How Our Ancestors Died (Paperback)

A Guide for Family Historians

Family History Books

By Simon Wills
Imprint: Pen & Sword Family History
Pages: 212
ISBN: 9781781590386
Published: 4th April 2013
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What were the principal causes of death in the past? Could your ancestor have been affected? How was disease investigated and treated, and what did our ancestors think about the illnesses and the accidents that might befall them? Simon Wills's fascinating survey of the diseases that had an impact on their lives seeks to answer these questions. His graphic, detailed account offers an unusual and informative view of the threats that our ancestors lived with and died of.

He describes the common causes of death - cancer, cholera, dysentery, influenza, malaria, scurvy, smallpox, stroke, tuberculosis, typhus, yellow fever, venereal disease and the afflictions of old age. Alcoholism is included, as are childbirth and childhood infections, heart disease, mental illness and dementia. Accidents feature prominently – road and rail accidents, accidents at work – and death through addiction and abuse is covered as well as death through violence and war.

Simon Wills's work gives a vivid picture of the hazards our ancestors faced and their understanding of them. It also reveals how life and death have changed over the centuries, how medical science has advanced so that some once-mortal illnesses are now curable while others are just as deadly now as they were then.

In addition to describing causes of death and setting them in the context of the times, his book shows readers how to find and interpret patient records, death certificates and other documents in order to gain an accurate impression of how their ancestors died.

It does what it says on the tin. Your ancestor’s death can tell you much about their life, and the circumstances of their demise can help you understand more about the lives of the family they left behind too. Find out how to investigate your ancestor’s cause of death by interpreting death certificates and other records. Learn about life expectancy and the main causes of death in the past, such as influenza, dysentery, cholera, cancer and tuberculosis – were any of your relatives victims?
This is a fascinating and revealing guide that is a great reminder of how useful it is to ‘kill off’ your ancestors – you never know just what you might find out.

Family Tree Magazine

In this fascinating book, well-known genealogy writer and NHS advisor Simon Wills brings his two interests together to explore the most common causes of death and how we can learn about them to illuminate our ancestors' lives. Inevitably, the focus is on the last 200 years, thanks to civil registration providing death certificates with details of the cause of death, but Wills looks back through time at the history of diseases such as the plagues of the past centuries and other issues such as famine. He also shows how parish records, newspapers, legal records and monumental inscriptions can sometimes tell us more.

Your Family Tree

In this fascinating book, well-known genealogy writer and NHS advisor Simon Wills brings his two interests together to explore the most common causes of death and how we can learn about them to illuminate our ancestors' lives. Inevitably, the focus is on the last 200 years, thanks to civil registration providing death certificates with details of the cause of death, but Wills looks back through time at the history of diseases such as the plagues of the past centuries and other issues such as famine. He also shows how parish records, newspapers, legal records and monumental inscriptions can sometimes tell us more.

Your Family Tree

A Fascinating new book How Our Ancestors Died, by Simon Wills, takes a backward look at the problems, illnesses, and afflictions that dogged earlier generations

Southern Daily Echo

At last, a book that helps us to interpret those death certificates with their references of 'griping in the guts,' 'ship fever' or dipsomania.

Who Do You Think You Are?

This is a fascinating guide to a bygone way of death.

The Guide

A fascinating survey of the causes of death in the past and it will interest family and medical historians.

B&A FHS Journal

A fascinating read. Rather than a morbid subject, of you are interested in social history, this really is a book for you.

West Middlesex Family History Society

A fascinating guide on how to investigate you ancestor's cause of death. His graphic, detailed account offers and unusual and informative view of the threats that our ancestor's lived and died from.

Family Chronicle

Fascinating survey of the diseases. Unusual and informative view of the threats that our ancestors lived with and died of.

Kent Family History Society Journal

“A fascinating survey of the causes of death in the past and it will interest family and medical historians.”

B&A FJS Journal

“A fascinating survey of the causes of death in the past and it will interest family and medical historians.”

B&A FJS Journal

About Simon Wills

Dr Simon Wills is a genealogist and journalist and a regular contributor to Family Tree, Your Family History, Family History Monthly and others. He writes mainly about history and maritime genealogy and he has a special interest in health and disease in the past. He also works as an information specialist, writer and advisor to the National Health Service and other healthcare organizations.

Perfect Partner

Tracing Your Merchant Navy Ancestors (Paperback)

What was a merchant seaman's life like in the past, what experiences would he have had, what were the ships like that he sailed in, and what risks did he run? Was he shipwrecked, rewarded for bravery, or punished? And how can you find out about an ancestor who was a member of the long British maritime tradition? Simon Wills's concise and informative historical guide takes the reader and researcher through the fascinating story of Britain's merchant service, and he shows you how to trace individual men and women and gain an insight into their lives. In a series of short, information-packed chapters…


Click here to buy both titles for £25.38
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