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.


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.


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)

Keeping Records

August 13, 2011 at 9:23 am | Posted in Making History, Nature | 5 Comments
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On the beach

My husband and I enjoyed a quiet drive to our favourite beach today. We both have health problems, but this beach is a place where we can relax and enjoy its beauty. The sun was hidden behind various banks of clouds for most of the day, but it was still a beautiful winter’s day inEastern Australia.

We had packed our lunch – cheese and pickle sandwiches and orange juice – and we sat on the sand back from the water to eat it. There were surfers out beyond the breakers and occasional walkers along the beach, but it was particularly fun to watch the waves.

As one roller came in, it met the wave going back out. Because the beach shelves steeply there and is somewhat curved, where the two lots of water meet becomes a real clash of energies. They were opposite sides of a huge zipper – two huge pieces of fabric being pulled together and joining up to become one.

The loveliest thing about that union was that, as they united, it was as if a torpedo shot along the union, sending up a jet of water that changed speed according to how quickly the zipper closed. I didn’t have my camera with me right then, so I missed getting a photo.

After lunch, with the importunate seagulls disappointed at us for leaving no scraps, we set off for a slow, meandering walk along the beach. We took lots of photos – the rock walls back from the beach; the meagre remnants of the coal rail line that ran from the old mine to the wharf; tracks and patterns in the sand; shells, waves.

I didn’t realised until I downloaded them later that I had taken seventy-nine photos! How different it is nowadays to as near in the past as twenty years. Back then, we were reluctant to take many photos because it was so expensive to have them developed and printed. You waited until just the right moment presented itself, and missed most of the good ones.

And yet, I think about how we use photographs today. We probably have fewer printed photos around us than we did then – certainly not the cherished albums that recorded, sometimes too formally, the stages in our families’ lives.

Now, our photos languish on our hard drives, or on CDs or DVDs. Some of them make an appearance on social media sites we belong to, and some are sent via email to family and friends who may be interested. But what will become of them if something happens to the electronic gear that is storing them? What if there is major solar activity that destroys our electronic communications? And what if we haven’t printed at least the good photos?

I have been intending to sort and print those that I’ve taken since I first got a digital camera in 1994. But I haven’t done many yet; usually just a few, when I want them for a particular reason. I look around and I see how much of our history, our everyday life, is recorded digitally.

I believe that this current generation could have fewer records of its existence that any generation that existed before 1800. This is simply because so much of the record is digital, and it can all be destroyed in an instant, much more easily than the printed books and records that exist all over the world.

Perhaps I had better get on with printing those photographs that I want to keep before it is too late.


© Linda Visman 13th August 2011


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