W Weddings, Wills, workhouse or what?

So many choices to look at for W!

Weddings – have you ever noticed what a high proportion of weddings took place on 25 or 26 December? In the 1800s these were days when many people weren’t expected to work, so it was an opportunity for a young couple to marry without losing a day’s pay. Very often  In London many churches offered free marriages and baptisms on these two days, and in poor areas in particular, there may be group weddings where vicars would perform up to half a dozen marriages at once. Penny Weddings, so-called because each party paid one penny for the privilege of being united in matrimony, were also a common form of working class marriages. Church ministers would even advertise the speed with which they could perform a ceremony!

Wills can tell us so much about the lives of our ancestors – from the sometimes complex, and often comical wills made by the wealthier members of the community, through to the very simple military will that a soldier might write before going to the field of battle – if you get the opportunity to read your ancestor’s will, it’s almost certain to give you another insight to their life and values.

The coming of the workhouse following the amendment of the Poor Laws in 1934 created dread and horror in the lives of the most vulnerable in our society. Being taken into the workhouse became something to avoid at all costs, but many, many people just couldn’t avoid it. My great grandmother gave birth to one of her sons in the workhouse, whilst her other children were in a local children’s home. I don’t think my grandma ever got over the shame that she felt about that; I just wish that she had lived long enough for her to know just how proud of her I am that she overcame tremendous difficulties and whilst never being wealthy, managed to provide a safe and loving home for her own three children.

Whatever we discover on our family history journey, it all adds up to help us understand who we are, and what sort of forces helped shape us into that person.


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