Family History: Make a Start!

Due to the current restrictions, we have had to postpone the Family History Days planned for February and March. However, it is hoped we can go ahead with them during the autumn or winter.

Lockdown is an ideal opportunity to make a start on tracing the family tree. At this time of year the main genealogy websites have special offers and free access to some of their records – have a look at Ancestry and Findmypast to help get you started.

Linda Barraclough, a member of Praze-an-Beeble, contacted us recently to tell us about her exploration into her own family tree.

Linda writes:

I suppose I started on my family history in my late teens, though I didn’t know it then. Visiting my maternal grandmother on my own, I would later write down some of the things she talked about. She was in her 80s at that time, born in 1880, and in my research many years later, I found not all of her ‘facts’ were totally accurate! She was the only grandparent I knew so family information was limited. Mind you, you do find some surprises – I loved her dearly though she always seemed quite strict – but guess who was five months pregnant on her wedding day!

These days factual information to start a family tree is easier to find than when I started but it’s the tales around it that make it more a family story. As an example, a paternal cousin, now nearly 90, told me of the goose our grandparents bought to fatten up for Christmas (this in a city) that got out one day and followed her to the shops. We don’t know if the goose ever did get to the dinner table!

I don’t have children or grandchildren to pass our story on to but I do have nephews and a niece whose children may be interested in the future. In a cousin’s Christmas card this year she asked for the current version of our shared history as her son is now interested.

If you’ve not yet started, please do. Write down facts you know, stories your parents or grandparents have told you and things you remember from childhood. It may help pass some of the time during lockdown and, who knows, someone may be so very grateful many years from now.

Our in-house family history expert, CFWI Vice Chairman Jane Dover, emphasises how useful it is to future generations for us to write down stories, events and memories from our lives, which can be combined with information obtained from genealogy websites to build up a more rounded picture of family members.

Another task which can be completed whilst we sit out the lockdown is to label photographs. Think of all the images you have tucked away; you may know what they depict, but your descendants are unlikely to.

If any of you are currently tracing your family history and need some help, Jane is happy to offer advice or guidance. Email cfwi.publications@gmail.com.

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