Every one has a territory, it centres on the area in which we live and radiates outwards to include places where we work, eat, socialise, etc. It is useful to think about this idea when you are doing your family history.
Once you know where your ancestor lived from birth certificates, marriage certificates, wills, census, etc., you should try and find out as much as you can about that place. First think of the actual building where they lived. If you are lucky that building might still be standing, if not, there are histories usually of areas in towns which provide some basic information about the neighbourhoods. Are they the only ones to live in this dwelling? Who are their neighbours? Keep in mind these will be the people that your ancestors saw most everyday, they may not have liked them, but they certainly knew them.
Did their home have a garden? Were they able to raise their own food, or did they have to rely completely on the markets? Did they have indoor or outdoor plumbing? Was there a well or a river nearby for their daily water needs?
Did they work from home or did they have to travel to work? If they worked away from home how far did they have to travel? Were they able to access public transportation to get to work? (After 1850 or so)
How close were the shops, were they close to the High Street, the market? How far did they have to go to get their daily rations?
Where was the nearest church of their denomination? Did they have to travel far to go there? Remember that religion was an important part of many’s lives and that their principle socialisation would have occured on their one day off, Sunday. This was their social sphere.
Where was the local school? It might have been the Sunday school at the church, or a distinct purpose built school. Not everyone went to school, and it was not compulsory for most until late in the nineteenth century. The closeness of the school to your ancestors home might have seriously determined if your ancestor received even a rudimentary education.
Where were their nearest relatives? After all, the family was and is important, and knowing that the grandparents or a sibling lived nearby, or not could greatly effect the way that your ancestor lived. Family was a social safety net, and another location for socialisation.
Distance to certain places determined how people lived, their quality of life, and their type of social life. These are important considerations in genealogy. After all it is not just about determining when people lived and died, but how they lived. Their lives were full and interesting, and worth knowing about.