I guess genealogy research is one of those things that you either love or hate. For some, the idea of sitting in front of a computer for hours on end, searching through handwritten and scanned records from over 150 years ago, trying to decipher names and work out which of the millions of John Halls was YOUR ancestor makes them shudder. “I’d rather stick pins in my eyes” has been one comment I’ve heard. Others could carry on long into the night, checking and double checking records, trying to puzzle together small pieces of information. Of course I belong to the latter group.
My first attempt at genealogy was around 7 or 8 years old. I remember lying on the floor at my great aunts’ house with a long ream of paper, a pencil and a ruler, drawing lines and writing names while the old ladies helped me. And goodness there were many names! Quite often I had to start again with a longer ream of paper when they aunts exclaimed that they’d forgotten about Lot, or Billy, but I didn’t mind. For the longest time, depictions of how people were related, how many children they had and how old they lived to be fascinated me.
When records came online, I was so happy. Each time a new census was added, I’d frantically look up and add all I could to my vast family tree. But then interest would wain when I ran out of additional information. Years would go by and I’d forget about the research until a new census came out and I’d start again. In the beginning, I just wanted to see as many names as I could – bums on seats. A new hit – finding a long forgotten family member – was like a drug. Then, one day I was in the Bolton Local History Archives and a very helpful man – David Dixon – overheard me asking questions about records. He told me he had a website for St. Mark’s Church in Bolton and he’d been adding in all christenings and marriages. He showed me the website and we found the marriage of one of my great aunts. That was my introduction to Parish records. I could travel home again back to Sweden and look up more information. That was when the names in my tree started to become people. How they signed their names (or not), who were the witnesses at their weddings, godparents to their children. Further research lead me to others researching the same family, long discussions, and photos. Photos! At one point I even discovered that in an old photo hanging on my parents’ wall was my great, great uncle that we had no idea about. And there he was standing next to my great grandfather on their annual grave diggers outing (yes, the mind boggles).
Some long-forgotten family members I felt an instant affinity to. A very strange feeling having never met them or known what kind of person they were. Maybe I’ve always been drawn to needing to feel like part of the bigger picture. And marvel at the fact that I’m actually here. All those chance meetings/ happenings throughout history to produce me. One slight change and neither I nor my children would be here. And of course, I love to research. I still do.
Of course I have found endless family secrets to write about. Who knew that so much of peoples’ lives could be traced just from a few records? Maybe I’m spoiling the fun for my children – there won’t be much left to research by the time they get interested (if ever). Than again, maybe they’ll have more luck than I trying to find out what the heck happened to my John Hall…