[History by Numbers] The art of deduction
Narrowing down the numbers in your family history
This time I hope to show how understanding a few historical trends and tendencies might be of practical use in your family history research. (Note: the figures here specifically relate to the UK, though broadly similar trends will have been observable elsewhere in past centuries.)
Let’s say you only know one date in your ancestor’s life: perhaps their birth, marriage or death. What might we be able to deduce from that? There are no certainties from this approach, of course, but as we have already seen in some of the earlier articles in this series, there are ways in which statistics can help us to narrow down our field of enquiry. At the very least, this could help you save time, and reduce the amount of trawling through records and indexes that you might need to do. I shall assume for the sake of this short article that your quarry was alive before the 20th century, too, as population trends were much more stable before modern times.