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Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Are you Inspired by Some Ancestors More Than Others? ? Motivation Monday

Do you feel drawn to some particular aspects of your family history?   

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?

My blog has concentrated very much on my mother's Danson and Rawcliffe family in Lancashire, largely I think because I grew up with my mother's relatives and regard Poulton-le-Fylde as my spiritual home.   Also the collection of old photographs at my grandfather's house was a great stimulus to finding  out more about the people who featured in them.  

Mary Barbara Matthews
In contrast we lived some distance away from my father's family (Weston and Matthews) in the English Midlands  and only saw my grandmother, aunt and uncles once a year.  Although my father  regularly corresponded with them, and talked about his childhood, anything further back was very nebulous.  Sadly there was hardly any  family memorabilia, which had been thrown out on the death of his eldest brother. 

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 I 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.

By coincidence when thinking about  this posting,   I came across a blog entry Writing on Family from Dawn,  where she reviewed an anthology entitled Women Writing On Family: Tips on Writing, Teaching and Publishing. It’s edited by Carol Smallwood and Suzann Holland and published by The Key Publishing House, Inc. of Toronto, Canada (www.thekeypublish.com). 

A key quote in the book struck a chord with me. 
"The best family histories are rich in detail" 

That is what my Weston family history lacks. So I am motivated to look at it again, to unearth more behind the bare information on the census returns and BMD certificates and to discover the stories behind the genealogy.

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.

So watch this space for progress on my research
and new stories on my paternal ancestry.

Motivation Monday is one of many daily prompts from www.geneabloggers.com

to encourage writers to record their family history and family memories.


  1. You're right that some families capture us more than others. Conversely sometimes the ones that make us work for every fact can become favourites too. I didn't much like one of my ancestors based on his will but have come to admire him over time. I do hope you find more information on your father's family so they feel more real to you. There is a book called "Writing a non-boring family history" by Hazel Edwards, another Aussie. I'm less of a fan than most but most people rave about it.

  2. I'm the same way. I have always been very attached to my maiden name and the ancestors descended from it. But the more research I do I find myself becoming attached to my brick wall ancestors that I have had to work so hard to find!

  3. Yes! I believe we all feel a stronger link to one branch of our family. I grew up hearing my mother & her mother tell me stories about my Irish roots. My Dad did not share stories so I did not feel the same connection. My research, including interviews with my Dad's aunts, has helped me to feel more connected with my Dad's family.
    Thanks for sharing your post.


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