The Story of a ‘Fallen Woman’: Reflections on Family, Narratives and Archival Sources

As oral historians, we are often confronted with the scepticism of those who use conventional archival sources and to some extent rightly so. Historians, who use oral history research, including this project team, are aware of the myriad problems a respondent’s narratives can create.  A tendency to nostalgia, misremembering exaggeration, ...

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From Institution to Intimacy: Courtship, Marriage and Marriage Breakdown in Historical Perspective, c.1650 to 2000

On 12 and 13 September 2015, the History of Working-Class Marriage in Scotland research project hosted an international symposium: From Institution to Intimacy: Courtship, Marriage and Marriage Breakdown in Historical Perspective, c.1650 to 2000. The symposium brought together over a dozen international academics whose work engages with the history of ...

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The History of Childhood

Part of the Working-Class Marriage Project research focuses on the role of the family within experiences of childhood, and the way in which the family may affect the history of childhood and our understanding of childhood experiences. The following is a brief discussion of some of the key texts that ...

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Public Engagement

Explorathon! WW1 and Women’s Lives September 25 @ 6:00 pm - 7:30 pm An evening looking at the effects of World War One on the lives, freedoms and welfare of women. As part of European Researchers Night project members spoke to a lively audience at Glasgow Women's Library. The First World War saw women, ...

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Postgraduate Masterclass 12 September 2015

From Institution to Intimacy: Courtship, Marriage and Marriage Breakdown in Historical Perspective, c.1650 to 2000 *****EXTENDED DEADLINE: THURSDAY 3rd SEPTEMBER***** In association with AHRC History of Working-Class Marriage in Scotland Project, University of Glasgow, ARC Centre of Excellence for the History of Emotions, University of Adelaide & Economic History Society Postgraduate Masterclass in ...

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The Project: A History of Working-Class Marriage in Scotland, 1855-1976

In contemporary popular and official discourses there has been much written about the ‘traditional’ family. The dominant narrative is that the family, including the working-class family, was a stable unit organised around a core nuclear or extended unit from the middle of the nineteenth century until after the Second World War. Within this narrative, multiple family forms are seen as a recent development which can be attributed to the increase in divorce, remarriage, co-habitation and single parenthood since the late 1970s. Much of this contemporary discussion lacks an historical context and perspective and makes unrealistic assumptions about the need to recreate the ‘traditional’ family.

This project will engage with these discourses and will explore the history of working-class courtship, marriage and marriage breakdown in Scotland in the period from the civil registration of marriages in 1855 to the introduction of no-fault divorce legislation in 1976. The project aims to establish the structure and form of the working-class family over time; to identify the basis of selection of choice of marriage partner; to examine the nature of the relationship between husbands and wives and to establish the pattern, causes and consequences of marriage breakdown.

The project aims are:

  • to offer an historical understanding of family structure.
  • to explore religious, ethnic and intra-class differences in marriage.
  • to examine the influence of social, cultural and economic variables in shaping the structure and experience of family and marriage within Scotland.
  • to examine the reasons for marriage breakdown.

As well as contributing to academic debate, the project will work with practitioners including Scottish Women’s Aid and Learning and Teaching Scotland in order to contribute to the public debate on marriage and marriage breakdown and to inform educational practice. A database of household information will be created for use in schools as well as a website which will be of interest to family historians, genealogists and the Scottish Diaspora.

To read about our research activities to date, please visit our Project Activities page.


3 thoughts on “Home”

  1. After the talk in Edinburgh on 22 November I thought you might be interested in my family who lived in Ibrox. My mother died of TB in 1952 aged 31. She left a husband (aged 38) and three children (aged 8, 6 and 5).Rather than put the children into care (as would have been the usual step?) my father chose to keep us altogether at home. Until his marriage five years later we had a series of live-in housekeepers – was this unusual? – I cannot imagine it happening nowadays.

    1. Thanks for your post, Margot. This was relatively common, as there was a belief among authorities that widowed fathers were unlikely to be able to support their children, so throughout the late nineteenth and into the twentieth century employing a housekeeper was quite common amongst working-class families which had lost a mother.

  2. I really enjoyed the article in the ANESFHS journal about your study. As most of my ancestors came from Aberdeen and / or NE Scotland, there is a fair amount of illegitimacy in our family tree.

    One branch in particular has stumped quite a few people. You see my great grandmother Eliza Ann Tait Buchan was born illegitimately to John Tait and Euphemia Keith Buchan in Peterhead, 1866. She makes sure right away that she gets a RCE with John’s name on it. Prior to the birth, they were both brought before the Kirk Session for their ‘sin’. Euphemia had also had a daughter (who only lived 2 weeks) named Catherine Ann illegitimately, two years prior to this. No father was named, but I suspect it may have also been John Tait.

    Now, there is a very confusing document on Scotlands People of Euphemia going back to the Sheriffs court in 1875 – 9 years after Eliza’s birth and 11 after Catherines. Catherine’s name appears on the document, but her birth date is scratched out and Eliza’s birth date put in, so this RCE is attached to Eliza also.

    What no one can figure out is why would Euphemia go back and have this done so much later? She was living in Aberdeen at the time and would have had to travel up to Peterhead. Why the mix up in names / dates. She wouldn’t be able to get child support for Catherine, as she had died, and she had already done the RCE for Eliza when she was born. Why go back to court?

    It’s a real mystery and I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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