Do some ancestors appeal to you and become almost "living" vivid personalities, whilst others fail to capture your interest and are no more than one dimensional - little more than names and dates?
Are family photographs, memorabilia and heirlooms powerful motivators for research?
Mary Barbara Matthews
As a birthday present for my father, I did write up his family history, making use of a professional researcher in Shropshire to come up with the basic facts - this was the days before the Internet. It included sections on where the family lived as background, and added timelines of major events, but looking back at it, I admit it is pretty superficial and leaves me quite cold. I find it hard to identify with most of the people featured.
Where do I start to create a more illuminating paternal family history? There are some pointers.
- My great great grandfather Thomas Weston lived 1826-1917. The only family anecdote I have was told by my Uncle Fred who remembered Thomas picking damsons from the tree in his garden not long before his death at the age of 91.
Thomas was a bricklayer and married Annie Walker in 1851, making his mark on the certifcate. Six children were born, but by 1881 Thomas was a 54 year old widower, with his youngest child Annie only 7. However by 1891 he had remarried with his wife Harriet 18 years his junior and another son Thomas aged 9. In the 1911 census, the age of Thomas (senior) was given as 84 years and he died five years later.
What a lifetime Thomas witnessed - born before the accession of Queen Victoria and the first passenger train in Britain and died during the apocolypse of the First World War.
- The names of Thomas's daughgers appeal to me - Evangeline Lucy and Caroline Emily - quite high sounding names for a very ordinary family and I want to find out more about them, especially Evangeline. A quick initial look on census returns on www.ancestry.co.uk revealed she had 12 children.
- I was always told that my grandmother's parents John and Matilda Matthews were prominent Methodists - they certainly look straitlaced in the only photographs I have of them. So a new set of records for me to investigate here.
- Few families were unaffected by the First World War and the Matthews were no exception with www.cwgc.org. revealing that their son Arthur William was killed in 1915 at Gallipoli, aged 35, leaving four young children fatherless.