“We may be a small country but we’re a great one, too. The country of Shakespeare, Churchill, the Beatles, Sean Connery, Harry Potter. David Beckham’s right foot. David Beckham’s left foot, come to that!”
I won’t reveal the great orator who uttered those words – we’ll see who’s the first to get it right in the comments below. But I think they perfectly sum up the feeling behind our newly assembled ‘Best of British’ collections.
The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, and the imminent arrival of the London Olympics, have put everybody in a patriotic mood. That makes it the perfect time to reflect on Britain’s great and varied history – and the part our ancestors played in it.
So, we’ve collected together all our most important record collections from around the country, to make it easy for you to explore your British roots.
The obvious place to start is census records. These take you back through the reign of Queen Victoria – the last monarch to enjoy a Diamond Jubilee in 1897 – and let you discover how your family coped with the huge changes of the Industrial Revolution.
Speaking of the Industrial Revolution, you can learn more about some of its most important figures in our occupation records. See if you can find your ancestors among the railway workers and postmen that were Britain’s unsung heroes.
For more obvious acts of heroism, try our military records. The World War I collections are the most comprehensive, but you can discover Britain’s bravest from the French Revolutionary Wars right up to the modern era.
While our soldiers and sailors were fighting on foreign shores, millions of civilians were arriving from all over the world. Find your ancestors who chose to make our country their new home in our immigration records.
Then go right back through our rich history – as far as Henry VIII’s religious reformation – with parish records. Who knows – perhaps you’ll find your own connection to Shakespeare, Churchill, or David Beckham’s right foot!
You can also join in the celebrations by sharing your street party photos on our Facebook page. Upload images from the present day, the last Diamond Jubilee in 1897, or any other national occasion.
Visit our Facebook page now
Kelly Godfrey is Senior Manager, Digital Marketing for Ancestry.co.uk. Based in Ancestry's London office in Hammersmith, Kelly regularly tweets and posts on Ancestry's Facebook page as well as here on the blog.