Family Skeletons: Exploring the Lives of Our Disreputable Ancestors

Family Skeletons: Exploring the Lives of Our Disreputable Ancestors

by Ruth Paley, Simon Fowler


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Did you know that until 1823 suicides were buried at crossroads to prevent them returning to haunt the living? Or that until the Contagious Diseases Act was repealed in 1886, women in naval ports who were suspected of prostitution could be medically examined by force?

Most families have a skeleton. You may have already discovered yours via the grapevine or your own research. Or you may simply be intrigued by the dark side of our past. This popular history explores the behaviour of our disreputable ancestors from the unfortunate to the criminal, and introduces a host of colourful characters including 17th century witches, 18th century 'mollies' and Victorian baby farmers. Thematically arranged by skeleton, the text also describes how society punished and provided for its 'offenders' - as well as the changing attitudes that could ultimately bring acceptance.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781903365540
Publisher: National Archives (PRO), The
Publication date: 09/01/2005
Pages: 256
Product dimensions: 7.40(w) x 9.80(h) x 1.10(d)

About the Author

Ruth Paley has an extensive knowledge of historical criminal records. She was on the staff of the Public Record Office for many years, and now works as a researcher on the History of Parliament project. She wrote Using Criminal Records for the PRO.

Simon Fowler is editor of the genealogy magazine Ancestors and writes widely on family and social history topics. Previous books include the successful Family Skeletons with Ruth Paley, as well as The Joys of Family History and several of the National Archives’ prestigious Pocket Guide history series. His articles have been published widely in popular history magazines including BBC History and History Today.

Table of Contents


Abortionists Bastards Begging letter writers Burglars and thieves Cannibals Children who kill Cruel parents and child beaters Dangerous drivers Debtors Deserters Drunkards Forgers Fraudsters Gamblers Highwaymen Murderers Pickpockets Pornographers Prostitutes, pimps and brothel keepers Resurrection men Witches.

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