Skip to content
British Institute Logo

Everyday Life in England: A Journey Through Social History for Genealogists

A British Institute Course by Jen Baldwin

This course is best for people who are already confident in their genealogical research skills in the British Isles and have a working understanding of the Genealogical Proof Standard. Participants should expect the content to be varied and note that it will not emphasize genealogy methodology.

Questions? Reach out to our Institute Director at


Unlock the rich tapestry of English social history through this course tailored for those who want to explore the nuances of everyday life of their ancestors, going beyond traditional genealogy. Over the week, uncover the intricacies of Victorian and Edwardian society, diving into topics such as class dynamics, mental health, and the iconic British pub. This engaging journey offers an understanding of the push and pull factors that shaped the past, providing valuable insights for your research endeavors.

Course Details:

Day One: Exploring Social History as a tool for genealogists
1) Introduction to social history, historical overview of our focus era, and
methodology basics.
2) Suffragette Case Study: how do you apply social history to a traditional
genealogical case study? Let’s put methodology to practice and showcase the
opportunity of intentional application of social history.
3) The politics of our ancestors: politics, and the records of politics, touched our
ancestors no matter their status in life. We will use the topic of politics, social
class, and associated records to explore our ancestors world.

Day Two: Utilizing records we are accustomed to in a new way (census, parish,
and immigration records)

1) The Census as a larger tool: seeing big data, utilizing census reports, and
understanding census graffiti, all in an effort to ensure we are capturing every
detail the national census process offers us.
2) The question of religion: parish records are at the very heart of English
genealogy, but there is more to explore than just baptisms and marriages.
Utilizing a variety of records and examples from both the Church of England and
non-conformist denominations, we will explore the faith of our ancestors.
3) Following the path of an immigrant. What or who is influencing their journey, how
do they make the decisions they do, and what does the journey look and feel
like? We will explore immigrant guides, passenger lists, photos of vessels and
more to uncover their experience. We will also look at what impact these
movements had on the population of England and how the movement of people
impacted the social fabric of the country.

Day Three: Everyday life
1) The Village. Exploring the world of the common British family; what was their
community like from a social, political, economic, industrial, point of view? What
were the implications of the social structure and social classes?
2) Workshop: Entertainment, Sports and Games (AKA the cinema/theatre, football
and pubs). As a group, how can we explore the cultural life of our ancestors? We
will start with the iconic British pub and work into other facets of daily life as
opportunities for research, such as the local football club, connections to royalty
and peers, and traveling theatre.
3) Friendly Societies, Scouts, and the Red Cross: volunteerism and social groups in

Day Four: Work and Money
1) Industrial Revolution case study: how the canals and railroads changed England
and our ancestor’s lives.
2) Occupations: mini-case studies covering some of the most common occupations
such as agricultural laborers, domestic workers and miners. Included: inventions
that changed industry across England and the world.
3) Home Economics: what, where, when, why, and how did our ancestors spend
their money, and how much money did they really have?

Day Five: The impact of Big Events: putting our ancestors into historical context
Day five topics will include a shorter presentation followed by the opportunity for
larger discussion and Q&A.

1) War: the Veteran returns home. What did it mean to be a veteran in post-WWI
England? Included: the overall impact of WWI on Britain, shell shock, changes in
perception around masculinity, suicide, mental health, etc.
2) Weather: surviving unprecedented events from 1903-1906. The Great Storm of
1903, the Winter of 1904, and the Heatwave of 1906 combined changed how our
ancestor’s viewed their world.
3) Wisdom: compulsory education was not introduced in England and Wales until
the Elementary Education Act of 1870 for children aged 5-13. Prior to this, 2
million children across the country had no access to schools whatsoever. We will
discuss the ramifications both before and after compulsory education was


Choose what’s best for you! You may want to view two, or possibly all three courses; consider attending one in person and purchasing recordings for the other course(s).
Optionally, you may purchase one or more course recordings without attending in person.

See our FAQ page for more information!

Below is an excerpt from Jen’s Winter Webinar presentation. The full webinar is still available for members only on our Winter Webinar recording page.

Jen Baldwin