If you’re looking for historical background into the lives of your European ancestors, check out the collections at Europeana.
“Europeana Collections provides access to over 50 million digitised items – books, music, artworks and more – with sophisticated search and filter tools to help you find what you’re looking for. …Our dedicated thematic collections on art, fashion, music, and World War I, and exhibitions to inform and inspire.”
I haven’t worked on collecting much historical background for my ancestors beyond what’s been handed down through the generations, but the collections at Europeana make this type of research very enticing.
Here are a few items I’ll add to my files.
I have family from Newport, Wales in 1750 so this hand-drawn plan of the town interests me (it’s marked as not in copyright and free to use):
I love this book on what the residents of Devon, England farmed and how they planted and harvested each crop. This is in copyright, but you can use the link to download a PDF file of the book.
An alphabetical register of divers persons, who by their last wills, grants, feoffments, and other deeds, have given tenements, rents, annuities, and monies, towards the relief of the poor of the county of Devon, and city and county of Exon; and likewise to many other cities and towns in England. | Richard Izacke also in copyright, but you can download for personal use.
Quite a few books about Chepstow and other Welsh towns where my ancestors lived.
The Ways and Distances from Various Cities and Towns to London. | Author : William Cecil Lord Burghley is in copyright but might be useful for my personal files.
But enough about my ancestral places. You can search Europeana by collection or by topic.
I generally do a broad search then use the filters (in the left column in the image below) to limit results to the country of origin and media type I’m interested in.
Play around with the different search methods to see the different types of results they yield. Happy Family History Month and best in your research, whether it’s by fee or free.