Genealogy and the Little Ice Age

Genealogy and the Little Ice Age

by Wayne Shepheard

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Genealogy and the Little Ice Age


As genealogists we seek information about our ancestors from as far back in time as possible. That being said, not all researchers may be familiar with the term, but some of the most important records we find were created during the time of the Little Ice Age.
 
The Little Ice Age was a climatic period that lasted from about AD 1300 to 1850, a time in history when, from a physical or environmental standpoint, in comparison to the warm periods that preceded and followed it, was characterized by:
  • substantially cooler temperatures around the globe
  • mostly unstable weather
  • more frequent and intense storms
  • especially challenging food production
  • harsh living conditions

All of these factors had enormous impact on the lives and livelihoods of people and contributed to famine, spread of disease, social unrest, injury to being and habitat, and, in some cases, migration.

 

Summarizing of vital data began in earnest during this time. Apart from purely religious reasons or to establish hereditary claims, it may have been instituted in response to the need for more accurate rolls for churches and governments in identifying individuals from whom they could raise funds to support expanded social programs – parish relief efforts, poor laws and workhouses – involving the care of their citizens, more of whom fell into dire straits as the Little Ice Age progressed.

 

Because the Little Ice Age is the time frame that most coincides with genealogical research, it is important to understand the physical conditions under which people lived in order to assemble the most complete histories of families.

 

This presentation will hopefully bring perspective to the study of the generations of families who lived through the time of the Little Ice Age.

 

This was presented as part of the Unlock the Past - Seattle seminar on September 6, 2018.

 

 
 

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Presenter: Wayne Shepheard

Wayne Shepheard graduated in Geology from the University of Calgary and spent over 40 years applying his knowledge and expertise in the exploration for oil and gas, primarily in Western Canada. Following retirement, he has spent his time mostly doing family history research, exploring ancestral relationships in North America, Europe and the United Kingdom. Wayne also is active in expanding his interest in and writing about natural phenomena and their impacts on people and communities.
 
His view is that humankind has always had to adapt to the ever-changing physical environments in which they lived. In is his genealogical work, Wayne has been particularly mindful of stories concerning families that were both negatively and positively impacted by changes to their habitat and to disasters which sometimes overwhelmed them.
 
He volunteers as an Online Parish Clerk, handling four parishes in Devon, England. He is an author of several articles published in a number of different family history publications and has made a number of presentations to local societies. Wayne writes a regular genealogical blog, Discover Genealogy, set up to tell stories, relate experiences and pass along tips discovered during his genealogical studies.
 
Wayne lives in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.
Wayne Shepheard
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