• Find Your Ancestors in Almanacs

    Almanacs can be a great resource for genealogists and family historians. Along with weather predictions, advice for farmers and statistical information almanacs can contain tit bits of information about your ancestors that are not found in vital events documents or census. Additionally almanacs can give wonderful ephemeral information to round out your family history story and fill in your family template. Gutenberg printed the very first almanac in 1457 in Mentz, Germany and their use spread to almost every country by the 1600s. By the 1800s, it was possible to find yearly almanacs for nearly every county in Great Britain.

    The best way to demonstrate what a great resource an almanac can be is by looking in one for information. For this purpose “Peace’s Orkney Almanac and County Directory, 1886” gives us a great example of genealogical and family history information that.

    The Family History Element

    Within the front and back pages of the almanac, there is a wide range of advertisements that present a window into your ancestor’s daily lives.

    From these advertising pages, we get a glimpse at the fashions of the times, modes of travel, an idea of how they may have approached emigrating to a new land and even some insight into daily chores.


    Almanacs and Genealogy

    An almanac contains a wealth of information in the trades sections. From listings of “Inspectors of the Poor” to a list of “Registrars of Births, Marriages and Deaths” that can be very helpful in pinpointing those questionable dates. Looking at this entry, we can see the timelines given to register any vital events.

    Almanacs can also be used to help you find resources for records. Peaces Orkney and Shetland Almanac names all of the churches, clergy, schools and teachers in the county. It also gives the names of newspapers that were published at the time along with groups, society’s guilds and clubs, which are all fantastic sources of information for family tree research.

    Additionally, it is common for almanacs to break up the directory listings by parish where you may find information that is more specific to your ancestor. Flipping to the directory for Sanday we find out that Peter Sinclair is listed as a member of the Parochial Board as well as a member of the School Board, which suggests he was an active member of his community. Not information found in a census, in fact almanacs are probably the number one place to look if you are searching for clues about your ancestors between census years.

    In this particular issue, we get lucky, as there is register of voters that not only lists the men but also gives a list of female municipal electors that predates women being given the right to vote in Great Britain. Looking at an almanac for genealogy can not only help locate ancestors and resources, it can also teach a few things that we may not learn from history books; such as areas where reform was more progressive. The pictures and stories of an almanac are one of those often forgotten information sources that can paint a surprisingly vivid picture of your family tree.

    Image Credits: Ramona Hartley, Peaces Orkney Almanac and County Directory
    Source: Internet Archives, National Library of Scotland

    Rights: National Library of Scotland holds full rights in this digital resource and agrees to license the resource under the Creative Commons License: Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.5 UK: Scotland.
    Creative Commons license: Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.5 UK: Scotland
    Licenseurl: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.5/scotland/

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