Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Family History an introduction


Have you done any research into your family tree? I loved both History and Geography at school and it was a hard choice deciding which of these subjects I would take forward to do at O level. (GCSE's weren't invented then!) I decided in the end to do Geography as our History teacher was a spinster that spoke in one tone of voice and we nicknamed Noddy as she could send us off to sleep! (She subsequently noticed what an avid reader I was and lent me all her books of the classics of Jane Austin and the Brontes - for which I will always be grateful.)


My great great Aunt's Wedding in 1910


In my mid-teens staying with my sister for a weekend my brother-in-law had a client over from America who wanted to trace his roots and he offered to help him. My sister and myself went along too, it was a cold day in October and we both stood cold and bored as we searched in vain for some gravestones in a damp deserted churchyard. Move forward in time 30 years to another churchyard and what do you see? Yes, I have to admit it is me searching for my roots too!



That first experience must have stayed in the back of my mind, so when in the 1990's my Dad started to research our family tree I was the keenest one in the family to find out what he had learnt. In those days the information was not so accessible so he would visit record offices and spend hours pouring over old microfiche.  He discovered that both his side of the family and my mother's had originally lived by the sea in Essex and Devon. (In my subsequent research I have discovered that both similar interests and jobs seem to pass through the generations - I'm sure this is not unique to us.)

The ship my great, great grandfather sailed in as Captain.

I took up the mantle in the early years of this century as family history on the internet became more available. My brother also discovered new generations and stories a few years ago after he had an accident and was off work for several months.

Has the quest been worth it?  Yes, I have found it so interesting and what fascinates me more than anything is to discover how my ancestors lived and how different it was to our lives today.  I have been lucky to have found wills, photographs, newspaper stories to give me this unique insight. We have also found, so to speak, - a few skeletons in the cupboard too. (I will tell you some of these tales one day!)

Great Grandfather

If you have done any family history I would love to know what sparked your interest in the first place, and if you haven't and are interested below are a few sites that you may find useful. I also regret not asking more questions to the older generation while they were still around.


http://www.freebmd.org.uk/ - information on births,marriages and deaths in England and Wales (not fully complete.)

https://familysearch.org/ international site run by Church of Jesus Christ Latter Day Saints

bbc family history getting started

There are some good paid sites too  Ancestry and Find my past. You can usually get good deals on Amazon when you buy Family Tree Maker which also gives you 6 months membership free on Ancestry.


I also regret not asking more questions to the older members of the family while they were still alive.
A word of warning  researching your family tree can get quite addictive!


I have discovered that many of my distant family have emigrated and lived all over the world including Canada and Australia and it is lovely to have made some many friends from overseas through blogging.

 Finally a big welcome to my new followers  AnneKathySusy CottageMichelle and Flo and Stan  also Jennifer came back with her blog name. Thank you as always for all your lovely comments, hope you are having a good week too!

Sarah x

36 comments:

  1. I'd love to look into my family history but don't have the time or the money (to sign up to online sites or travel around researching). I know my aunt has done some research and one day I hope to find out from her a little more but it is something I'd love to do for myself one day.

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  2. This is fascinating Sarah. Other Half, Mike, has just started researching his own family tree and there is some Australia in it too.
    Personally I feel we need to go visit, make sure we get the facts at source..

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  3. Hi there, My cousin and I had a little dabble into our family history, but to be honest we didn't get very far, and lost interest. I totally agree with you about speaking to family members before it's too late. x

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  4. I enjoyed this post very much. My father is an avid genealogist. He has done much of his research through the Latter-Day Saints, as you posted above. He has traced his ancestors on his father's side back to the 1620's, when they came from England to America, settling first in Virginia and later spreading westward. I grew up knowing a lot about my ancestry and it always made me very proud!

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  5. Hi Sarah,
    Thank you so much for sharing such a precious photos! History and Geography were always my favorie subjects, too and still they are! I've been asking my mom about our family history for the last few years and and try to collect as much info as possible. Like you say, I wish I could have listened to my garndparents stories with more attentions. Looking forward to your next story-sounds so exciting!

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  6. A lovely informative and helpful post Sarah. My sister is the one in our family who has done the research.I love the photographs best and have a photograph of a great aunt who remembers being in a covered wagon in Wyoming and being surrounded by Indians...the stories they could all tell! We all regret I think not asking more questions of our older relatives. Thank you for your recent good wishes!

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  7. You don't know this about me, but I am an avid family researcher. We have a branch of the family in Newfoundland..hard as heck to get info sometimes. Nfld was a British Colony then not..and was the last province to join Confederation with only a 51 % vote of all peoples positive. I digress.

    You asked what prompted. For me, it was a book I was loaned in the early 80's, written by a man from Scotland having the same family name. A photo showed him and his dad, and I said "they look exactly like my granddad". I wrote..and he wrote back..an actual author wrote back. So began my search in earnest as my child had only recently been born. Like your dad..it was letters and notes, jots here and there...trying to figure things out and then..then came Ancestry. Before that, Familysearch also using free BMD (birthdeathandmarriages). You gave some great examples. And to Louise, some are free..but one must take the time to look unless happily, as you mention, one has an auntie who has done it for you. (I think of me as the auntie who did the research for the family)

    Where did we come from I wondered, holding my baby many years ago. Now I know.

    Great post!!

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    1. I found your story so interesting too from borrow that first book. My great great grandfather's older sister was born in Prince Edward Island. I know there was close connections between there and Brixham (which I recently wrote about) but haven't discovered how long his parents were living over there.
      Sarah x

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    2. Sarah, you might look at islandregister.com which is a PEI gen site. A lot of British Children came to the Maritimes during the war, and in other years as well. Many were adopted. Let me know if you want a helping hand.

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  8. My brother has been tracing the history of both sides of our family for a few years now and he has a blog about all the research that he has done so we can all link in and keep up. I was amazed to find that my elder daughters name which is the same as her great grandmas (my mums mum) was the name given to the elder daughter on this side of the family going as far back as the early 1800's, which is as far as he has got to date. I had no idea of this at the time she was christened and it feels quite special to be able to continue the line.
    On my husbands side we found we are related to John Gay who wrote the Beggars opera in 1728 though we do not share his surname.

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    1. That's quite a coincidence about the same name being chosen! it's exciting also finding out you are connected to someone famous!
      Sarah x

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  9. How lovely to find out all that information. One day perhaps I may try. x

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  10. For a history assignment my oldest son has to write the biography of a person that was born before 1940. My grandmother is now 96 years old, so it was obvious he chose her to interview and write the biography about. I went with him which was good because he doesn't always understand the dialect my grandmother speaks while I do. It was just amazing to come to know so much about a person and the times she lived in and how things were when she was younger. I just feel like I want to hear more, know more, ask her more. What stroke me most was when she talked about the period she and her family came back from the other part of Belgium where they had to flee to during the first world war. She was just a child then but she remembers so well how they came back to a village that was totally destroyed and how everyone had to build a house out of what they found lying around and how everyone helped everyone. Even though it must have been hard times, the way she talks about it, you can just feel that it is a happy period to look back to for her. I am so glad my son got this assignment and it's so strange that I didn't know any of those things yet about my grandmother who I have known for my whole life. I would like to know more about my ancestors. Must be so interesting to find out as much as possible but very time consuming as well and I'm afraid I don't have that time now. Hopefully sometime in the future.
    Bye,
    Marian

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    1. That must have been so interesting for you and your oldest son to learn more about your grandmother's life. I'm sure it is something neither you will forget and now this story will now pass through the generations.
      Sarah x

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  11. It must be very interesting to look into my family history, but on the moment I hev other prioreties. Nice to see waht you found out. In the last yeasr of my grandmothers life (she died 20 years ago) we have talked a lot about her life, my fathers youth, her family. Those talks were dear to me. Groetjes, Gerda

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  12. I love this so much. Just wonderful to know our heritage I think ... I am in the process of getting certified as a Native American Indian .. We have so much on both sides of my family ... Any tips on the research of it all . My email is therustypearl@yahoo.com .............Hugs

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  13. It's certainely not only interesting but thrilling and exciting to discover family's roots.Sometimes secrets are hiding behind the known facts.Other times, the relevations make us proud or disappoint us...In any case, it's enriching to learn the family history and I read with great interest yours,admiring the photography documents as well.Thank you for sharing!

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  14. I love hearing all about the past, so I read through this post with avid interest...I could imagine searching your family tree to be very addictive, Sarah and thankfully I was glad I was a child with an ear for listening to my older generations.....Especially as ( posted on this last year) my Great Grandmother was a Medium of her time...she always fascinated me as a child an still does really....Ooh I feel a post coming on! Love Maria x

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    1. I'll look forward to reading that post Maria!
      Sarah x

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  15. My mum has spent many years doing our family history on all sides.

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  16. I spent a couple of years doing my family tree and it was the most fascinating and addictive thing ever! It started a while before my Dad died and I realised he'd never spoken about his grandparents. I soon traced his male line back to the 1700's and was hooked on the whole thing. It's a great way of learning about history, it becomes more "real" when you can place an ancestor at certain events or places. It can be very sad finding relatives in the workhouse (or prison!)and the number of child deaths shocked me, but so glad I did it. Debbie.

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  17. Lovely to hear somebody elses story, Sarah. I have done a lot of research on both sides of my family and my husbands. With very interesting results. One of my grandads relatives emigrated to America in 1842, what must it have been like crossing the water then! My real roots are here in Bridport as my great grandad x4 was born here, which I didnt know until we had been coming on holiday here for 10 years, I always felt that I knew the area, which way to go in town, so having this feeling took the steps to see where I came from, which opened lots of doors, thinking that my family had originated from Manchester, how wrong can you be, my great grandad x2 set off from Dorset in 1870 to find work and ended up in Manchester! One of my husbands Uncles travelled between New York and Southampton on the ocean liners all his life, did he ever get of the boat, as we cant find a permanent address for him!

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    1. It's amazing to hear you story about Bridport and not realising that there was a connection! Exactly the same thing happened to us at Tavistock we too had been holidaying close by for 10 years and then I discovered John's ancestors had come from the area! They had moved up to London so we too thought that was were they had come from! I also feel quite at home when I visit Bristol and again I have Great*3 ancestors from there,isn't it strange?
      Sarah x

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  18. I heard a story the other day about someone who's been researching her family history and found out something she'd rather not know so I guess when you start looking into it you need to be prepared for what you might find.

    Also a suggestion, check with your local library to see if they have subscribed to any of the online ancestry services as many do and you can use it for free from the library.

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    1. I will have to check out the library for ancestry the family tree could do with some updating!
      Sarah x

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  19. Good morning sweet Sarah and Daisy!

    I have "Bourbon" blood in me, and I know that thanks to a cousin that did his research!

    Lovely photos and wonderful memories for you! Anita

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  20. As a biographer (one of the three 'hats' that I wear) I'm in the odd position of having found out more about other families' history than I have about my own. But it's all just as fascinating, I'm not surprised you're hooked!

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  21. My OH started to look into our family histories when both of our parents were becoming old and frail. After they died, finding out about family further back through the years seemed an important way to stay rooted somehow. It is also fascinating and we hope to do some more exploring this year.

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  22. What a terrific post! My husband has done lots of research into the family history on his side, and a bit on my side. My grandma on my dad's side had done a lot of research when she was alive, so I have quite a bit of information from her. We have seafaring genes in common - my great grandfather was a ship's captain. You are so fortunate to have the photos and newspaper stories to go along with the names and dates. They must make it feel like you are learning about real people rather than just names and dates.

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  23. Meine liebe kleine Meerjungfrau,
    was für ein schöner Post. Ahnenforschung ist ein ganz spannendes Feld. Die Fragen: Wer bin ich? Woher komme ich? Habe ich Ähnlichkeit mit meinen Vorfahren? Welche Berufe hatten sie?, fand ich schon immer faszinierend. Wohl dem, der noch alte Fotos hat, denn leider ging vieles im zweiten Weltkrieg verloren. Du solltest mehr darüber schreiben, so eine Art Fortsetzungsroman, es ist ja so spannend! Meine Vorfahren mütterlicherseits kamen aus Ostpreussen und Frankreich (Hugenotten), väterlicherseits aus Bayern und dem Münsterland, aber wir wissen ja alle, dass die Vorfahren aller Menschen auf dieser Welt ursprünglich aus Afrika kommen, wir sind also alle Schwestern und Brüder.
    Ach übrigens, auch ich liebte Geschichte und Geographie in der Schule und ich liebe Jane Austin, ich habe ihre Bücher und fast alle Verfilmungen gesehen, dabei kann ich die Zeit vergessen!!!!

    Alles Liebe, Babsi

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  24. I've been tracing my family for about 15 years on and off. It's a fascinating hobby but also can be addictive. When you think you're all done, up pops another lead and it's back to the drawing board! Such fun though and it's taken us to some lovely places. I have an annual membership with Ancestry and also use Family Search (LDS). Good luck.
    Patricia x

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  25. I would like to know more about my family but from the US it is hard to find much. My father was born in Turkey and most of his family (Armenian) immigrated. On my mother’s side her father was born in Alsace when it was German – some of the family stayed German some became French. If I could stay in France for a while I could maybe find out more. It is great that you were successful in finding out more about your ancestors – it is so fascinating I think to learn about them.

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  26. How fascinating, and wonderful that you've found photographs and other documents to really bring your ancestors' stories alive. I've researched mine and my husband's a great deal - and like you have found a few skeletons! I've also found such a variety of lives; from the richest to the poorest and even a supposed link to the story of Macbeth, of all people. I found it such an interesting thing to do.

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  27. I've traced my family history for several years now. We thought my Dad was the last of the male line how surprised were we to discover not only cousins left in Swansea and Cardiff, but a whole host of them over in Canada and the USA. All coming originally from Glastonbury. It is such an interesting and fulfilling hobby. Sarah x

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  28. I love family history. When I was in my 20's I sketched out a simple family tree and was lucky enough to be able to ask ny nan and great aunt to extend it. Then nothing happen for a while and I went off to college to be a student and do student things but then when I met my future husband my interest of family history came back as his grandma use to take about her family and had some wonderful old photos to share. I went back to my family tree and spent many a happy hour looking at old documents and micro fiche in the records library. I loved the feeling when you 'found' an ancestor! But this was before lots of things were on the Internet and I have not looked at my family history for years, I am sure should I get out my files I would instantly get back into it....but it does take time and that is something I don't have much of at the moment so maybe.....when I retire!
    X

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  29. I love family history and have spent the last couple of years researching mine in depth.One of my ancestors was a highway robber and transported to Australia. All fascinating stuff.

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