I started researching my family history in March 2007. At the time, I was a single, stay-at-home Mum and I bought into the illusion of the Ancestry adverts. You know the ones, they claim that one name is all it takes for a complete family tree to appear. It didn’t quite work out like that… but that’s a discussion for a later date.
Almost fourteen years after I entered the information I knew, I can’t even begin to tally up the amount of time, money, and energy I have invested in my family tree. I have discovered forgotten histories, reconstructed long lost lives from bare-bones, and attempted to breathe life into those who walked before me.
That two-week free trial I accepted on a whim sparked an intense and deep love affair with the vaults of social history. I can honestly say that it encouraged the tentative dip of the toes into a history degree. I’m due to graduate in 3 years after beginning in 2010. I suppose that’s what you get when you add four twigs to your tree in 8 years.
I discovered that genealogy is much more complicated than simply entering names in a software programme. It is much more complicated that adding one generation that went before another. In my own research I took many wrong turns, including spending months researching a family only to discover they were the wrong family. In my defence, Evan Evans appeared to be a popular choice in the nineteenth century.
There were walls I could not break down no matter how hard I tried. Including the challenge of William Williams, of which the breakthrough came when the 1939 register revealed his date of birth.
Then there was the time an entire family took offence to the facts (I’m sorry your great grandfather was a bigamist – twice. I’m sorry your grandfather ran off with the neighbour’s daughter. Neither of those things makes them an intrinsically awful person but they did happen).
I love this journey into the past. It’s not just a hobby that can be ‘dabbled’ in now and then, it it actually a passion. I do dip in and out and have done for 13 years, but it never takes me long to remind myself of who these people are and where they fit on the broader tree.