Tags: ancestors, Australia, culture, descendants, differences, England, families, family history, forebears, genealogy, research
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
It was a matter of slowly working back through the generations to verify names, dates, places, occupations, and so on.
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.
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!
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)
Tags: culture, Eurasian, family, indigenous people, migrant, mixed race, remote area, teaching, writer
2. I dislike all forms of institutionalised religion, especially those that insist you must believe only in their doctrines. I think these have been the cause of a great deal of anguish and violence in the world. I was brought up a Catholic, but it was my parents, not the church who gave me a moral foundation; the church just gave me a lot of guilt.
3. I am a serial monogamist: My first marriage lasted sixteen years; my second relationship lasted twenty good years; I have now been happily married, for the second time for nine and a half years. 4. From my first marriage I have five wonderful sons and six beautiful grandchildren – another due next month. My husband, who was Dutch, has two sons and a daughter, and four lovely grandchildren. We are a very Asia-oriented family; which is a good thing given Australia’s proximity to Asia. Of our combined (eight) children’s spouses, one is Japanese, one Chinese Malaysian, one Chinese and five Caucasian of Anglo descent. Five of our ten grandchildren are Eurasian.
5. I have two brothers and two sisters, and we are all older than we want to be.
6. In this country I have lived in two states (NSW and South Australia) and one territory (Northern Territory), in regions ranging from sea to central desert and other inland areas. I love it all.
7. During the 1990s, I was a teacher, head teacher and principal in two schools in Aboriginal communities located far from Alice Springs in the Northern Territory. Those years were hard in terms of the effort I put into my work, but I loved my time there. The people are very welcoming and they know when they are being bull-shitted. Like any people, if you’re straight with them, care for and respect them, they will love and respect you.
8. I have wanted to write all my life, but until I was 57 in 2005, I thought I couldn’t do anything other than essays and reports (though I did them well). Then my husband encouraged me to try creative writing. This has opened up a well-spring of stories, poems and novels. I have published one YA novel, two children’s novels are almost ready for publication, and I am well into another YA novel. I have also been writing this blog since January 2010, and it has been great for both myself and my writing.
Is there something about you and your life that’s a bit different? Share one interesting fact about yourself.
© Linda Visman 3rd April 2014 (445 words)