This is the time of year when we start getting produce that is grown locally. So far I have been able to get this year’s rhubarb and asparagus. This is the busy season for farmers everywhere.
This month we will be looking at the lives of our farming ancestors.
We will look at the farm labourer in the first week of June. Where can you find information on this occupation and what were the conditions that your ancestor might have worked under? A Google search will help you find the an article from the “The Agricultural History Review” entitled “Farm Servant vs Agricultural Labourer 1870-1914” by Richard Anthony which you can download. There is “The farm labourer; the history of a modern problem” written in 1913 by Olive Jocelyn Dunlop and “A history of the English agricultural labourer, 1870-1920” by Frederick Ernest Green that was written in 1920. See what else you can find.
In week two let’s look at those who may have been involved with trying to unionize the farm worker. The United Farm Workers Union is a twentieth century union from the United States. You can find information on them here.
In England in 1833 The Agricultural Labourers Union began its struggle into existence in Dorset. The organizers were transported to Australia. They tried again in 1866 with the formation of the Agricultural Labourers Protection Association in Kent. Soon labourers in other counties began similar organizations. They united in May 1872 to form the National Union of Agricultural Workers.
Did your ag lab ancestors belong to similar organizations?
What were the tools that your ancestors used on the farm? In week three we are going to try and find out more about the tools they used. A useful website called “Antique Farm Tools” has pictures of old farm tools that may provide you with an idea of what your ancestors used on a daily basis.
What did life on the farm look like? In week four we will look at the images of our agricultural labourer ancestors. The University of Reading is home to the Museum of English Rural Life. They have an online image database as well as Countryside Images Flickr Group and Farmers Weekly Gallery where you can view and share your pictures. These are modern images.
There are two online exhibitions called Farmer and Stockbreeder collection and Farmers Weekly collection. The online exhibits have photographs from the mid twentieth century. They provide a look into farming practices and not all of it has to do with machinery.
The National Archives of England have a podcast called “Sources for tracing agricultural labourers” that can help you with your research.
A useful resource book is “My Ancestor was an Agricultural Labourer” by I. Weller.
The more you know about what your ancestors did for a living and what their daily life was like the more you will learn about your ancestor.
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