Tuesday, October 20, 2015

How Pride and Prejudice can help you learn about your ancestors

I don't have any stories about most of my ancestors. I try to piece together what I can based on what I can find, but I'll never know much about their day-to-day lives by looking at the census. Usually I have to guess.

I recently realized, though, that some of my favourite books were written in the 1800s. Pride and Prejudice, for example, was published in 1813, when my ancestor, Grace Harry, was 8 years old and living in Cornwall, England. While I'm sure the characters in the book are far more wealthy than Grace ever was or even hoped to be, small details in the book might give me insight into her life that I couldn't find elsewhere. Maybe she was a maid....

TV shows and movies are relevant too (though books that were actually written by people who lived at the time period are probably more accurate). In Downton Abbey, for instance, the three daughters probably would have been born in the 1890s, while the Dowager Countess could have been born in the 1840s or earlier. The show could just as easily been written about my Barnes and Newman ancestors (if it were a show about coal miners).

Below is a list of some classic books with their publication dates (special thanks to wikipedia for supplying the publication dates). Many of these books have been adapted into movies as well. Keep in mind these books are mostly about adults and would correspond to ancestors born between 20 and 50 years before these publication dates.

United Kingdom and Ireland

Pride and Prejudice - 1813

Frankenstein - 1818

Jane Eyre - 1847

Great Expectations - 1861

Black Beauty - 1877

Sherlock Holmes - 1887

The Importance of Being Ernest - 1895

A Little Princess - 1905

Secret Garden - 1911

United States and Canada

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow - 1820

The Scarlet letter - 1850

Uncle Tom's Cabin - 1852

Little Women - 1868

Little House on the Prairie - published 1932, takes place in the 1870s

Adventures of Huckleberry Finn - 1885

Sarah, Plain and Tall - 1895

Anne of Green Gables - 1908

Gone with the Wind - 1936


The Count of Monte Cristo - published 1844 France, takes place 1815-1839

Les Miserables - published 1862 France, takes place 1815-1832

Anna Karenina - 1877 Russia

Heidi - 1881 Switzerland

What did I miss? What are your favourite books and movies about the times when your ancestors lived? Comment below and I'll add them to the list.

Photo by Naypong. Published on 05 November 2014 Stock photo - Image ID: 100296203

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