Consider cause & effect

This guide was last updated in 2009

Consider cause and effect: Can you make any inferences about the cause of your ancestor’s disability by looking into the details of their lives?

For example, were they born with their condition, or were they perhaps deafened by an explosion in a mine, or did some identifiable trauma cause them to fall into the ‘lunatic’ category? Were they disabled through war?

It does not necessarily follow that a disabled ancestor had a worse life than their contemporaries. They may have enjoyed advantages not available to siblings or other family members because of their disability –perhaps special education, an income or care of some kind.

You might investigate whether your ancestor was able to marry and bring up children, and whether you think their condition had any effect on life expectancy. By comparing the lives of siblings and other family members using certificates and the census, you might even find that ending up in an institution was a release from the uncertainties of the harsh outside world.

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