Where’s the Genealogical History of the Non-Gentry?

I came across a resource on Ancestry today – “A Genealogical and Heraldic History of the Colonial Gentry” which was a couple of volumes published in 1891-5 by Sir Bernard Burke, C.B., LL.D. [1] which detailed the lineage, marriage details, issue and a paragraph or two of their achievements and occupations, for each of the people considered to be gentry in the colonies. The search hit that took me there was a governor of Tasmania whose lineage went back to Shetland, and whose Uncle (by marriage) lived in Unst.

Polish Gentry

The gentry have plenty written about them
Photo Source: Jan Matejko [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

This is a similar sort of document to “The County Families Of The Shetland Islands” published in 1893 by Francis J Grant. Mr Grant’s book majors more on the lineage with some facts about the people included in a more ad hoc manner.

Both books have one thing in common though. They only feature the well-to-do people, the landed gentry and the like. Ordinary people are not covered in these books at all.

It occurred to me that part of what I’m doing with my research is to produce, not a book, but an online equivalent, detailing the lineage of the ordinary people of Unst. Plenty has been written over the centuries about the gentry, but not so for the ordinary folk, so I am focusing on them.


[1] Sir Bernard Burke was also the author of “The Dictionary of the Peerage and Baronetage”, “The Landed Gentry”, “The History of the Extinct and Dormant Peerages”, “The General Armory”, “Vicissitudes of Families”, and “Reminiscences Ancestral and Anecdotal”.

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