G is for Genealogy

April 8, 2014 at 2:16 pm | Posted in Experiences, Family, Family History, History, Society, Ways of Living, Writing | Leave a comment
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A2Z-BADGE-000 [2014]

 

Genealogy has several meanings, but the one I focus on in my interest and activity is this: the study of family ancestries and histories.

To many people, genealogy means making their family tree. They look up names and dates and relationships and places, but that is as far as they go. All they want is a chart they can display in a book or on the wall. But to me – and to other serious researchers – genealogy involves many different facets apart from, but also including this.

Who I am

What is the point of knowing names and dates if you don’t know the people, their relationships within the immediate and extended family, the places they lived, what they did for a living, their place and station in society, their religious and political beliefs? You can’t know a person at all unless you know all these things and unless you know about the times and culture in which they grew up and lived as adults.

family

Knowing all these things gives us a background to our grandparents’, our parents’ and our own lives. It puts us into a context that can give us a much greater understanding of who we are and how we came to be who we are within our family and society as a whole.

Linda&Pauline T abt 1955

I started researching my family history for a college assignment back in 1976. I had to talk with my parents and anyone else I could in order to complete the assignment. I had always been interested in history but, when I went to school, history revolved around religion and politics, gods and kings. In undertaking this new task, my interest in personal and family origins was ignited.

history remembers

I worked on researching my background for the next thirty years. Because I was born in England and we had emigrated to Australia when I was only five years old, it was a slow process in the first twenty-five years. I had to do everything through the postal service – applying for my grandparents’ marriage certificates, their birth certificates, etc.

EdwardRThompson-birthextract 1893

It was a matter of slowly working back through the generations to verify names, dates, places, occupations, and so on.

James-EllenThompson-marr1792

Along with this slog through the records was a parallel course of research, centred on learning about the times in which my ancestors lived, so that I could catch a glimpse of how they might have lived.

Because those times were different from my own, I had always to remember that they had different beliefs to mine, different laws and understandings, different ways of doing things, and different ways of living. I could not judge them by the standards of the present, for their world was a different one to mine.

In the end, I published a 136-page family history book in 2002, which I expanded to a book of 278 pages in 2005.

Now&Then cover (919x1280)

I haven’t done much work on the family history since then, as I changed the focus of my interest to other kinds of writing. But I am pleased to say that my interest in genealogy has been inherited by my youngest son, who is carrying on with the original research I did on his father’s side of the family.

I hope that, when I die, I can bequeath my considerable research materials to the National Archives of Australia or to the one in the UK.  I don’t think my son has enough room in his house to keep them!

Chasing your own history

 

Do you have any interest in the history of your family? Have you done any research, or gathered oral evidence from family members? Have you created a book for your family to share their origins with them?

 

© Linda Visman 08.04.14 (605 words)

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