• See How Your Ancestors Lived

    Once you have found your ancestors, it is very interesting to put them into the context of how they might have lived and worked. There are many places in the UK which you can visit to get an idea of what life may have been like for them. The following is a selection of random recommendations from the members of the site.


    The Weald and Downland Museum near Chichester has old buildings such as our farming ancestors would have lived in.

    The Milestones Museum at Basingstoke is very good at charting the history and growth of the area.

    Beamish Open Air Museum between Durham and Newcastle-Upon-Tyne. Bit pricey to get in these days but a good day out.

    Quarry Bank Mill & Styal Estate near Manchester. This started as a water mill and was converted to steam mill.This is a working museum and they had a link to Elizabeth Gaskill whose wonderful book 'Mary Barton' was about the appalling conditions the mill workers lived through.

    If you have coal mining ancestors, I'd recommend a visit to the National Mining Museum near Wakefield. Free admission. There is a fascinating exhibition of life as a miner in the 1840s, obviously based on the conversations reported in the Royal Commission Report on the employment of women and children. You can have a trip underground too. They have a library with lots of paper resources too, including a copy of the 1842 Royal Commission report. I found the staff very helpful. (Check website for opening hours if you want to use the library)

    The Ironbridge Gorge Museum in Shropshire, a collection of museums, tiles, china and also the Blists Hill Victorian town which has houses, shops and foundry.

    The Weardale Museum don't be fooled by the website, their records are limited to the parish of Stanhope but are very detailed and they are even willing to do searches for free (donations welcome as they are a registered charity). They were a huge help with my mystery family name change, which was confusing because of people marrying with same names etc. but as they have access to census/parish/other local records they could see what had happened and they gave me a pedigree report too. You can visit to view the records at your leisure. The museum part also shows how people lived which is interesting too!

    If you're visiting Carlisle a visit to Tullie House museum is definitely worth it as they have some wonderful social history displays. My favourite is the childhood section and the shoe section! They also have a lot of information about Border Reivers.

    The Time and Tide Museum in Great Yarmouth in Norfolk is excellent. It has everything to do with the fishing industry from Victorian times up to the present day, a Victorian herring smoking works, Edwardian row, lifeboat,and lots of WW2 things.

    Eden Camp, on the outskirts of Malton, is an old POW camp, now a theme museum, dedicated to WW2. The exhibits are in the huts - you enter each one separately - and some have mock-ups. Ample parking, cafeteria, bar, gift shop and lots of spaces to eat your own picnic. Great day out for the whole family - something of interest for each generation.

    Amberley Working Museum in West Sussex (north of Arundel), is an open-air museum dedicated to the industrial heritage of the south-east. As well as the permanent transport and industry based exhibits and collections, the museum is home to a number of resident and volunteer craftspeople who work to traditional methods. Open from mid February to late October.

    Mr. Straws House in Worksop, Nottinghamshire A 1920s house captured in time.


    St Fagans National Museum in Wales. Just outside of Cardiff. Pay to park but entry is free. It's an open air museum and well worth a visit.

    Llechwedd Slate Caverns Show Caves, Caverns and Mines in Wales, near Blaenau Ffestiniog.

    Erdigg near Wrexham. This has focused on the 'downstairs' crew. Loads of photos and history of the servants.

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