Tracing family history was once solely for the privileged classes who sought to determine their lineage and claim their heritage, but today genealogists come from all walks of life, and their number has increased greatly with the advent of the Internet.
I recently received an e-mail from an unknown person in England with my surname who asked if my father was, in fact, my father and was I, who I am. E-mail had opened the door for this remote relative to communicate with a family member she had never met. This one e-mail sparked an urge to trace my own family.
There are literally thousands of web sites offering search and genealogy facilities. I chose Genes Reunited, www.genesreunited.com. to begin my genealogy quest. This site offered a range of search facilities for a novice genealogist at a small cost. It gave, amongst other search options, the opportunity to create your own online family tree, and contact other family tree owners to share researches.
And so the search began. First step was to put known family members into my on-line tree, after consulting relatives to obtain some initial names and birth data. An aunt had sent some details of one side of my family some years ago, so I added this information and very quickly had 31 names to start my tree. I wasn’t sure of some of my dates but the site allows you to search, give or take a number years.
Then the fun began, when hot matches appeared on the screen giving an e-mail contact for other family ‘arborists’ whose trees could contain more relatives. I sent messages to about 20 people and although most did not bear fruit, I received two responses where I was able to search their trees and gleaned new information about my great, great, great grandfather, Joseph who was born on 23 March in 1825 in Fellingshore in UK. He had an interesting working life beginning as a carpenter's apprentice in 1841, twenty years later he was the master of the vessel ‘Robert Stride’, then he was a ship’s carpenter, a coal inspector, a general labourer, and finally a colliery night watchman at the time of his death in June 1896. He married his wife, Elizabeth in 1852 and had three sons.
This family information received was exciting; it was not dry, uninteresting dates but rich pictures of individuals and their lives. I was hooked!
So where to next? Methodical searches of the site’s birth, death and marriage records and census details of each family member was the next step and this will take some time. There are tips and useful hints on site but an important tip I would share with first-time genealogists is to keep accurate records of all you do. It is so easy to double-up with similar names and close dates.
My tree is growing slowly and I am now in e-mail contact with relatives in various parts of the world that were either previously unknown to me, or I had not been in contact with for years. It is quite amazing how quickly this has all happened. So if you are inspired to trace your family history, remember as you shake the branches of your family tree that a few nuts and some embarrassing ancestors may fall out, but there will be the pleasant surprises too.
By Vee Noble