Monday, March 7, 2011

Past Ties

It's Monday. It feels like Monday too. Which really sucks today because I'm out of ideas on what to write about. I was tempted to cut and paste my blog post over at Writers Evolution here, but decided against that one. I could update you on my weekend, but that was all about writing, catching up on the Who Do You Think You Are episodes and genealogy, because watching a show about tracing your ancestors naturally makes me want to dust off my long neglected notes and start digging around to see what I can find. I didn't get to the Lionel Ritchie episode yet, but I'm working on it. Conveniently I can watch it online through NBC.

Looks like it'll be genealogy, since I keep coming around to it and it is one of my favorite hobbies, though I usually fail to include it in my list of hobbies. Not sure why. Starting a family tree is pretty easy. There are several inexpensive or free genealogy programs - there are some pretty expensive ones too. But start inexpensive to see if you like it. offers a place to host your tree, which while convenient and easy especially with their hints and tips thing - you can't take your laptop into archive sections, so you actually have to print things out and well, it can get more complicated. But it's a place to start. There are other sites and places to search, which come in handy when the majority or even some of your ancestors are NOT British. Mine have a huge dose of Dutch in them, so some of the sites I need are in a language I can't read! But it's fun all the same.

Start with what you know, parents, siblings, grandparents, aunts and uncles. List them all and everything you know and then talk to them about what and who they know. Pay attention to the stories and legends or whispered myths, because they made hold information or kernels of truth. They may also hold the start of the book that is gnawing at you that you can't quite place or a way to twist something in a new way.

Things to consider -
- The way you pronounce or spell your last name may not be the original or only way that members of your family will spell/pronounce. Names like Haas become Houes and House for example. Even if it is, it could change over time.
- Don't assume that every name like yours is family.
- Watch for reuse of names. It was very common in some countries for children to have the same name as a deceased sibling. So you will have 3 or 5 John's in one family. And John is most likely the name of the father's father, but not necessarily. John could be the name of the mother's father, the father or a beloved brother or uncle.
- Proof is much better than guessing.
- Cemeteries have a wealth of information

Oh, and now I know what to write for April -just have to unearth it. :)

I have spent many hours in libraries looking at microfiche, but I have yet to travel to various archives or vital records offices to uncover more information. The forms most genealogist use are free and can be downloaded and printed off. I have binders full of forms, printouts, and assorted memorabilia because it all tells a story of the life of a person. Which in turn reminds me that my characters need the same kind of depth.



chocoaddict said...

I watched the Lionel Ritchie episode - it was fascinating! I'm trying to gather my info, but it's hard. Like you, most of my family records are in another language. But the more I find out, the more I'm hooked. And the more material I have for stories!

Nice post.

Sidney Ayers said...

I love Who Do You Think You Are. My favorite was Sara Jessica Parker's from last season. She found out she had ancestors that survived the Salem Witch Trials.

I've tried searching my ancestors, but most my dad's family immigrated from the Netherlands. I don't read Dutch and most the sites I've found aren't in English. *sighs*