One person, I believe that is all it takes, to inspire us to do family research.For me it was my Grandmother, who had died almost twenty years before I was born. I didn’t even know her name. All I knew was that she had been horribly ill for most of my Father’s childhood. I had seen her face only once in a crumpled old photo her brother seemed to have kept in his pocket. He had hurriedly produced it one day, I had strained my neck to see it.(I was just a small child at the time-it had been assumed we children would not be interested. It had just as quickly disappeared back into his pocket. That was the only time I had seen her and knew with certainty it was her.
She wasn’t really spoken about but I WANTED to know her. It took a health crisis to get me started. I needed a distraction, so I headed to St Catherine’s house to look at records. Fortunately her maiden name was pretty rare and before long my research had taken me as far back as my Great Great Grandfather.
The health crisis passed and I moved on with my life-husband, babies a new country.
Some years later I was idly googling names from my family tree, when up came Ancestry posts from my by then deceased Father. Nowadays there is a new immortality to be found on the web..I was astonished to discover the extent of his research. I realised I needed to pick up the baton and continue the quest…
There is an urgency to family history, which most of us do not recognise when we are young.
All too often I have found mysteries in my tree, which I would dearly love to solve, only to realise that those who could give me answers were no longer around, when only a few years previosly, I might have been able to drop them a line or ask them in person.
- When my father died, he left behind a pile of paperwork to try to understand and photos to identify. How much easier would it have been, had I talked to him more about it, while he were alive? As it turned out my Father had a whole other life online, as a family historian. Even my Mother could not answer my questions. Below I intend to compile a list of things which I wish I had done thirty years ago, which I intend adding to occasionally:-Going through every photo I could find, talking about them with previous generations and labelling them with as much detail as possible.
I arm so grateful to the people who did think to record these things in the past. Thanks to people like them, I have at least two illustrations of family members from the 1840s. As it is I am waiting for accurate facial-recognition and global sharing, to perhaps solve some mysteries for me.
When I have managed to get my timing right, it has thrilled me, like the occasion I started googling an interesting name in an old address book. Never did I dream that I would find him both alive and using email. I was able to communicate with both him and his wife for an extended period, before he died, a few years ago. He had been part of major world events and through him, I began to feel part of them too.
There was also the wife of the man who taught my Mother to ride. To my astonishment , a few posts online led me to her, through her granddaughter. My Mother sobbed when I told her of my discovery and we were able to spend a wonderful day with her and her family. My Mother was like a young girl again that day
I will be telling these and many other stories in the blog posts which follow..
I asked the Professor whether she had been undertaking family research, given her interest in the Novel “Possession.”
Funnily enough I did a lot of family history research before I did a PhD, but I have not had much time since unfortunately..
..So I guess we ( referring to her and her brother) have both done it the other way around: family history research first then gone into scientific research. I hope to come back to the family history when I am done with scientific research and am still vey interested just short of time.
“Possession” was the first book I read many years ago, which enlightened me as to the exciting possibilities of research.