As I'm still confined to indoors...which is plain daft, but just can't cope with the heat...I found a few more relatives...including several Hatters.

So I looked up Hatters as you do...and the expression Mad as a Hatter stems from their use of mercury in the process of felting the Beaver fur. Basically they suffered from mercury poisoning, especially as the sheds where they worked were small and cramped. They developed the 'shakes and tremors' and also...this is where the mad part comes in...an uneven temper and a pathological shyness. I've glossed over the symptoms slightly...their hair, teeth and nails would fall out as well. It sounded horrid.

One relative was a Hatter and a grocery shop owner...wonder if mercury ever crept into the food he sold...

Then there was Elizabeth who lived in the middle of the 1700's in Yorkshire...Elizabeth must have had a crisis of conscience at some point about her religion...unless she was simply waiting until her husband died, because she became a Protestant convert, then after his death reverted back to be a Catholic...she'd also attended services in the local Wesleyan Chapel.

This information came from ' liber status animarum'...or a statement on the spiritual condition of the Parish...which in turn came via my cousin who obtained it from the Borthwick Institute for Historical Research...who'd have known!

I've also been trying to find out what crops the farmers grew around about that time because many of the family were small farmers...it seems they grew Turnips. In fact they grew vast amounts of Turnips because they 'cleaned' the fields when they were hoed properly while growing and they used them to feed their livestock in the winter months. And they also grew Clover which enriched the soil with nitrogen and so produced better quality crops of Barley,Oats and Flax...

Turnips immediately reminded me of Baldrick and his Turnips in Blackadder and I had a fit of the giggles and then lost the thread of what I was looking for...

Cereal crops were cut by hand using scythes and put into bundles which were stood upright...tied with a couple of stalks or stems of the same crop. Some farmers used oxen to pull the carts which brought the harvest back to the farmyard and others had horses...I don't know when the use of oxen finally died out...perhaps there came a time when they were considered old-fashioned.

But these were small farmers and yeomen...if you were rich and lived in the big house, then you'd probably have never even seen a Turnip on the dinner table. These were the days of the huge glasshouses heated by coal, in which the Head gardener would have grown Apricots and Peaches and tended Grapevines. There would have been a steady supply of fresh Figs and Asparagus...baby Carrots and new Peas and Beans. The Turnips would have remained out of sight on a field somewhere and would have fed the animals and graced the servants table below stairs.

I do have one grand ancestor...well...a few actually...but one who was a rather grand farmer. But he lived before the advent of the glasshouses with their exotic crops so he missed out on plump juicy figs straight from the tree...in fact he lived during the so called Little Ice Age when the winters were severe and the river Thames actually froze over and people had ox roasts on the ice.

There was a time when I thought it would be lovely to make a sort of book...just a short biography of the person with a photograph if there is one...and a bit of information about their trade or calling. But there are so many of them. And they were all interesting in different ways from the Millers to the Farmers to the Hatters...the Shoe-makers and the Cordwainers and those who emigrated to America and Australia and Canada and New Zealand...some died in childbirth and others from Smallpox and several ended their own lives for reasons known only to themselves...there are the Ag Labs living in tiny cottages with fourteen children and a lodger and those who were beholden to the King and were obliged to pay Hearth Tax...some left Wills containing thousands of pounds...others left a cow or their best bed.

Some of my ancestors could write their names and did so on their marriage...others made their mark. They were married in tiny village churches and the great churches of London...buried in small country graveyards with an emotive epitaph or in a munipical cemetery with their grave marked only by a plot number...they had their numerous babies baptised the day after they were born and stuck firmly to the naming traditions...a very few went out on a limb and called their children Hamlet and Waverley...Levi and Winter...

A very few went to Oxford University when they were fourteen...to become learned men assisting the Royal Court...they married high-born women and travelled extensively across Europe. Others lived in dire poverty and died in Workhouses...all but forgotten. Some took to the drink and others were Temperance Chapel people who'd never have touched a drop...we all of us share the same genes...whether we were born in the 1500's and lived in a huge house or born in the 1800's and spent our lives toiling for another while living in a squalid cottage.

It fascinates me constantly...