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Durham University

Department of Anthropology


Publication details for Dr Malcolm T. Smith

Smith, M.T. & Fletcher-Jones, L.J. (2003). ‘Thus the Colliers and their wives’ migration, mate choice and population structure of some County Durham parishes in the mid-nineteenth century. Annals of Human Biology 30(6): 678-692.
  • Publication type: Journal Article
  • ISSN/ISBN: 0301-4460

Author(s) from Durham


Abstract: Aim: Historical accounts of the mining population in County Durham, UK, offer two persistent representations of demographic behaviour-substantial mobility and occupational endogamy-which would influence the distribution of genes in the population. The aim of this paper is to test these predictions against 19th-century demographic data, comparing miners with other contemporary occupations.

Subjects and methods: Four parishes in County Durham yielded data on 3653 birthplace-residence distances, calculated from locations recorded in the 1851 census enumerators' books, and on occupational endogamy and exogamy for 3784 marriages recorded in the Anglican registers, 1834-76. Endogamy was analysed by log-linear models and odds ratios.

Results: Median migration distances were similar in the miners and other occupations, though the proportion of migrants among the miners (99.7%) was higher than agricultural (87.0%) and general labourers (91%). Endogamy in the miners (76%) was higher than in other populations (maximum 39%), but further analysis showed that the miners' tendency to marry women from the same occupational background was less than among agricultural labourers or professional men.

Conclusion: Predictions of high migration rate and endogamy among the mining populations were upheld, but there was little evidence that the behaviour of the miners differed from other occupational groups.