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Friday, 8 June 2012

E if for Excitement, Examining, Exchanging, Exploring, Empathy & Exhaustion - Family History Challenge

Having just finished a quick sprint through one A-Z challenge from Ros at http://genwestuk.blogspot.com/, I could not resist participating in a further series from Aona at

My focus here is on what we experience on our family history journey - E words proved to be very prolific.

E is for:
Alice Mason, nee Rawcliffe with her husband
and 3 of her 11 children.

Excitement  at finding  ancestors who were unknown to me,  For example   finding through a casual browsing on  www.familysearch.org that my great grandmother's sister Alice Mason, nee Rawcliffe died in  New Jersey, USA - my first knowledge  of an overseas connection.  After many years of appearing on message boards etc. without any success, I  heard a few months ago from  Alice's great granddaughter who had seen my blog posting. Great Elation!

Examining Records:  The fascination and pleasure in touching documents  written over a century ago that relate to my ancestor's life.

Roxburghshire Militia  List of 1797
Courtesy of Heritage Hub, Hawick -

Exchanging Information:  In pre-Internet days this activity came from joining Family History Societies and studying their listings of Members Interests. Now the world is open to us. My first venture into Internet research on my Bryning connections  resulted in more information in four weeks than I had unearthed in four years.  A wonderful tool - as long as you check sources!

Exceeding Expectations:  When I first started on my family history trail, I thought I would be lucky to trace my very ordinary Danson family back to the 1841 census.  I have far exceeded that, discovering my great great great, great  grandfather John Danson, born 1736, son of Peter.

Maria with her only daughter Jennie
and granddaughter Annie Maria
Empathy:  Finding the detail in research can bring "alive" our ancestors in that they become real, vivid personalities whom we can idenfity with.  For me it is my great grandmother Maria Rawcliffe (1859-1919) who is at the heart of my blog. How did she cope in a small terraced house bringing up eight surviving sons and one daughter?  How did she face, as a widow,  seeing five sons go to war,  with two not surviving?   

Expressing the family stories:  Research is an all abosrbing task, but turning the facts, names and dates  into a family story that people are interested in reading, whether through  blog  or book, is my favourite FH occupation.  Joining www.geneabloggers,ciom almost two years ago has been an Eye-opener , and I feel has developed considerably both my research and  written skills.  I recommend it, as a way of gaining Expertise and Enjoyment.

Expressions of sympathy and regard are made through Epitaphs and these  can often be moving or witty. Ones relating to my family  are not particularly striking, but the poetic style of this tribute appealed to me. Young Alice Cookson, another Danson descendant,  died 9 May 1815 aged 22, with her gravetone recording the touching thought:  "She lived respected and died lamented"  

Excursions into  Local and Social History  - The possibilities are endless. for adding colour to a family story.............,,,,,
  • Was your ancestor alive when  a Napoleonic invasion tyhrreatedned  with towns and villages ready to light beacons to warn of the French attack? threatened
  • Might your ancestors have seen the Jacobite army marching through Scotland and the north of England in 1745 as Prince Charles Edward Stuart (Bonnie Prince Charlie) attempted to take the Hanoverian throne?
  • The coming of the railway to a community must have been a thrilling event to witness, with local newspapers giving extensive coverage of the excitement generated.
  • Peebles Station in the Scottish Borders, c 1910.
    With kind permission of the Heritage Hub, Hawick

  • What about the impact of the invention of the sewing machine on the task of making a family's clothes?
  • Might your female ancestors have seen suffragettes campaigning locally?  
  • When was your local cottage hospital built, or the local football club formed?
  • How did your ancestral town or village mark Queen Victoria's Jubilees in 1887 and 1897 and her death   in 1901?

Envy:  If I had a touch of genealogical envy, it would be for family historians who have a diary written by their ancestor. What a wonderful piece of personal history which must bring you so much closer to the writer - not only the way  of life,  but with a unique insight into the emotions behind the words.   A family quilt or a family christening robe would evoke similar feelings  - the wonder of  touching something that was sewn by an ancestor.

Expense:  I have read comments in family history magazines about the expense of the hobby.  I have been lucky in that I have not had to spend much on obtaining BMD certificates. I can appreciate that people are on a tight budget, but it can be a question of being very focussed in accessing paid internet sites - being sure you have done the background work through other means and especially that you have found the "correct" person - admittedly not easy if you are researching  a popular name.  But it is worth remembering  so many leisure activities come at some cost, whether it be  sport, music, art and crafts,  collecting etc. 

And finally after all of this  - Exhaustion!


  1. I'm loving your family history Emtions and Experiences Susan. you make it so apparent why we all have such family history fun that exceeds any of our early expectations.

  2. A wonderful bunch of Ee's there Susan - can relate to them all. "Excursions into local & social history" I love and the Excitement of finding that my dad had a sister was truly unbelievable...ooohh... another Ee just jumped into my head as I began to write how Enjoyable it is "Expressing the family stories". In fact, it's all Enjoyable :-)Thanks for sharing your thoughts - Catherine

  3. I can feel the passion and expeirence you have for family history through what you write. As cailteile says, it is a wonderful bunch of E's.


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