How did we become who we are?

The saying that “you don’t know who you are until you know where you came from” holds true for a lot of people. You will discover that as you start researching your family tree you will find out what your ancestors had to go through to get you where you are now. Their journey explains a lot about who you are as a person.

We all make our own choices in life and have our own unique or shared experiences as we travel though it. But these are not the only things that create who we are. The choices and experiences of our parents and ancestors also got us to where we are now whether we acknowledge it or not.

If my parents had not decided to leave Ireland in the 1950s I would be Irish and not Canadian. The choice my father made as a result of high unemployment in Ireland changed the course of his descendents lives.

It wasn’t just the choices of my parents that got me where I am. If my great grandfather, a commercial traveller for Quaker Oats who lived in Lancashire, hadn’t walked down that street in Limerick and spotted my great grandmother things again would have been different.

The experiences of your ancestors and the choices they make or those that are made for them have shaped who you are as a person. The results of these experiences formed our ancestor’s beliefs, passions, opinions, fears and loyalties. As a result this helped them decide how to raise their families and what values to instill in their children.

As you go through the research process you may find that some things have not changed for your family through the last century but then again some things may have changed drastically. Where did your family’s work ethic come from? Why did your family have to leave their homeland?

In 1685 the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes in France sent my Huguenot Sers family to London England. In the mid to late 1700s a branch went to Dublin Ireland. These choices whether made by my ancestors or made for them as a result of other circumstances changed the path of their descendents lives.

Researching family history is not just looking at the individual person or family. You will have to learn about different kinds of history such as social, political, economic and military, as well as border changes and religious beliefs and freedoms. All these created your family history and as a result helped put you where you are today.

©2010 – Blair Archival Research

“Who Do You Think You Are?”

The United States version of this popular British television show is to air on March 5th on NBC television. This show has crossed the globe with Canada, Ireland, Australia, Sweden, Poland and South Africa all creating their own versions of “Who Do You Think You Are?” since the programs inception in 2004.

In Britain it is not just the television show “Who Do You Think You Are?” there is also the monthly magazine, website and family history exhibition, “Who Do You Think You Are? Live” that is held annually the last weekend of February.

I have had the pleasure of watching the versions from Canada, Britain and Australia. The stories have been interesting and along the way I learned something new. The BBC production of Jane Horrocks family history took her to Lancashire to see how her family was involved in the cotton industry. My family was also involved in the cotton industry in Lancashire so I learned a bit of history that related to my family story from her family story.

The Canadian version lasted one season and was only half an hour in length. A bit disappointing since you couldn’t really get into the journey of discovering the celebrity’s family history. In North America there is the unavoidable “commercial time” that cuts into the program. This is not as much of an issue in Britain and Australia.

There has been a lot of talk that people are disappointed in the fact that they are not showing the research process in this program and others like it. They believe this causes people to think they can just go online and find out their family history without doing much leg work.

The point of these programs is to present a story that the viewers will find interesting. I just enjoy the story aspect of the program and how the celebrity reacts to what is discovered about their family’s past.

How many of us actually knew what it took to research our family history when we first started? Something hooked us and we began our road of discovery into our own personal history. We learned the process along the way. If we knew the work involved would we have actually started researching our family history?

Let’s enjoy the ride that these people are embarking on and share their joys and sorrows in discovering their family stories.

©2010 – Blair Archival Research

You won’t find it all on the Internet…

While going through my family information in preparation for the trip I have noticed one thing about my research plans. It has been a recurring theme that is just unavoidable. I won’t find everything on the Internet.

There is still an awful lot of work that can only be done in an actual building that holds items that provide information. This means using books, microfilms and other resources. It could be an old fashioned concept but one that is still necessary in family history research. The building can be an archive, library, historical society, court house, university library or family history centre.

I will admit that I love to go into libraries and just be with the books. I will go through dozens of books checking for specific and obscure information that could relate to my family history.

The darkened microfilm room with everyone intently staring at the images is a very peaceful place, except of course when you get the one microfilm reader that squeaks at every opportunity.

Then there is the one thing that brings a smile to all faces and it is when someone expresses a very excited “yes” to signify that they have found the piece of information they have been looking for and it has solved a problem. They realize their excitement has broken the silence and they quietly do a little happy dance in their chairs.

One person is usually found to be mumbling quietly to themselves, a sign of madness in some places but not a family history library. They are usually the ones who didn’t find what they were looking for and are trying to figure out where to look next.

The library is a place where you can find direct information on your family or information that will help expand your family’s history. Either way you will be enhancing your experience by leaving home to do research in an actual building.

©2010 – Blair Archival Research

The Results of Checking an Item off your Genealogy Bucket List

You know how people have their “Bucket Lists” of things they really want to do or see; well I will be able to tick one of those items off my own list this year. I have the amazing opportunity of going to Salt Lake City to spend time researching in the Family History Library.

Since most of my research time is spent on client work my own family history has suffered a little over the last few years. In preparation for this trip of a life time I have been going through all my family history files (computer and paper) and genealogy database so that everything can be updated and at the same time creating research plans.

The trip has been the impetus for me to organize my own research but I can highly recommend doing this for your own family history, even if you are not going to Salt Lake City. Over the years I have occasionally found bits of information and just stuffed it in the appropriate family file or in the general family name file for safe keeping.

Since going through the information in these files some treasures I didn’t remember finding have come to light. While updating information and creating research plans I have also been putting together the pieces that were saved in my files.

Some of these pieces have filled in blanks that I had been stuck on for a while. A few have broken down a brick wall. On the other hand some have also created a brick wall and made me rethink my research. These are all good things and will benefit my research in the end.

This process started just before the New Year and it has basically been my weekend project. The difficulty has been that I get so involved with it that I don’t want to stop. My enthusiasm for my own family history research has returned with a vengeance and I love it.

©2010 – Blair Archival Research

Family History: Hobby, passion or obsession?

Welcome to the Passionate Genealogist blog. My goal is to share stories and provide information and encouraging support to those who have embarked on this wonderful journey of researching family history.

Researching family history has become a very important part of my life. It is not only my profession where I help others find their ancestors; it is also my hobby as I find my own links to the past. When I travel genealogy is always involved whether by attending conferences, going to libraries and archives to do research or giving lectures. I must say I prefer a dark microfilm reading room or roaming cemeteries to a hot sunny beach.

My family has said that my passion for genealogy has turned into obsession but then there is a very fine line between the two. All I know is that I get great enjoyment out of finding new information and new links. It doesn’t matter if it is with my own family or my clients; I get the same great excitement.

Personal and client family history isn’t my only reason to do research. I have found interesting individuals in my community and other places. These people have taken my fancy for some reason and off I go again. Local history projects that I am undertaking also provide new research opportunities.

I will tell you the stories of my own research and the research into those that have taken my fancy in future blog entries.

Is family history a hobby, a passion or an obsession for me? Yes to all three.

©2010 – Blair Archival Research

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