Plenary session by Jenny Higgins of the National Library of Australia talking about putting your ancestors into their social context. She focused on the resources that the National Library has which can help with this, both in the library itself, in its eResources and (of course) on Trove.
When we all split up to go to our various sessions I went to a talk by Lesley Silvester. It was called “New Methods for Old Records”, and in it she talked all about the PhD she has been working on and how she has had to convince traditional historians of the validity of genealogical sources and their value in historical research. Her PhD is concentrating on the poor of Norwich in 1570, and it was a great illustration of just how many sources can survive for research into the poor, as opposed to the well-off.
Suzanne Maiden then talked to us about marriage contracts & marriage settlements from pre-medieval to the 1850s. And she really did mean pre-medieval – there was an example of a marriage contract from Babylon in 2200 BC where if the woman wished to end the marriage the husband could drown her in the river, but if he wanted to end it he had to pay her 10 sheckels. No equality in Ancient Babylon then! I suppose it was inevitable that covering such a long period of time and many countries, not just the UK and Babylon, but Greece & Italy, and ancient Persian marriage contracts woven into rugs, that the talk would not be able to go into great detail on anything. That was rather disappointing. As I have looked at English marriage contracts before, I didn’t really learn anything from this talk (well, I learnt about the Babylonian situation, but not about England and Wales). I guess that’s the way it happens sometimes – it is important to have talks aimed at different levels.
After lunch David Holman started off with a Plenary session entitled “Fascinating Facts & Figures from Five centuries”. It was a humorous look at surnames, given names and occupations, primarily from Cornwall.
Next I attended another talk by Lesley Silvester – this one about putting the lives of Londoners into their social context. Lots of good sources were discussed, including one or two I hadn’t used. Those that I had used were very good sites, and it is always worthwhile having them bought to mind again.
Final talk for the day that I attended was Dan Poffenberger, talking about his incredibly confusing and convoluted family. Not really a lot to learn from this talk except for the importance of speaking to older relatives while they are alive, but very amusing.