Effective family research requires understanding the historic events that affected your family and the records about them. Learning about wars, migrations, settlement patterns, and economic or religious trends may help you understand family movements. Your ancestors may be more interesting to you if you learn about the events that shaped their lives.
Some key dates and events in English history are:
450: Angles, Saxons, and Jutes arrived in England.
1066: Norman Conquest. William of Normandy (the Conqueror) invaded and was crowned King of England.
1215: The Great Charter. Barons forced King John I to sign the Magna Carta.
1536: England and Wales united politically.
1642–1660: Civil War. Charles I was executed in 1649. Oliver Cromwell became Lord Protector of England. Bishop’s courts were abolished. Many other changes affected record-keeping.
1660: Charles II restored as monarch, ending civil strife. Bishop’s courts restored.
1688–1689: William of Orange from Holland crowned King of England.
1707: England and Wales united with Scotland to form the United Kingdom.
1733: English replaced Latin in official records.
1752: England adopted the new Gregorian calendar. The first day of the year started on 1 January.
1756–1765: The first English navigation canals appeared. The Industrial Revolution began and cities grew with the invention of the steam engine and the spinning jenny.
1800: Ireland became part of the United Kingdom.
1830: First railways appeared in England.
1834: Poor law unions took poor relief responsibilities away from parishes. Workhouses established.
1837: Civil registration began on 1 July. Queen Victoria reigned from 1837 to 1901.
1841: The first genealogically useful census taken.
1858: Principal Probate Registry began handling all English probates.
1882: Married women were given the right to use and dispose of their own property.