Climbing The Family Tree
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Climbing The Family Tree

I'm the last of my clan. I'm the youngest of three daughters none of whom spawned offspring. I'm IT. I'm chopping down the family tree.

It wasn't for posterity's sake that I became curious about my ancestry, since there's no one post me. No, I wanted to take advantage of the genealogy tools available through the internet. These tools make available government records revealing facts about your ancestors. Documents recording major life events strung together like so many pearls on a thread. By researching these documents, I was able to piece together whole lifetimes. Generation after generation of families, interconnected, raising each other, caring for each other.

Following my father's family back to the 1600s I was able to identify patterns that were repeated over many generations. They tended to marry in their early 20s and have a baby every year and a half for the next 20 years. Many babies died. When a baby died there was a tendency to reuse the name so researching got a little confusing sometimes if I forgot to take that into consideration. (Why do I have 2 birth certificates 2 years apart for the same person?)

My paternal ancestors stayed in the same town in England for a dozen generations. Born, raised, married, lived and died without ever leaving that small town. Generation after generation melded their DNA into the countryside, always within the same ten mile radius. I have relations to this day living in that same small town in England.

A particularly useful document is the Census. Census counts are performed every 10 years in a year ending in 1. The first census documents available are for 1841. Censuses have to be 100 years old before they can be disclosed to the public. 2011 was an exciting year for genealogists because the 1911 census was released. Census information is gathered on a specific day in a specific year. The address at which you happen to be when the census man arrives is the address recorded for you for that year. A standard question on the census asks as to your relationship with the "head" of the household. "Guest" or "lodger" were frequent entries. The census revealed that multiple generations living under one roof were commonplace.

The census also reveals an address. Several of the addresses are still functioning today in Britain and a quick search on British Multiple Listing Services almost always scores a photo of the actual residences once occupied by my kin. The censuses of those days were total strangers to political correctness. Such insensitive questions as to the number of "imbeciles, idiots and simpleton's" in residence were matters of fact. How many in my family? I'm not saying.

There were not any notable achievements on my father's side of the tree. They were farm labourers and carpenters generally. They had large families, modest homes and a small world. Their lives are summed up with a handful of documents, just enough to let us know that they were here at all. I know a bit about them because I inherited their sense of humour, some of their skills, interests and talents. I know they lived longer than most for the time.

My paternal grandfather was the first of his family to leave England and move to Canada. I marvel at the courage that must have taken, not only to be the first of the family to leave, but then to travel across the Atlantic Ocean on a wooden ship the likes of which I wouldn't bet on to cross a sheltered bay. I continue to research my tree through the genealogy sites and I continue to learn things they never taught in school.


Street Talk

Enjoyed your article! As a self-professed amateur genealogist, I recognized your experiences with recycling names, pondering the 'simple' lives our ancestors led, and the joy at learning new things about our family. Although I am not IT in my family (I have 12 nieces and nephews) I'm currently the only one interested in genealogy. I look at my efforts as my 'progeny' and hope some day someone else will take up the charge. Kara W from Where Is My Family From

Reply
  about 8 years ago

Hi Kara, Thanks so much for reading and enjoying my article and for taking the time to comment. Feedback is a wonderful thing. Yes, I quite enjoy the research and sharing it with my mothers side of the family which is still growing strong. Perhaps I'll be able to pass my work on to one of them. If you haven't already tried this, you should check out some of your ancestors' addresses on Google Map. Many old streets and neighborhoods have retained their names and are easy to find. I've also found photographs of the ships they arrived on just by Googling the ships name which is on the passenger lists. Don't get me started..lol. All the best, Stephanie

Reply
  about 8 years ago
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