Recording Family History
Who were Your Great Grandparents?
Recording family history of past generations as well as today's living family history, is so easy these days. Multimedia gives you a tremendous opportunity to combine written memoirs, home movies, videos, CD's and DVD's, with the Internet, but why would you want to?
Just as you might like to know more about your Great Grandparents it is likely that your Great Grandchildren will want to know about you. While many people these days are interested in tracing family history through past generations, few take the trouble to record their own living family history for future generations, yet it is so important to do so.
Be warned! If you start recording family history, it will take you down some twisty paths and up quite a few dry gullies. And be aware that there might be a few surprises along the way, like the time, I well remember, when I first started tracing our family history.
I asked an elderly, well to do Aunt, who I did not know very well, if she would give me some details of her family.
Interested, she replied, "What do you want to know?"
Now, I had the idea in the back of my mind that you shouldn't ask a lady her age, so, to save her any embarrassment, instead of asking her for her date of birth, I said, "What is Your Father's full name?"
The lady looked quite surprised and said, "Oh! You DO ask awkward questions, don't you?"
It was one of my first experiences with recording family history and learning how to interview people. You soon learn to keep a straight face, not show surprise, and to be interested without being nosy. I had the right idea when I interviewed that Aunt. I just started with the wrong subject. Maybe I should have said, "Is there anything you don't want to tell me?"
(My biggest failing is saying things that I think are funny, but which make others think I'm a bit cuckoo.)
On another occasion a lady contacted me and asked for information about a family that I had researched fairly thoroughly. She was not recorded as a member of that family, so, when I sent her the information I asked where she fitted in.
She replied, "I guess there's a skeleton in every family's cupboard, well, I'm the one in this family's."
Family History research is full of little surprises, and some things you must keep to yourself, but there are lots of interesting and exciting pieces of information too, from war-time experiences to shipwrecks and maybe even a ghost or a convict or two. You never know what forgotten piece of your families past you might discover.
I have always been more interested in peoples lives, what they did for a living and why they made the decisions they made. For example, why did one branch of the family go to America and another to Australia?
I know why some of our forebears came to Australia. They came out because they lost court cases in England and had to start a new life in the Colonies.
In one branch of our family there was a recurring legend that, "Our family came out to Australia in their own ship." Now that tale sounded like a bit of nineteenth century snobbery to me until I discovered that that particular Great Grandfather was a Ships Captain, and he was indeed the Captain of the ship that brought his family to Australia.
Earlier, I mentioned that your Great Grandchildren will want to know more about you. What it was like when you went to school? Did you really walk to school all by yourself? What is a record player? Did you play football?
As I said, there is a tremendous opportunity, these days, to take advantage of multimedia by combining written memoirs with home movies, videos, CD's and DVD's, in recording family history.
Do you wish you knew more about your great-grandparents? So will your great-grandchildren wish to know more about you and the things you have done during your lifetime.
Follow this link to find a selection of Family History Guides and interesting Biographies and Memoirs that you might like to add to your library.
Take Care Recording Family History
Dear Old Mell went over to England in the '50s and came back with a lovely family tree, all beautifully filled out and most impressive. It made one feel quite proud to belong to a family that, not only had Suffolk Farmers, but also Lord Mayors of London, Royal Jewellers and the odd world renowned Arctic Adventurer and Explorer, not to mention one or two War Heroes smiling down out of the branches of it's tree.
Most impressive, as I said; trouble was, that when we tried to trace it back, step by step, it just didn't connect up the way it should have. Sure, the Suffolk farmers were there, and one or two village shopkeepers, but when it came to linking up to the impressive folk, the links were not there.
The VIPs covered their tracks very carefully. "Ther wer no way they wer goin ter let them owd Suffolk bors cum in ther parlor."
What a pity; never-the-less the Suffolk farmers were a pretty interesting family group to be part of.
A lot of family historians fall into the trap of assuming that, because their family name is (say) Morris, they must be related to Lord Nuffield. Goodness knows who the suburbanite Windsors think they are related to.
There is only one safe way to proceed when tracing family history. Start with yourself, then work back through your parents to their parents and so on. Work from the known, step by step, through the unknown, and when you reach a brick wall, stop. Keep working on your brick wall to find a way through to the next generation. Do not assume that because your name is Spencer, that you can jump across to the family of Lord Spencer and trace back from there to your family in Australia. It won't work.
Don't assume that, because your name is Stuart that you are related to the Kings of Scotland. You might be, but it is just as likely that you are descended from a central European refugee who changed his name to Stuart when he arrived in England.
I don't like to add any information taken from anybody else's family tree to my tree, without first checking it thoroughly. If you accept a gedcom or a great piece of someone's family tree and put it into yours, without checking it, you are asking for trouble. If you just take the time to look at it carefully, you are likely to notice glaring improbabilities.
For example, a man in his 60s who marries a young woman in her 20s shortly after his wife dies, and then goes on to have four or five more children. You will find many situations where circumstances might be possible, but where it looks most unlikely. You need to satisfy yourself that the information you have been given is correct when it comes to recording family history.
Some people pursue different interests in recording family history. Some just seem to want to collect as many names as possible, hundreds and hundreds of names. I guess a name collector just likes to boast that he has thousands of names in his family tree, but I can't believe he knows who they are or how he is connected, let alone whether the information he shares will stand scrutiny.
Recording family history is interesting and full of surprises. It is not just a list of names and dates, but a record of the lives of the people who made us what we are.
Flinders Street, Townsville abt 1930
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