Author Topic: My ancestors get better off the further back I go on most lines - why?  (Read 1260 times)

Offline hilarykellis

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My ancestors get better off the further back I go on most lines - why?
« on: Tuesday 13 March 18 17:53 GMT (UK) »
I've noticed a really interesting trend in my tree. I'll have an ancestor born in the mid-1800s who is fairly poor, maybe an agricultural labourer or works in a cotton mill. Usually illiterate based on his marriage cert.

I trace back to his father, and he is a small farmer, slightly better off, still probably illiterate or signs with an initial. I trace back a couple more generations and my ancestor's great-grandfather ends up being an educated yeoman who leaves several hundred or even 1000+ pounds in a will and dies in the late-1700s.

If I've been able to, when I trace the line even further back, it often ends up that this person has noble lineage (now we're talking 1600s or 1500s).

I've managed to get back to at least the mid-1700s on almost all of my lines and this is a pretty typical trend. For those who were already middle class, they seem to stay middle class as far back as I can go. And of course, there are a few who were poor and stay poor as far back as I can trace, or some who were self-made after starting life poor, but they seem to be the minority.

Any idea why this would be the trend? Maybe the industrial revolution changed fortunes? Or maybe I'm just overthinking things?

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Offline lizdb

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Re: My ancestors get better off the further back I go on most lines - why?
« Reply #1 on: Tuesday 13 March 18 18:13 GMT (UK) »
Have you found Wills for the "better off" members of the family?

Often, if there were numerous children, and the Will is worded that the estate is divided in some way between them, then by definition each person only gets a fraction, and often that does result in subsequent generations moving progressively down the social scale.
The practice of leaving the estate to the first born son more or less in its entirity, with subsequent children having only small legacies and having to fend more for themselves, does seem in many ways unfair, but it does often mean that at least one line of descendants maintains the lifestyle and social status of the family.

It is something I too have observed in some of my lines - a "wealthy" family becomes more "ordinary" when the wealth has been divided several ways, several times!  But a "wealthy" family may continue to have "wealthy" descendents if the estate, or bulk of it, is not divided, although you may then come across "poor relations".
Edmonds/Edmunds - mainly Sussex
DeBoo - London
Green - Suffolk
Parker - Sussex
Kemp - Essex
Farrington - Essex
Boniface - West Sussex

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Offline Mart 'n' Al

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Re: My ancestors get better off the further back I go on most lines - why?
« Reply #2 on: Tuesday 13 March 18 18:14 GMT (UK) »
I've got a totally different pattern.  There are two brothers in the late 1700s, both masons of the stoneworker sort.  The descendants of the elder one became solicitors, clergy, and medical men.  The ones on my branch became tradesmen such as upholsterer, lamplighter, boat builders, foundry workers and dock labourers, until my late father broke the trend on my side.

Martin
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Names: Loughborough and Loughbrough, (London, Hull, Pirton and Hartlepool);
Watson, (Bedlington, Jarrow & Hartlepool);
Ballard & Glassop (E. London); 
Leggett (Corton, Scarborough, Hartlepool); 
Young & Wilson, (Hartlepool). 

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Offline coombs

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Re: My ancestors get better off the further back I go on most lines - why?
« Reply #3 on: Tuesday 13 March 18 18:38 GMT (UK) »
I have the same thing, and as Lizdb explained, people can slide down the social scale if they got a fraction of the inheritance of their well off parent if that parent had lost of children or grandchildren. Ancestors who owned halls, manor could have grandchildren who ended up as ordinary farmers. You can have normal ag labs who had a great grandfather who was a lord of the manor at one time.
Researching:

LONDON, Coombs, Roberts, Auber, Helsdon, Fradine, Morin, Goodacre
DORSET Coombs, Munday
NORFOLK Helsdon, Riches, Harbord, Budery
KENT Roberts, Goodacre
SUSSEX Walder, Boniface, Dinnage, Standen, Lee, Botten, Wickham, Jupp
SUFFOLK Titshall, Frost, Fairweather, Mayhew, Archer, Eade, Scarfe
DURHAM Stewart, Musgrave, Wilson, Forster
SCOTLAND Stewart in Selkirk
USA Musgrave, Saix
ESSEX Cornwell, Stock, Quilter, Lawrence, Whale, Clift
OXON Edgington, Smith, Inkpen, Snell, Batten, Brain

Offline smudwhisk

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Re: My ancestors get better off the further back I go on most lines - why?
« Reply #4 on: Tuesday 13 March 18 18:41 GMT (UK) »
The practice of leaving the estate to the first born son more or less in its entirity, with subsequent children having only small legacies and having to fend more for themselves, does seem in many ways unfair, but it does often mean that at least one line of descendants maintains the lifestyle and social status of the family."

From my research that really only happened with those very high up in society and not yeoman families etc.  Granted that the land tended to go to the sons but often split across all and not just to the eldest, the daughters often inherited monetary bequests.

I've a number of lines that are the same as the OPs.  By the early to mid 1800s they were predominantly of labouring classes living in poor parts of London but for those lines that can be traced back out of London (some we just don't know where they originated) even back just a further 100 years there was more money about with land ownership, as shown by the Wills they left.  The further we've gone back on some lines, the more affluent they were but unlike with the aristocratic way of leaving property only to the eldest son, I've found they tended to split property amongst, but not always exclusively, the sons and the daughters often just inherited money along with the sons (some daughters did inherit some property too where a lot was owned).  Consequently down the generations this continued but the amount available became less as a result of the number of children each had and a reducing amount of land and/or money.  I've seen it time and time again, albeit that not all lines were affluent early on but a good number were.  Its a misnomer I've seen with some researchers that if they had ag labs in the 1800s they were that all they way back (and that isn't pointing a finger at anyone on here).
(KENT) Lingwell, Rayment (BUCKS) Read, Hutchins (SRY) Costin, Westbrook (DOR) Gibbs, Goreing (DUR) Green (ESX) Rudland, Malden, Rouse, Boosey (FIFE) Foulis, Russell (NFK) Johnson, Farthing, Purdy, Barsham (GLOS) Collett, Morris, Freebury, May, Kirkman (HERTS) Winchester, Linford (NORTHANTS) Bird, Brimley, Chater, Wilford, Read, Chapman, Jeys, Marston, Lumley (WILTS) Arden, Whatley, Batson, Gleed, Greenhill (SOM) Coombs, Watkins (RUT) Stafford (BERKS) Sansom, Angel, Young, Stratton, Weeks, Day

Offline hilarykellis

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Re: My ancestors get better off the further back I go on most lines - why?
« Reply #5 on: Tuesday 13 March 18 19:23 GMT (UK) »
I’m really enjoying reading these responses so far. Glad I asked!

Interestingly, now that you say it, nearly every ancestor I can think of who left a will left money to all of the children, neatly divided. A few did leave additional land or money to the eldest.

So it does follow that the children would a bit less well-off.

The most stark example I have of class falling quickly is a woman who was born to a gentleman of the Gentry class in the 1720s. She married a relatively humble country curate of yeoman stock. They had 8 children. The oldest son did go into the church and maintained respectable status but the daughters each married local farmers. Several of this woman’s grandchildren ended up laborers, even though their great-grandfather was an “Esq” with noble roots.

Offline familydar

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Re: My ancestors get better off the further back I go on most lines - why?
« Reply #6 on: Tuesday 13 March 18 19:49 GMT (UK) »
I'm not suggesting that anyone here would do this, but once you get back before civil registration and censuses it can be very easy to attach the wrong parents to an individual.  For instance someone with the right name died and left a Will naming a son or sons who fit with known family history.  But parents weren't always that imaginative regarding children's names and there could be more than one family in the same locality fitting the criteria.  A parallel family of ag labs may have left very little trace of their existence beyond cmb records and certainly no Will.  Is your William son of William and Mary the one who inherited several acres and a cow, or the one who could hope for nothing more than to survive infancy and have children of his own who might possibly support him if he made old bones?

For the most part in my own tree I've found that my mainly tradesmen and ag lab ancestors were the sons and daughters of other tradesmen and ag labs.  The latter part of the 19th century saw a couple of family members (not direct ancestors) "make good" but nothing to suggest it was due to anything other than their own hard graft.  Sadly nobody was seriously moneyed - not then, not now!

Jane :-)
ALLEN
BARR, BARRATT, BERRY, BRADLEY,BRAMLEY,BRISTOW,BROWN,BUGBIRD,BUTLER
CAIN,CARR,CHAPMAN,CHARLES,CH*LTON,CHESTER,COCKETT
COLLASON,COLLYER,CORKERY
DARLING, DENYER,DICKERSON,DOLLING,DURBAN
FARMER,FURNELL
GIBSON,GILES,GROOMBRIDGE
HALL,HAMBIDGE,HARMES,HART,HICKS,HILL,HOLLOWAY
JACKSON
K*AT*S
LANCASTER,LINTON
MCDONALD,MCFADEN,MEARS,MILLARD
NICOLAS,NOAK,NORTH
PARFIT,PORTER
RIPPINGALE,ROBINS
SEARLE,SPENCER,STEDHAM
TYLER,TILLY,TUCKWELL
WADE,WAGER,WALKER,WATSON,WEBB,WITHRINGTON,WOOD

Offline SelDen

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Re: My ancestors get better off the further back I go on most lines - why?
« Reply #7 on: Wednesday 14 March 18 03:43 GMT (UK) »
I had the same thought as familydar. Records for ordinary working people are very poor before the 19th century and get worse with every decade you go back. It also becomes harder to triangulate the evidence you do find.

 

Offline JACK GEE

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Re: My ancestors get better off the further back I go on most lines - why?
« Reply #8 on: Wednesday 14 March 18 05:41 GMT (UK) »
Sadly - my lot were Agricultural Labourers/Laundresses in 1700/1800 and the most of it followed thru to my father who was a dairyfarmer in the 1950's. Its only my generation with my siblings to become a Director of Nursing, 2 x teachers and a Bank Manager. Good jobs now but not a lot of assets gained over 300 years.

Jack Gee
GILBERT-ShirehamptonEng-Vic/Australia,HERWEG-WoltwiescheGERmany-Vic/Aust,CREIGHTON-Donegal-NI,Gosforth/CumbriaEng-Vic/Aust,MCCLURE-Cloghroe/KillynureDonegal NI,Vic/Aust,PATULLO-StMadoesPerthshire-Vic/Aust,NICHOLAS-Nth CheritonEng/Vic Aust,COX-ShirehamptonEng,FORD-MidsomerNortonEng,THOMAS-Pilton/Devon,EDWARDS-Bristol/Eng,BOND-Norfolk,NAU-Germany,SINGLETON-MuncasterEng,LADLAY-GosforthEng,JOHNSTONE-BalmerinoFife, TEMPLE-StranorlarNI,GRAHAM,CRAIGIE,HALL,HANNAM,GINGELL,HALE,OSMAN,BRITTON,HARVEY,ALLEN