Background reading

This guide was last updated in 2009

Whether or not you manage to find a specific mention of your ancestors in the records, you can discover a great deal about their lives by comparing your genealogical records to the wealth of secondary sources available.

This will allow you to start investigating whether their experiences were typical, and what their daily lives would have been like: what did your ancestors eat? How many hours did they work? What did they earn and how much would it buy? What were the working conditions? How young did they begin? You will quickly amass all kinds of relevant, personal details.

You can also discover what was going on in the contemporary textile community: were there any famous riots or strikes during your ancestors’ lives and how might they have been affected? What happened to them during the cotton famine of the 1860s? Did those higher up the chain lose their businesses, their houses and their way of life? And how did the various education acts disrupt the textile workers?

How did technological developments affect your ancestors and their way of life, health or safety? How did the local landscape change over the years – was the home of one generation unrecognisable to the next? And what was going on locally in the world of entertainment, politics or religion? The sky is the limit for this phase of your research, and it’s guaranteed to be a fascinating investigation.

To find out more about the Lancashire textile industry and its workers, here are some further resources which are worth exploring.


The Helmshore Mills Textile Museum

The Queen Street Mill Textile Museum

The Museum of Science and industry in Manchester

The Manchester and Lancashire Family History Society

The Lancashire Record Office

The Greater Manchester County Record Office


Cotton Everywhere: Recollections of Northern Women Millworkers by Christine Kenny

The Textile Revolution by John Addy

Portrait of the Lancashire Textile Industry by LHC Tippett

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