Understanding Your Western European Ancestors:
Here I’ve included two different types of information. The books section serves as a kind of bibliography for the information included in the Western Europe section of this website. It can also be a great list to find further reading if you would like to learn more about your ancestors’ lives. As of now, I haven’t included genealogy how-to books in this section.
The website section provides links and information about websites that can help you both understand your ancestors and learn how to trace them better. Websites specific to Germany (especially Mecklenburg), Sweden (especially Skåne), and England (especially Buckinghamshire) can be found in the Useful Sources and Links sections for each of those pages.
A lot of the information is from various chapters (listed individually below) of these two excellent volumes.
Family Life in Early Modern Times, 1500-1789 and Volume 2: Family Life in the Long
Nineteenth Century, 1789-1913
Ehmer, Josef. “Marriage.” In The History of the European Family: Family Life
in the Long Nineteenth Century, 1789-1913. David I. Kertzer and Marzio Barbagli,
Average marriage ages are found in this chapter.
Elmer, Peter, editor. The Healing Arts: Health, Disease, and Society in
Fauve-Chamoux, Antoinette. “Marriage, Widowhood, and Divorce.” In Family Life in
Early Modern Times, 1500-1789. David Kertzer and Marzio Barbagli, editors.
Frevert, Ute. Women in German History: From Bourgeois Emancipation to Sexual Liberation (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1989), 24. This book provides information about ages at marriage and the logic behind waiting until couples were often in their late twenties.
Gaunt, David. “Family Planning and the Pre-industrial Society: Some Swedish Evidence.”
In Aristocrats, Farmers, Proletarians: Essays in Swedish Demographic History.
This essay discusses female fertility and how it was limited in the late 1700s.
It also provides the figure for the infant mortality rate in
Guttormsson, Loftur. “Parent-Child Relations.” In The History of the European Family:
Family Life in the Long Nineteenth Century, 1789-1913. David I. Kertzer and
Marzio Barbagli, editors. (
This book has information about children’s deaths and breastfeeding come from this chapter.
Hausen, Karin. “Family and Role-Division: The Polarisation of Sexual Stereotypes
in the Nineteenth Century – An Aspect of the Dissociation of Work and Family Life.”
In The German Family: Essays on the Social History of the Family in Nineteenth- and
This chapter describes women’s role in nineteenth century, including the difference between the ideals and reality and the characterization of male and women traits.
Humphries, Jane. “Standard of Living, Quality of Life.” In A Companion to Nineteenth-Century
Britian. Chris Williams, editor.
The adult literacy rate and average life expectancy are included this essay.
Lindemann, Mary. Health and Healing in Eighteenth-Century
Löfgren, Orvar. “The Potato People: The Household Economy and Family Patterns Among
the Rural Proletariat in Nineteenth Century
This chapter contains information about class structure and about how the landless people survived.
Lundh, Christer. “Marriage and Economic Change in
His essay gives the average ages at marriage and the breakdown of what percentages of marriages included people of different ages.
Lundh, Christer. “Servant Migration in
He tells about migration patterns among the young leaving home and gives the average ages that the children of landed and landless families left home.
This book provides a description of the different classes in society.
Sheehan, James J. German History, 1770-1866 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1989), 456.
This book provides the life expectancy and illegitimacy rates for
Sogner, Sølvi. “Illegitimacy in Old Rural Society: Some Reflections on the Problem
Arising from Two Norwegian Family-Reconstruction Studies.” In Chance and Change:
Social and Economic Studies in Historical Demography in the Baltic Area.
Ed. Sune Åkerman, Hans Chr. Johansen, and David Gaunt.
This essay provides the information about how common and accepted illegitimacy was as well as its historical background.
Viazzo, Pier Paolo. “Mortality, Fertility, and Family.” In The History of the European
Family: Family Life in Early Modern Times, 1500-1789. David I. Kertzer
and Marzio Barbagli, editors. (
This chapter provides some background on fertility and what kept family sizes small. It also discusses evidence of early birth control. Information about the likelihood of dying during childbirth, the link between hunger and disease and some of the information about epidemics comes from this chapter.
Wall, Richard, Jean Robins and Peter Laslett, ed.
Family Forms in Historic
Some information in the article about peasant homesteads came from this book.
Winberg, Christer. “Population Growth and Proletarianization.”
In In Chance and Change: Social and Economic Studies in Historical Demography
in the Baltic Area. Ed. Sune Åkerman, Hans Chr. Johansen, and David Gaunt.
He discusses the growth of the landless group in society and the concern about the proletarianization of the countryside.
For some great websites specific to German research, read my article “Getting Acquainted with German Research through the Internet.”
Please check back in the future for more information.