“Family faces are magic mirrors. Looking at people who belong to us, we see the past, present and the future.”
Gail Lumet Buckley, US writer/journalist
Do you resemble either of your parents? In my father’s family of eleven children, eight of the children resembled their mother by having broad faces, deep blue eyes and fair curly hair. The other three had their father’s dark hair, heart shaped faces and grey/blue eyes. The fair genetic strain is very strong in that I closely resemble both my dad and grandmother and my daughter is ‘the spitting image’ of me.
What facts do you know about your parents and grandparents? When I speak to groups of people, I always ask the audience whether they know where each of their grandparents were born and increasingly many raise their hands and tell me that they have ‘done’ their family tree.
”Great” is my response but then go on to ask what personal details they have about each of those four forebears? What colour was their hair when they were young? Where did they live as a child? How did they meet and fall in love? What was their native language? Did they immigrate to this country? How did they get an education?
You are a direct conduit between your grandparents and your grandchildren – five generations of your unique family and you have a responsibility to future family generations to leave any/all information you have as a heritage legacy. “Yes,” you say, “But where do I find the information and how much detail do I need?”
As Julie Andrews sang in ‘The Sound of Music’, “Let’s start at the very beginning... It’s a very good place to start!”
- Open to a new page in a notebook or in Word and write down the names, dates and places of birth of each of your four grandparents and for both of your parents, giving each person an entire page.
- Add all of the details you already know, making sure to make notes of information sources as you go eg ask Auntie Betty about Ma’s first job etc.
- Setting up a timeline for each person may also help, especially if your relatives moved about, meaning that you may have to stretch your searches of records, newspaper articles etc to aid your detective work.
- Cut down on your time/resource commitment by breaking the research into manageable portions and inviting other family members to take on a research task.
- Scan and digitise all documents, certificates, letters and photographs. Provide other contributing family members with copies to enable them to add different facets of information about each relative.
- Another good idea is to invite all family members to write a short story about each family member.
The important thing is to get started, to break it down into small manageable portions and to involve everyone in the family. Make a start today!
Time passes, memories fade and we take our stories with us when we go.