Construction of kinship or collateral lines can solve our major research problems. Through the process of using core records to rebuild family units, one-place studiers can seek insights into communities by tracing the family trees of the whole parish. If achieved over several generations, the past is brought to life – there will be information on age at marriage, ‘marriage horizons’ (the distance over which grooms might seek brides), whether illegitimacy runs in families, the frequency of remarriage, the impact of disease, life expectancy and geographical and social mobility.

The findings of such reconstruction projects can be fascinating: for example, the decline of a local industry is often mirrored by a fall in the parish’s birth rate; the higher the social class the more distant were a family’s marriage horizons; and less surprisingly, illegitimate children were more likely to be baptised out of parish than the legitimate.

These reconstructions often follow the common methods which feature more prominently in the family rather than local history research fields: using birth/baptism, marriage and household census records to link parents to children. It is now made much simpler as we have so much information at our finger tips. As one-place studiers, we are able to eliminate possible matches or confirm matches as we know all of the people living in a certain district in a certain period. For example, by downloading/photographing/transcribing all census records for a particular place, or all the baptism/marriage/burial records from the parish registers.

Andrew Todd gives ten ‘Levels of complexity in Family Reconstructions’ in his book, Nuts and Bolts – family history problem solving through family reconstruction techniques. Single family reconstruction (parish) is level 5 of the 10 but this states that ‘you are still reconstituting a single family, unlike a population historian who would try to trace every family within a parish.’ So, the study of a one-place community is certainly recognised as a complex reconstruction!

Kirsty Gray

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