Thursday 23 February 2023

Genealogy and the Little Ice Age - New Book

Genealogy and the Little Ice Age

by Wayne Shepheard

paperback 84 pages, published 2023, illustrated in colour

A new book by the author of Surviving Mother Nature’s Tests: The Effects Climate Change and Other Natural Phenomena have had on the lives of our Ancestors.

Amazing presentation Wayne. Thank you for reminding me that you can never research an ancestor's life separately from their environment. Their life stories become so much richer when you have a better understanding of the context in which they were living. - Linda. comment on Wayne's presentation on "The Little Ice Age" at Family History Down Under 2021.

This book deals with the physical parameters of the Little Ice Age (1300-1850), the effects climatic conditions of that period had on people and how the environmental situations influenced the broader society.

That era is particularly important for genealogists to understand as it encompasses the time interval during which most of the records relating to family history interest were created. It was also the time from when surnames were first commonly used by our ancestral families.

In assembling the most complete histories of families it is important to understand the physical environment in which people lived. The Little Ice Age was a cool climatic period, a time in history when, from a physical or environmental standpoint, in comparison to the warm periods that preceded and followed: temperatures around the globe were substantially cooler; weather was mostly unstable; food production was especially challenging; and living conditions overall were difficult and harsh.

These factors had enormous impact on the lives and livelihoods of people, contributing to famine, spread of disease, injury to being and habitat, untimely deaths, social unrest and, in many cases, migration.

Much of the information summarized has been taken from published articles and books researched and written by a large and varied group of scientists and historians concerned with weather and climate; population; economics and marketplaces; sociology; medicine; archaeology; and geology, astrophysics, oceanography, and other natural sciences.

     Little Ice Age definition
     Relevance to family history
Little Ice Age time period definition
Climate relationships during the Holocene
     Warm & cold periods
     Rise & fall of civilizations
Weather versus climate
     Climate zones
     Climate mechanisms
     El Niño & La Niña
     Little Ice Age impact
Medieval Warm Period
Circumstances of the Little Ice Age
     Consequences of the change in climate
     Measuring climate changes
Impact on the physical environment
     Landforms & geography
     Northern Atlantic Ice Pack
Impact on people
     Agricultural developments
     Rivers and coastlines
          Holderness Peninsula, East Yorkshire, England
     Major storms
          1342 Magdalene Flood
          1530 St. Felix Day Flood
          1703 The Great Storm
          1780 San Calixto Hurricane
     Drought, deluge and famine
          1315-1317 The Great Famine
          1540 Drought & famine in Europe
          1585-1612 Roanoke & Jamestown Droughts
          1739-41 Great Frost & Famine
          1788-93 Australia
     Disease and epidemics
     Indigenous populated regions
Impact on society
     Age of Enlightenment
          Welfare programs and the end of feudalism
     Industrious Revolution
     Industrial Revolution
     Surname usage
Information sources for genealogists

AVAILABLE in both print and ebook editions 

book - UTP0151 - $32.50

ebook - UTPE0151 - $12.95

Listen to my video to get more information.

Happy Birthday Jimmy!

Today I am repeating part of a blog post I wrote seven years ago. As you get older, I think you more often remember those people that were close to you that are now gone – both family and friends. And you wonder what life might have been like if those that died very young were still around or at least had accompanied you further into old age.

I never really got to know my brother, but I often find myself missing him.

Jimmy would have been 75 years old today.

These words are from my post, My Brother Jimmy and the Loss of Other Siblings of Past Ancestors, published here on February 24th, 2015:

James Edwin Shepheard, named for his two grandfathers, was born on February 23rd, 1948 and passed away on May 15th, 1950. The clinical cause of death was from a pulmonary infarction due to Eisenmenger’s Syndrome, a congenital heart defect. We were just told he had a hole in his heart, which is true.

We don’t know if surgery could have saved Jimmy. In any case the first open heart surgery to correct such defects was not accomplished until 1952. Surgeries involving a heart-lung machine were not done until much later.

I am reminded of Jimmy often, particularly around my own birthday and those of my sisters, and I often wonder how our lives might have been different if he had survived. I also think about him when I come across the deaths of other infants and children of my ancestors’ families. And, to my surprise, there have been many!

I only have snippets of memories of him, playing quietly with him in the back yard or on the living room floor. My two older sisters remember Jimmy as “a little angel who came to brighten our family . . . a happy, sweet tempered little boy . . . and so cute.” He never learned to walk – he was not strong enough – but he did talk and loved to laugh. His favorite game with our oldest sister was the nursery rhyme, One Two, Buckle My Shoe. When they got to ten, he would laugh and shout out, “Big Fot Hen!” in his growly little voice.

Me and my brother Jimmy in 1948

Some of the things that go through your mind as a surviving sibling are: If he had not been ill and we had grown up together, would we have shared similar interests? Would we have played sports or had business interests together? Might he have been my best man when I got married? There are so many scenarios that can be imagined with stories like these.

My youngest sister came along after Jimmy died. She likes to tell everyone that she was the only one of us that was planned. Of course, we disagree about that. She has also commented that she might not be here if Jimmy had lived. I think she would have, and that we would have been a family of five children. But her initials would probably not have been J. E.

Psychologists suggest there can be major conflicting emotions when siblings die, especially at a very young age. Some individuals will be fearful or anxious; some may feel guilt. Others may feel abandoned especially if there are no other brothers and sisters to lean on. I think most children will experience a loss of innocence or, at least, an unwanted welcome into the real world. In our family, we learned that death is a part of life, that it is not to be feared nor dwelled upon but, basically, that things often happen that are beyond our control. While we can and will be sad that someone close was lost, we do have to move on.

Perhaps because we were ourselves so young, my sisters and I did not fully appreciate the seriousness of Jimmy’s illness or how his passing would affect any of us. It’s only as we get older that we really understand death and the loss of a loved one. The more years we have together the closer we become and therefore parting with the person, and our interactions together, is so much harder. We cannot know if Jimmy’s death had any lasting effect on us as siblings since our lives unfolded in what we have come to believe was the way they were supposed to. Perhaps there were some scars that accompanied the pleasant memories. . .

My maternal grandfather was a twin. His brother was still born. I think he also always wondered what life might have been like had his brother lived, especially so since they were born on the same day. Edwin Miller was a sensitive and caring man who, on the day of his 83rd birthday wrote the following poem. It relates a sentiment that I think all of us feel who have lost a brother or sister at a very young age.

My Birthday – February 17th, 1870


In a Kansas shanty – in a form more like a toy,

Eighty-three years ago today, was born a baby boy.

A Kansas blizzard raged without; within, a tiny wail

Came from the throat of that little form so frail.


You may believe it or may not; that feeble little cry

Came from that babe, that little babe – the babe that once was I,

At the same time there lay beside me on that bed

A normal child in every way except that child was dead.


And so the little weakling grew up to be a man,

They laid the strong beneath the sod as only parents can.

It seemed to me my greatest loss as I grew up alone

Was my twin baby brother whom I have never known.

Edwin died just seven months after writing this remembrance poem.

I never really knew my brother either, but I do still miss him.

Happy Birthday Jimmy! Wish you were here.