Tracing Your Servant Ancestors: A Guide for Family Historians

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Media: BOOK - paperback, 192 pages
Author: M. Higgs
Year: 2012
ISBN: 9781848846111
Other: b&w photos, appendixes, bibliog, index
Publisher: Pen & Sword

While there are popular and academic books on servants and domestic service, as well as television dramas and documentaries, little attention has been paid to the sources family historians can use to explore the lives and careers of their servant ancestors. Michelle Higgs accessible and authoritative handbook has been written to serve just this purpose.

Covering the period from the eighteenth century through to the Second World War, her survey gives a fascinating insight into the conditions of domestic service and the experience of those who worked within it. She quotes examples from the sources to show exactly how they can be used to trace individuals. Chapters cover the historical background of domestic service; the employers; the social hierarchy within the servant class, and the recruitment and responsibilities of servants.

A comprehensive account of the available sources –the census, wills, directories, household accounts, tax and union records, diaries and online sources - provides readers with all the information they need to do their own research. This short, vivid overview will be invaluable to anyone keen to gain a practical understanding of the realities of servants’ lives.


Part 1 - Domestic Service
1. Domestic Service Through the Centuries
- The Seventeenth Century
- The Eighteenth Century
- The Nineteenth Century
- The Twentieth Century
2. Places of Work
- Large Country Estates
- Professional Classes
- Middle-Class Families
- Lodging Houses
- Farms
- Hotels
- Institutions: Schools/Hospitals
- The Servant Problem
3.Who Went into Service?
- Children of the Working Classes
- Children in Poor Law Institutions
- Children in Charitable Institutions
- Children of Estate Workers
- Widows or Married Women in Reduced Circumstances
4. Finding Work
- Hiring Fairs
- Personal Recommendation
- Newspaper Advertisements
- Servants' Registry Offices
- The Importance of a Good 'Character'

Part 2 - Servant Life
5. Working Conditions
- Working Hours and Time Off
- Attitudes of Employers Towards Servants
- Personal Relationships of Servants
6. Wages
- Rates of Pay
- Allowances
- Perquisites
- Tips
7. Food and Drink
- Food
- Alcohol
8. Accommodation and Clothing
- Accommodation
- Clothing
9. Healthcare and Old Age
- Healthcare
- Old Age

Part 3 - Roles of Servants
10. Male Servants
- The Butler
- The Under-Butler
- The House Steward
- The Steward's Room Boy
- The Valet
- The Man-Cook
- The Footman
- The Page or Hall Boy
- The Coachman
- The Groom
- The Stable-Boy
- The Chauffeur
- The Gardener
- The Gamekeeper
11. Female Servants
- The Housekeeper
- The Lady's Maid
- The Cook
- The Kitchen-Maid
- The Scullery Maid
- The Parlourmaid
- The Housemaid
- The Stillroom Maid
- The Maid of All Work/General Servant
- The Dairymaid
- The Laundry-Maid
- The Head Nurse
- The Under-Nurse
- The Nursery-Maid

Part 4 - Sources
12. General Sources
- The Census
- Wills and Probate Records
- Newspapers
- Trade Directories
- Criminal Records
- Poor Law Records
13. Specific Sources for Servants
- Estate Records
- Household Accounts
- Tax Records
- Charity Records
- Records of Government Training Schemes
- Trade Union Records
- Diaries and Memoirs of Servants
- Records of Servants' Registry Offices
- Contemporary Household Management Manuals

- Appendix 1 Useful Contacts
- Appendix 2 Places to Visit

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Tracing Your Servant Ancestors: A Guide for Family Historians


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