Friday, September 11, 2009


It is surprising, no, I would not be exaggerating if I said, it is amazing what you can find out from a birth, marriage or death certificate.  The trouble is, you can be left with lots of tantalizing questions to ask, that may not be easily answered, if, indeed, they can be answered.

Most genealogically-minded people eventually produce a chart of the ancestors for domestic consumption only and the immediate descendants.  That is what the protocol advises; no-one born in the last 50 years or so, should be published on a public site, to protect identities and children.  You can tell when you are visiting a happy genealogist, there will be a wall covered in one chart design or other, detailing from whom they have descended. There might even be the glimmerings of a family branch line being developed.  They really do want you to notice and have you ask about their family research.

The obsessed genealogist will have paper files and files on computer.  S/he will have produced a book or booklet, maybe more than one of each, though where the published documents lie, is anyone's guess.  When two such people accidentally meet and discover their joint major interest, it is best to take a back seat, to watch, wait, and hear, what develops.  One will want to lay claim to be more expert than the other; one will rush to tell how much work has been published in their name. A competition is in progress.  It is like watching a joust; who will give way?

The question that  arises in family history research, is, how far do you want to go in finding out who you are? How much will accidents of geography allow you to walk the path to the answers that you seek?  It is relatively 'easy' for you to obtain information if all your links have been in one country for two or three hundred years,  or even more, and there are ways and means of accessing historical data.   If this is the case, another question arises, where do you stop?


adamantixx said...

as you know, i'm very interested in this subject and am more interested in uncovering the stories from the past rather than mere dates and names.
i've come across some magnificently quaint old names too!

TG said...

I wouldn't want to know about my ancestors like more than 100 years ago. I still have an old photo of my grand grandma from the 1910s. That's enough info for me :-) I'd rather know who I was in my past life. I feel I was Asian.

ZACL said...

Hello Ax,

It was a couple of situations I recently saw, a personal issue that arose, and your interest, that made me think about the points I have raised in this post.

It is frustrating to find lists of names and no characteristics. Even a function, a career, can make all the difference when finding out about ancestors. Some genealogists - serious ones - make out their charts - but have areas for notes, indeed some are very private notes. They may become accessible to someone many years hence. That, for me, is bringing meaning to the task.

You can see from marriage and birth dates quite a bit of local and family history. It is very useful to know, even to understand local mores, structures of life, when researching your family roots.

The BBC with their genealogy programme, which is compulsive viewing most of the time, employ an awful lot of external experts, then choose which lines they will use for a programme. We do not see even a quarter of what they find. The expensive research, that takes people abroad, is what they make look so simple. It is not, of course, and is usually a lot messier in reality, than demonstrated. The programme has magnetised a large chunk of people and spawned a range of media for people to buy and learn from. It is a time consuming hobby and not necessarily economic, either.

Starting then stopping are real issues for family research.

ZACL said...


You might need to find out where you came from a bit further back than the last 100 years if you wish to seek out your previous lives. You may even find a personality in your chain, who has connections with your Asian thoughts.

Are you thinking in terms of Genghis Khan?

adamantixx said...

viewing old census records is always an interesting pastime in that it gives so much detail about a family, the bulk of mine were either agricultural labourers, french polishers or mariners.
if i had the time and funds, i'd spend months travelling around old churches and browsing the graveyards.

ZACL said...

Fascinating stuff you are picking up Ax. Graveyards can be a useful source of info, not always the kind you want. I visited a couple this week that had an awful lot of infant mortality and wartime losses from the first world war.

Your mariners' link will be fruitful I am sure. Naval records are usually detailed, from what I recall hearing about them. There are not that many people who do French polishing either - think antiques and fine old houses here.

You've got a mine of interesting stuff to be digging into by the looks of things.

Marie said...

It's a fascinating subject, but you need a lot of time and patience to do all the digging. I'd like to try one day, though. I'm also interested in having my DNA tested to find out my ancestors. That's fascinating too. I suppose it's expensive, so that'll have to wait as well. As for previous lives, I think I was Celt as I am so drawn to Celtic stuff (music, jewellery, etc), or maybe a Viking because I love Scandinavia. First time I visited Sweden I felt like I'd gone home.

ZACL said...

Hello Marie,

Thanks for visiting.

The Celtic magnetism you mention is wide and far reaching. Ireland, Wales, Cornwall, Scotland and the near islands, like Iona, Shetland, Orkney etc., are all Celtic areas. I have not been to Scandinavia but I have travelled around many of the areas of the UK where Pictish/Celtic peoples lived. Much of the cultural heritage is still to be seen and flourishes in many forms.