In February this year I started a course at U3A, ‘Family Research for Beginners’.
I was fascinated right from the start. At the first session I was hooked on Ancestry.com, my family tree, soon finding relatives I never knew existed who are still alive and well. Sadly, many others had passed away in recent years, relatives I could have easily been in touch with and got to know better before it was too late, had I known about them.
Speaking with a few of my relatives who are still alive, this past year, one thing I have found is that they rarely speak of their older relations. In England where most of my family come from, I am told they never spoke much of people outside of their immediate family, unless they were living in the same area and nearby. I guess they never had the transport or the infrastructure that we have these days to get around. Certainly not the technology we have now. Very few people had a telephone or a camera, things we just take for granted. So, it is understandable that our ancestors never had the communication or connection to each other in their day as we do in ours.
Using Ancestry.com, I discovered a lot of my relations lived quite close to each other, in the same town or village, quite often in the same street, or in the same row of terrace buildings. Some lived in the family home, grew up, married, had families of their own, then moved next door or in the same street. Then to make things worse, a lot of babies were named after an uncle or an aunt, or other relation. So having the same names and living in the same street made things a bit difficult at times. It was only through birth dates and deaths that I could really work out who was who. Again, to make things worse, since a lot of babies didn’t survive or live for very long, the parents would give the same name to another child later on.
Some of my forebears had lots of children, too. Once again, technology was still a long way off as we know it now. No TV, no contraception, not much lighting, but very long cold nights.
Also on the male person’s side, quite often, and for quite a few generations, a male was named after his father, who was also named after his father, who was named after his father, and so on. Therefore, getting birthdates and death dates correct is very important.
People in my family didn’t appear to know much about their ancestry in the old days, and they certainly made it very hard for future generations to find out about theirs too.
In saying all that, hard as it may have been at times, I have enjoyed every minute of it, and I will continue to enjoy it, I’m sure.
Of course, when finding all these ancestors, I found dates of births and deaths, baptisms and burials, marriages, and the occasional divorce. I also found old photographs of people and buildings, local area photos and maps.
Well, as I said at the start, my ‘One Moment This Year’ has been a long and exciting one, and I look forward to next year being just as interesting, ‘As Time Goes By’.
Merry Christmas everyone!