Inspired by a post by a fellow blogger who had in turn been inspired by a new blogging idea to post about an ancestor every week for a year (52 Ancestors, 52 Weeks), I decided to set this blog up soley to talk family tree. Although I am a bit late in terms of starting this towards the end of January, I’m sure I can do a few posts to catch up!
I love talking about family trees, whether that’s mine, my husbands, ones I have researched for other people or just generally answering questions from people about researching. I sometimes surprise myself with how much information I can store in my brain, be that details about people in my trees, other peoples trees or just information about how to research trees. Often when I work on other people’s trees I will hold as much information about that tree in my head for about a month, so I can talk about it with them without often having to refer back to documents or the computer.
I am not one for amassing as many names on my tree as I possibly can. Where is the joy in that?
I want to know these people. I want to put myself in their shoes – no matter how fancy or how shoddy.
Some years ago while working together for a large financial company, Dom and I had a bit of a brainwave to hold workshops in our lunch hour to teach people how to research their trees. We beavered away and created some information packs and put some flyers around to see how much interest we might get. We ran a series of 10 workshops – starting with beginners information and building each month with topics like online research, offline research, military ancestors, immigration/emigration and having a couple of Q&A sessions and ending with some case studies to show how certain ancestors had been researched. We ran these workshops twice as they were so popular. We also offered 1:1 sessions with people to drop in and ask for help / suggestions on bits they were struggling with. We loved it. We met so many lovely people and it really encouraged us. We even took a group to the Wiltshire & Swindon Records Office in Chippenham so that people could get the experience of visiting one. It can be a daunting experience, so it was good to get them together – a group of like-minded people to support each other. It was great. One day we hope to be able to offer these kinds of workshops to paying customers!
Doing the case studies for the workshops was great. Not only did it encourage us but also the others in the group to write about their ancestry, to document their lives. It doesn’t mean you have to drone on about every tiny detail, but if you have someone interesting in your tree – write about them! It doesn’t matter if they aren’t a direct ancestor, it could be your great great great uncle’s wife who fell down a well once, or your grandfather’s stepbrother who got banged up in prison for stealing a pig, it’s all connected to you!
TV programmes like Who Do You Think You Are have sparked peoples interest. They are eager to start scaling the branches of their family tree, but often people haven’t got a clue how to go about it, it all looks so easy on the TV! Some people put their heart and soul into their research, while others copy from other trees and never check and never really know the details. Some people make some classic mistakes and bumble on regardless and some don’t take kindly when you query their research or point out a problem. I’ve certainly been down the wrong route more than once, but I’ve realised my errors, dusted myself off and cracked back on with it and felt so pleased to be back on the right track and such a great sense of satisfaction to solve the problem myself.
And while it would be great if we could all get our trees back to say 1066 with the Norman Conquest, the reality is most of us wont. And yes it would be lovely if we were connected to Royalty, but sometimes we’re just labourers through and through! But that doesn’t make our trees any less interesting!
Hopefully this blog will encourage you to write about your family history too.