The Generation Game

People try to put us down …
Talkin bout my generation
I hope I die before I get old … “

Social Generations

The Who‘s fans, singing along in 1965, mostly from the Baby Boomer generation.

Those Boomers are a social generation, a “birth cohort” of people in some region (e.g. The Western World) who are born into a social context that is relatively stable from birth through adolescence to early adulthood. Social generations share formative influences and/or critical events, so are defined by wars, pandemics, technology, and social or political change. The boomer generation started with a post-WW2 surge in the birth rate, from 1946. But how long this generation lasted is pretty arbitrary. The world changes quite fast. The Boomer generation is often said to have ended in 1964. That’s 18 years. Long enough for a few parents and their children to be in the “same” generation. So, that’s weird.

But how long is a family tree’s generation, on average? A genealogical one, from parent to child, etc. When we say such-and-such happened ten generations ago, do we mean 200 or 300 years? Are there five, four or even just three generations per century? Unsurprisingly, there’s no simple definition. But there are averages.

My family is, I think, extreme… Let’s see.

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A missionary pamphlet

A 27 page pamphlet of nearly 10,000 words was written by my great grandfather William Henderson Stevenson and “published” in 1887. He wrote: “having had the privilege of labouring among this interesting people [The Santals in India] for over nine years, we have been asked to tell something of their habits and customs…”

Stevenson’s booklet is titled (or was Number 21 in a series titled) Woman’s Work in Heathen Lands, and I have scanned my copy, then used (free) optical character recognition to create a text-searchable version, some extracts from which appear here. The whole text will appear online soon.

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