Yes, the bugbear of Microhistory raises its ugly head again, with the question: What does “Containing by Estimation Seven Days' Work” mean in 1810 Land Auction advertisement?

To me the genealogical relevance is obvious -- if you are looking for land transactions involving someone in your family in historical property records, you need to be able to identify the record you found actually belongs to the property you are looking for, versus some other property with a similar name. The basic task of genealogy is to establish identity -- the only difference here is that the identity in question is not a direct question about the individual in the source, but the property involved in the property transaction. But in order for someone to know that this is part of someone's estate, they might need to establish that this is the same property as in some other record.

Perhaps this is not a question for Genealogy.SE, but it's not a question for History.SE, either. They don't want questions which can be easily looked up on Google on in Wikipedia any more than we do, so we aren't going to win ourselves any goodwill by dumping all our microhistory questions on them.

If we can't ask questions about how to evaluate source material, then what is this site for?

What information needs to be included in a question to demonstrate its genealogical interest?

It's not fair to ask new users that they have to include more information without giving them some guidance about what that other information should be. Perhaps we should determine what information needs to be included and add this as a new question in our FAQ.

Below the line I am including the information I've found so far, so if our new user comes over to Meta, he or she can at least get a possible answer to the question.

The Free Dictionary defines a close as "A parcel of land that is surrounded by a boundary of some kind, such as a hedge or a fence."

From the context it appears that the estimation of "seven days work" is a measure of how large the land parcels are.

A search for the phrase "seven days work" turned up similar descriptions in The Bradford Antiquary: The Journal of the Bradford Historical and Antiquarian Society, Volume 1 (1900), published in Yorkshire -- on page 60, a description of mortgages says:

With the Hall were sold several closes of land among them being "The Ffalderinge" (containing eight days' work).

and following on the same page are descriptions of several other land parcels.

In Transactions of the Illinois State Horticultural Society, Volume 3 (1904) on page 493 there is a discussion of how much yield can be gotten out of a parcel of land, which says in part:

Last year we had 13 acres of yellow Dent corn, which produced 1,260 bushels crib measure at two and one-half square feet to the bushel. This corn cost seven days' work for breaking the land and two days pulverizing and dressing the ground, one day planting, nine days cultivating, twenty-five days gathering the crop ....

I suspect that the 'seven days work' might be a rough estimate of how long it takes to break the ground, and is intended as a measure of how large the enclosure might be.

Resources for using land records in genealogy include:

3 Answers 3


My primary issue with the specifically referenced question was lack of context. As @polygeo mentioned had they framed their question with my ancestor is mentioned or I am trying to determine how much land they actually purchased at said sale then it would have been relevant and on topic and in addition in our normal style we could have provided more than the basics they were looking for.

It did pass the very basic Wikipedia test of not having a specific entry for the terms and also there was no clear answer in the basic google search term query.

I have seen multiple examples on History.SE where if framed right "What does this mean?" answers have been asked and have been successful (i.e. "Half-Decked and Anointed by the Lord"). I have had those myself, though sometimes they also require refinement. I have seen others not such and they being very brutal in their responses and making derogatory statements. For example, Jan Murphy's response to the above mentioned question would have likely resulted in a negative score answer on History because it is not definitive, like when I asked this question there and one of the answers received a very negative lashing and I have even seen answers deleted because one of the moderators not feeling it was definitive enough. This forum allow more flexibility in definitiveness of answers partially due to the subject matter not always having an 'exact' answer but also due to us having more flexibility in the quality of questions.

That all said, micro-history shouldn't default to this forum if it can't pass the History.SE test either unless it can be put into context, which I think is a simple and very fair (and yet still VERY broad) scoping of this forum.

I really enjoy the Family History aspect of this forum and people's desire to flush our some of these things to learn about their ancestors.

I just think it needs to be put in context of family history and how it relates to it to be applicable and preserve the scope of the forum.


I'll just give a few first thoughts and will most likely come back to contribute some more.

My ancestor David Mellor (who lived #### to ####) was a YYY near Shipley in northern England and I am investigating a piece of land he may have been occupying prior to it being auctioned in 1810 and have come across a term which I do not understand.

  • to me doing a simple intro like this creates a Family History question from a Microhistory question and introduces a few more keywords to facilitate interest from potential answerers and discovery of our Q&As by Google and other search engines.
  • 2
    I would agree that had this question had that intro, it would have made it on-topic in my opinion. I would just think we do not want to be default go-to place for any historical factoid unless it relates to "Family History" or genealogy.
    – CRSouser
    Jan 8, 2015 at 20:02

Micro-history isn't a bugbear, it's an integral part of Family History (and doesn't need to be 'turned into Family History'). I'd allow this and similar questions even without any explicit demonstration of 'genealogical interest' -- basically assuming good faith on the part of the OP. If the question was clearly on topic for History.SE, then there's perhaps a discussion to be had about where the user would get the most useful answers that address their interest in the subject.

On- and off-topic questions: Interpreting records is relevant, as is https://genealogy.meta.stackexchange.com/a/1402/104

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