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Finding my family history

(11 Posts)
CariGransnet (GNHQ) Thu 26-Jul-12 10:31:36

This week's guest blog post looks at the importance of passing family stories down through the generations - and the joy of uncovering relatives worldwide.

Have you ever traced your family tree? How do you record your own family history? We would love to hear your stories and tips.

ayse Thu 26-Jul-12 11:02:18

Yes, I have traced my family tree. It became an absolute obsession whilst I was living in Turkey. I did most of it over the internet but probably need to backtrack over some of it. I also know some of it is incorrect (that's what comes of copying info from others). However, I did 'meet' with other descendents who had done some of the bits I was missing and vice versa.

My top tips would be to start with all your living relatives such as siblings, mother, father, cousins, uncles, aunts and old family friends. Make notes or tape all the information gathered such as names, dates of birth, addresses, dates of death and family legends - these can be fascinating and sometimes can be useful pointers to ancestors past activities. Try to obtain copies from family members of birth's, marriage and death certs (BMD). Invest in a family tree maker programme or similar, with the faciltiy to export and import 'gedcoms'. (A compact folder for sending family tree information). Once you have gathered all the information, input to the programme as a good start. I took out a subscription to Ancestry (just the UK one) and began to track down past relations. There are quite a number of free websites to look for births. I also found a site called 'Family tree forum'. Lots of helpful advice and encouragement on there plus loads of links to other sites. It can initially be overwhealming with the wealth of information available. In the future you may need to buy buy birth, marriage and death certs. Keep a note of all the information. You may be very surprised at what you uncover. My latest discovery is that Great Uncle Bill was a WW1 deserter but as yet, I haven't found any further infomation.

Happy hunting

Dottydobba Fri 27-Jul-12 12:27:02

It can be frustrating researching your family beyond the earliest census forms
I have found using different sites can reveal more information. Also, not all of it is correct - George Alfred became Alfred George; there were at least 100 Walter John Davies in Cardiff about the same age as my grandfather (born 1881)and I still haven't found the right one. Some family myths were debunked; that we are related to the (aristocratic) Keppel family through my paternal grandmother, for example. (We are not)
Perhaps the most fascinating was my German paternal great grandfather (born 1827 in Freilingen) a baker who came to England as a young man, married an Essex girl and had a thriving business employing two men until he lost it all and was listed as a hansom cab driver in the 1881 London census.
Apparently there had been riots in London which may explain it.
My maternal Scottish great grandfather (born in Aberdeen 1852) was a boilermaker who came to Cardiff from Hartlepool, leaving his wife and 10 children
to follow on. How did my great grandmother manage that!
Lastly, I had no idea my family tree had so many Scots dotted about! They certainly got around.

whenim64 Fri 27-Jul-12 13:35:36

My family has collectively been researching our family tree for a few years, so we have quite a lot of detail to pass on. We have come to a few dead ends, especially with one ancestor who travelled from Genoa in Italy and arrived as a teenager in Manchester, working as a street musician and then for an ice-cream maker. He maried an umbrella maker in the mid 1800s. We haven't yet found out where he originated from, just that he boarded a ship in Genoa.

I have found out a lot about my maternal ancestors, not least because I now live in a cottage next door to where my great, great aunt and uncle lived, succeeded by their daughter and her husband and family. In the third cottage of our row, great-uncle's brother and his family lived, so now there have been members of my family living in all 3 cottages since they were built 165 years ago. Because the cottages are of local interest, there is information held in the library and the local hall, so for people who are getting a bit stuck on dates and names, try looking at historical records in the locality - it's fascinating what turns up!

POGS Sun 29-Jul-12 21:24:17

Ridiculous I know but I was 16 before I thought 'Who is my dad's father, my other grandad'.

I wrote to my semi estranged paternal grandma, she died while the letter was in the post.

Many years later, having started a family I thought about the subject once more. I decided to ask my Great Aunt who basically raised my father, she was taken ill and not expected to live. We went to Devizes Hospital to be with her and I had the opportunity to ask her cousin if she knew the answer.

I wish I had not bothered but I find the answer funny to this day, I never told my dad though. She said "Well, you have to remember the Canadian Army were based in Devizes and things happened". Now I don't know if they really were but to this day I can't look at a picture of a Canadian Mounty without wondering if it's a long lost cousin.

Annobel Sun 29-Jul-12 22:08:37

As you say, dotty, Scots did get around. A very distant cousin in Ohio got in touch with my dad, around 40 years ago and started a strong interest in genealogy. There are a good may people in the Carolinas with our unusual surname. I also tracked down a third or fourth cousin in Normandy whose great grandfather had emigrated from Edinburgh to Rouen to manage a foundry. His family believed the family came from the island of Colonsay. Our English side were well-off clergy - hereditary rectors for 7 generations in a Leicestershire parish. There's a big family tomb in the churchyard. My English granny left us a very comprehensive family tree.
With so many disparate strands, our genealogy is pretty complicated - but the mind boggles at what my GD1 will have to do if she wants to trace hers as she can add African/Caribbean and Irish to the various Scots and English branches.

Glammy Mon 30-Jul-12 11:55:43

It does get complicated with most families but great fun and well worth doing. My husband has become very interested in his family and is working away on his tree which has some easy bits as one branch stayed in Kent for quite a few generations. My side is more Irish/Scottish/Lancashire so not quite so easy. I now video my Mum in chatty mode on a regular basis so that we record the stories. DGD is the first of the next generation on my side but but 7th on my husbands aged from 22 to nearly 1!!

GadaboutGran Wed 01-Aug-12 21:21:16

Researching my family has made me aware of how extraordinary seemingly ordinary working class families are. General history also comes alive when you an link it to events in the family. I've found 4 First fleeters (first convicts sent to Australia), an eminent mycologist who collected fungi specimens for Kew gardens from the Amazon (he also joined the French Foreign Legion for a while) & tried to get Beatrix Potter accepted by the Linnean Society, a missionary teacher who taught the first President of Botswana & on husband's side, Sir Malcolm Sargent.
But it can also be painful. I reconnected with some cousins and realise now why our parents fell out. My sister also appears to be finding ways of not letting me see, or send a photo or copy, of my grandfather's last letter before he was killed in a WW1 battle on the Orange River in South Africa. I'm finding it hard to confront her, as ever as she has always had a way of making me feel in the wrong.

Carpathia Thu 27-Sep-12 09:27:52

Fascinating stuff. There are so few left in my family of either side, and of course i so regret not finding out more when I had the chance.

But we can all stop the loss of information from our own lives, so our children, grandchildren and onwards don't lost what we know.

What I've found frustrating to the point of screaming, when researching into even the recent past, is the lack of day to day detail. How much was a pint of milk in 1982? I've forgotten. What did a police woman's uniform look like in 1979, and how did it feel to wear it when action was required? What number bus went past Chalk Farm Station? What sort of things did people gossip and moan about in various jobs?

These are the sort of details we forget really quickly as we live our lives - things change so fast and unless there's some important reason for remembering details, we don't.

So keep shop receipts and bank statements (I found my mother's bank statements from 1970, with her notes, detailing things for my sister's wedding - brilliant, since both sister and mother are now dead, and no-one else would know this stuff.

Jot down incidentals and irrelevances in your diary or journal or blog - no-one cares now, but in 20, 30, 60 years' time they might be priceless bits of knowledge.

whitewave Thu 27-Sep-12 16:09:07

My maternal grandfather left my grandmother when my mother was about 3 years old. My grandmother never mentioned it and for years I thought that my step-grandad was my biological grandad. Once I found out the truth and since I have retired I have spent many happy hours researching my family. I found out that they were weavers in living in Howarth - I took my mother and visited the graves , whcih was surprisingly emotional. I know that my actual grandad was in the RN and jumped ship in Canada, but haven't yet traced him any further than the boat he was on.

My paternal side are all Cornish as am I, and tracing these has also been fun. What I wish is that I could put more flesh on the bones e.g. finding out how they lived, what was the standard of living what they ate etc. etc. Oh I have just read carpathia's entry Yes exactly!

What is frustrating is that the census details are only released after 100 years. Ineed information after that date

Mamie Thu 27-Sep-12 16:19:13

According to Google a pint of milk was 35p in 1982, Carpathia. I suspect you will be able to find the uniform and the bus numbers too, if you search.