7 reasons people start researching their Family History & my own journey
Updated: Jul 1
Listed as one of the most popular hobbies today, people often get interested in Genealogy for the following reasons:-
▪ They come across an old family bible, document, letter or diary that inspires them to take their research further
▪ They wish to find out more about where our family came from
▪ They are curious about the kind of life that their ancestors lived
▪ They want to find out more about family roots and stories so that the findings can be shared with other family members
▪ They are interested in finding out more about a family rumour or mystery within the family
▪ To prove or disprove that a famous person is connected to the family
▪ To research health conditions that might be prominent within the family
I started my own research as I needed a hobby to help pass the cold/dark winters and had always been interesting in finding out more about my roots.
My first task was to visit my Maternal Uncle who had a book with notes that my Grandfather had left relating to his family. I remember the excitement building as we went through the list of his Grandparents, Aunts, Uncles & Cousins and the details of family members who had immigrated overseas.
I then went to visit my Paternal Grandfather and wrote out pages and pages of information relating to my Dad’s side of the family, which included a link to Sligo in Ireland.
I must stress that if you even think that at some point you might take up ‘Genealogy’ as a hobby go NOW and speak to the older members of your family! Get the stories written down and take copies of any old documents or photos that they may have. I often wish that I had asked my relatives more when I was younger. If you don’t ask now you may kick yourself later!
Armed with all this new information I quickly realised how addictive the hobby can be and found myself sitting up late at nights glued to my computer.
Then when I did eventually go to bed I couldn’t sleep for imagining what life was actually like for my ancestors.
Before I knew it the winter had passed quicker than usual and it was springtime.
It was now time to visit some of the Towns where my ancestors had lived and might be buried. I took my first trip to Tillicoultry in Clackmannanshire and with my Mum and Uncle scoured the Graveyard in search of my Great Great Grandparents grave, it took some time but eventually we found it. It was a magical experience just touching the stone and thinking about how many other relatives might also have stood over their grave as I was doing.
Next we headed into the town and stood in the street where the family had lived. Looking at the house where my Great Grandfather has been born I realised that unlike most of the other houses in the street it probably hadn’t changed much in over 100 years.
The street housed rows of weaver’s cottages which sat at the foot of the beautiful Ochil Hills. What a lovely place to grow up and explore!
It wasn’t long until I wanted more! My search online for birth, marriage & death entries along with Census returns was not enough, I needed more information and only so much was available online.
I bought myself a couple of books on the subject and joined my local family history society in Lanarkshire, definitely something I would recommend as most Societies have their own office loaded with records and books that as a member you can search for free.
Most hold regular meetings with speakers which is a good way to learn more about a variety of family history topics and it’s a good way to meet like-minded people. My own society also offered a free beginners course in Genealogy which I signed up for and completed.
Now it was time to dig further by searching wills, newspapers, directories, military records, maps and any other interesting records that I could find housed in the local libraries or archives. This is what made these family members real! These additional records added flesh to the bones of them so to speak!
Okay so it’s not the cheapest hobby out there. The amount you can spend on subscriptions or access to various sites can mount up as can the amount that you spend on books and visits to the various research locations.
I don’t like to think about the amount of money I wasted at the start by trying to find records of a particular ancestor only to bring up several records all for the wrong person which ultimately cost me money.
It takes a bit of time to get your head round how all the various searches work and it can get confusing as you are searching during a time when children including a lot of their cousins were all called after older relatives.
This can also be made even worse when searching for a name like Smith or Brown!
It’s a funny Hobby and not something that catches everyone’s interest I gave in a long time ago trying to tell my Brother about things I had found out, it felt like I was boring him. He will however listen to the more exciting stories and is fascinated by the fact that he is the image of our Great Grandfather less the fancy moustache!
One thing I never tire of is sitting in an archive looking through an old document or book that’s 100+ years old and seeing my ancestor’s signature…it’s amazing to think that at one time they leant over the same book.
It is also Interesting how you can see yourself in various ancestors, one of my Great Grandfathers obituaries detailed his personality, I had to laugh as I could see myself in that paragraph…I suppose it has to be expected after all it’s the same blood that runs through my veins as it was his.
After Several years of research I decided to take my passion further and enrolled in 4 evening classes in Genealogy at a nearby University. It was whilst taking these courses that I found out about the post graduate qualifications that they ran, I saved up and enrolled the following year.
It was hard work with lots of late nights studying and very few weekends off but I got there in the end. This opened up so many more records to me as did the knowledge of how to document sources correctly and hunt down elusive records.
My graduation day has to be up there as one of my favourite days ever!
One of the most important things to consider is the software that you use to document your family history! I started off with a program that sounded good and to be honest did serve its purpose.
It wasn’t until I enrolled in University and was given a different kind of software to use that I realised how bad my own software actually was! I later managed to transfer my tree with names and dates over to new software but unfortunately it did not transfer all the facts and sources, something that I later had to go back and re-input.
I cannot stress how important it is at the beginning to research software, find out how it works, check if reports can be customised and ultimately if it will stand the test of time. Do your research and read as many reviews as you can!
Don’t skimp either, try to buy the best! Even more importantly always remember to back it up!
Things have moved on now and I often find that my ancestors are somewhat neglected. I find myself researching other people’s families or people who lived in my local area who grab my attention as a worthwhile local history project.
It’s been a worthwhile journey and a topic that has become a passion….I’ve also been lucky enough to make some really good ‘Gene’ friends along the way!
If Genealogy is a hobby that interests you and you just are starting out but not sure how and where to start a good book is the ‘Genealogy Notebook’ by Jacobien Beeker.
This book is an ideal way to start recording information as you obtain it and would be a great way of recording things as you speak to your family members.
It has enough pages to log 127 ancestors with sections to record church records, places they lived, surname variations, research log and file index etc. But do remember to record in pencil until you have checked things and are happy with your findings. Even if you currently record your tree on a genealogy program this is still a good way of having a hard copy that you can quickly refer to.
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