I am hoping to interest both potential customers of my family history research services and people who are involved in their own family history research with regular blogs here about subjects related to English genealogy. Family history is a passion for me, I’ve always been interested to know about the people whose meetings and marriages go to make up my genetic heritage. Although I was interested in history at school, it was never the state history of wars and succession that fired my interest, but always the day-to-day lives of ordinary people, and how they differ from the way we live now.
I’ve been researching for so long that my own early life has slipped back into the past and become part of that history. There were only two television channels when I was a young child, and the programmes were only on for a few hours a day. To a child of the Millennium, the idea that there was a time when there was nothing but the test card to be seen seems absurd; but I’m not so old, and it was part of my reality.
When I was very little, my parents didn’t have a phone in the house, and had to run to the corner, to the public telephone, when an ambulance was needed. In a time when everyone carries their mobile phone around with them, it is difficult to accept that there was once a time when you were utterly disconnected, all the time.
Our stories and our families are every bit as much part of history as the kings and queens, dukes and duchesses, and the little things which have changed over the centuries give colour to those stories. How many people have milk delivered now? But the clink of the bottles in the early morning, and the sound of the milk van’s electrical motor, were an everyday part of life for our parents, grandparents and great grandparents.
Finding your family’s story is a journey which goes in many directions at once. If I had to offer one piece of advice to anyone starting that journey, it would be not to neglect the family history which is happening all the time: record the births and marriages of your contemporaries; make sure you identify photographs and keep them out of the light; and talk to your elderly relatives before it is too late.
I talked to my grandparents a great deal, and asked them questions about their lives as young children and about their families, but I still come across things in my research that make me wish I’d begun it sooner, when it would still have been possible to get answers to the questions I have. Why didn’t my mother meet her great-grandmother even though she was alive until she was 18? Did my grandmother know that her grandfather was still alive and living in Edmonton with a new family? Why didn’t my great grandmother’s sister ever visit her illegitimate daughter, even though she was living in her mother’s house? Family history can answer many questions about the history of your family, but some questions can only be answered by people who were there at the time, and may have to remain unanswered once everyone who knew has passed into the light.
So make contact with all those long-lost cousins and uncles and aunts, and tell them you are interested in family history, and then write down what you are told and who told you. You never know when some small piece of information will prove invaluable in sorting out your family from others.