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Canal Genealogy Sources

Tracing Family History: NarrowBoat, Autumn 2019

Lorna York

Canal families historian Lorna York explains how the study of boat family genealogy has changed over recent years

Two years ago I was asked to write a paper for the Railway & Canal History Society on how researching canal-boat families has changed since Harry Hanson wrote his 1975 book The Canal Boatmen, 1760-1914. Essentially it hasn’t really altered, in the sense that you still look for evidence of people’s lives: their births, marriages and deaths. But instead of rushing around different record offices or libraries, you sit at your home computer. According to certain TV programmes, and adverts for a wellknown online resource, you merely tap in a name and, hey presto, your family history appears in front of you. While carrying out research is now much easier, the reality is that you still have to work at it and devote a lot of time and effort to pulling disparate pieces of information together to form a coherent understanding of people’s lives and their families over many generations.Origins of the working boaters I have often been asked ‘Where did the boat people c…

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