Welcome to the Chartist Ancestors website. The site sits alongside a blog devoted to the same issue, to the Trade Union Ancestors website, and to a Twitter account which is mostly on topic but tends to stray into other things from time to time.
I launched Chartist Ancestors back in 2003, mostly because I thought it would be good to share some of the interesting source material I had discovered while researching my own Chartist ancestor, James Grassby. From there, the site grew and grew, taking on something of a life of its own.
At first, I thought it would be useful to provide a little bit of narrative about Chartism along with lists of names I had copied from the Northern Star (the main Chartist newspaper) and from other sources so that they could be made available to other family historians.
But as I went on, I found I wanted to write about some of those involved in the Chartist movement – not, primarily, the already well-known leaders but the backroom organisers, forgotten speakers and frontline activists. So the site now has a fair number of short Chartist life stories.
Other things followed. I have written about the numerous conferences and conventions, meeting rooms, newspapers, short-lived and longer-lasting organisations and other institutional bodies. My interest in Chartism also led me to start a small collection of surviving Chartist memorabilia and ephemera (material culture, in the jargon), photographs of which I also share on the site.
I have also been able to compile a Chartist Ancestors Databank of more than 10,000 known Chartists, recording wherever possible their names, addresses, occupations and contributions to the movement. Much of this is drawn from the work of others and they have my undying thanks for their efforts.
In doing this, I have been lucky enough to have the freedom to delve into any aspect of Chartism that took my fancy, or to abandon the task if I chose when my research ran up against a brick wall.
Responsibility for pulling the site together and for anything that appears on it is mine. If you don’t like the site, well, that is your prerogative and I really don’t much want to know. If there are errors, then please do tell me.
Although this is a one-person spare time activity on my part, I have been the grateful recipient of much data, helpful advice and invaluable encouragement down the years, from academic historians, family historians and from the descendants and distant relatives of those involved in Chartism.
I am not an historian. I claim only to be a writer who writes about aspects of history that interest me. But I have had nothing but genuine help and support from those who “do history” for a living.
I cannot name all of them here (although hopefully they are acknowledged on pages where they have made contributions, but I do want to single out the late Professor Malcolm Chase, who provided practical information and data, and unfailingly encouragement from the start.
Finally, this is the fourth iteration of Chartist Ancestors. I began by using an off-the-shelf website builder thinking this would be all I ever needed. When I outgrew it, I moved to a free-standing HTML-based site and then on to a rather more professional-looking WordPress package.
Unfortunately, it turns out that WordPress-based sites are particularly susceptible to web hackers, and early in 2017 the site was comprehensively vandalised and much of the content deleted.
This fourth and latest version of Chartist Ancestors has therefore been rebuilt from scratch. I have greatly stepped up the security measures, moved my web hosting to a new provider and even changed the address from chartists.net to chartistancestors.co.uk.
It is going to take some time to get the full site up and running. However, I shall slowly and steadily rebuild and hopefully improve things as I go along.