I’ve made a start on my Genealogy Do-Over, and even though I’m not far in (somewhere in the middle of Week 2), I’ve been surprised to discover things I didn’t know. Or more specifically, what I didn’t know.
We all know the first thing we should do when starting to research our family histories is to speak to relatives. But how many of us really do it? I mean, REALLY do it. When I started out, sure, I asked my mum plenty of things, and every now and then I ask her some more. Sometimes I even ask her to ask her aunt a specific question or two. I’m sure many of you have done, or do this, as well. But I wonder, how many of us skipped past the basic stuff and moved straight into the more ‘interesting’ stories?
For example, by filling out Thomas MacEntee’s reconfigured family tree chart for myself (which you can download from him here) – something I’d never done before: I guess I thought I knew about ME, so what was the point? – I discovered I didn’t even know where my brothers were born. I knew which state they were born in, and even which city, but not the suburb, or anything more specific. In many ways, this is probably not such a big deal (and I can easily find out by asking), but it made me think: If I don’t know this little thing about my own siblings, how much have I been missing in all of my research? I’m aiming to be more careful (thorough) from now.
|My great-grandfather’s WWI service medal|
Another thing the Do-Over has encouraged me to do, though I had hoped to do it next time I had the chance anyway (it required interstate travel), was to visit my mother’s aunt and ask her a series of questions myself. In particular, I hoped she would let me look at, and photograph, my great-grandfather’s WWI medals, which she did. She was very generous in the stories she shared and, while she didn’t necessarily know the answers to most of my questions, I learnt a lot of great things. And she seemed delighted to be able to share the stories with someone who was interested to listen.
Now I have a new list of people I need to speak to, and hopefully I’ll find time to do that sooner rather than later. Even though it will all have to be done using either Skype or email.
So that I don’t feel alone, tell me, have you been recently surprised by some little fact you assumed you knew but found out you didn’t?
So often we forget to get the information from our living relatives thinking we will have plenty of time or assuming we know all the details. A great post.
Thanks Helen. I'm glad it resonated with you.
Indeed! I recently found out that one of my older sisters was left with an aunt and uncle for a very long time when the next child was born and as the distance was great and transport costly, when she was eventually returned as a toddler she did not 'know' Mum. Quite distressing for all concerned at the time no doubt, but no long term harm done.
This has prompted me, yet again, to focus on what I really want to ask my mum when I visit her in England later in the year. Thanks Tiggy.
That's a great find!
Great Pauline. Have you started writing a list of questions?
That's something I need to start on.