We all remember learning at school about the Tolpuddle Martyrs [below] and their importance at the beginning of the trade union movement in the UK. They are still remembered today.The history of working life can be exciting and the excitement of researching your family tree is not about filling in spaces on a sheet of paper, it is about discovering real people and understanding their lives. If one of your relatives belonged to a trade union you could find out more about their working life, and also the time in which they lived. Searching however can be time-consuming, but rewarding. Here are some UK-based links to get your started:-
The Modern Records Centre – held at the University of Warwick is the UK’s biggest repository of trade union records. Records vary from union to union, and year to year, but includes membership records, records of sickness and unemployment benefits, local branch meetings, social events and even some apprenticeship certificates.
Trade Union Ancestors – it is estimated that more than 5000 trade unions have existed at some time or another, this website includes an A-Z guide of unions, union histories and biographies of union figures.
Working Class Movement Library – as well as trade union histories and records grouped by occupation, this website has a fund of information about working lives such as Object of the Month and personality profiles. The international section includes India and Ireland.
London Metropolitan University – this website tells the story of the TUC, the Trades Union Congress, with sections on the General Strike, Match Workers plus three sister websites – Workers’ War, Winning Equal Pay, and the oral history Britain at Work 1945-1995.
Trade union membership registers – you can search the three million trade union membership registers at Find My Past. Includes admission books, annual reports and membership lists.
Bishopsgate Institute Library – holds a variety of records, some digitised, including the General Federation of Trade Unions. Includes minutes, annual reports, proceedings, financial reports and copies of the Federation News journal.
This post is inspired by an article in the December 2016 issue of ‘Who Do You Think You Are?’ magazine. More details here.
For more about the Tolpuddle Martyrs and that pivotal time in the history of the trade union movement, click here.
Throughout the ‘Rose Haldane: Identity Detective’ series, Rose is researching the history of her own birth mother, Kate, as well as tracking down lost relatives for other people. Kate was an actress so I have been researching the history of actors in the 1960s and Equity, the trade union for actors.
‘Ignoring Gravity’ by Sandra Danby [UK: Beulah Press] Buy now
And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
How to research the working life of your relative #familyhistory via @SandraDanby http://wp.me/p5gEM4-2h5