The bigger picture

This guide was last updated in 2009

This may prove to be the most rewarding – and the most fascinating – part of your research: it's time to find out how your ancestor fitted into the bigger picture of life in and around the London docks.

What was it like to work in the extraordinary atmosphere of the docklands? How hard was the life? Was your ancestor working at the time of the famous strikes of 1889, 1911 and 1926? Were they there during the War? What did they witness and experience? What do the local papers say about the happenings of the time?

A very good starting point to this stage of your research is to pay a visit to the Museum in Docklands. This fascinating museum will provide a superb overview of the working of the docks over the centuries, and contains fantastic visual displays that will bring your ancestor’s world to life.

There are also plenty of books and online resources that will help you on your way. Have a look at:

The Great Dock Strike 1889 by Terry McCarthy

Memories and Reflections by Ben Tillett

A Brief History of the Dockers Union (1910) by Ben Tillett

The Great Strike 1889 by John Burns

Dockland Life: A Pictorial History of London’s Docks (1860-2000) by Chris Ellmers and Alex Werner

There is a wealth of information easily accessible online, including a website devoted to tracing docklands ancestors at:

Guildhall Library
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