Opinion

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Supporting the family history societies in the areas where my family originated has been important to me. As a result I am a member of the Manchester & Lancashire Family History Society, Glasgow and West of Scotland Family History Society and the Genealogical Society of Ireland. I also support the Ontario Genealogical Society including the Halton-Peel Branch and the Ireland Special Interest Group. There are no family connections to these areas I just feel it is important to support their activities for future generations.

Being a member of the societies in Ireland, England and Scotland has helped with my research. There is a journal that comes out every quarter or once a year filled with articles about current record releases, research stories, publication lists and sometimes there are indexes to some records that are small and relate to the area. You can find a synopsis of lectures given at the society. I have written articles for the GWSFHS and GSI journals and have found distant family members who are also members. By being in contact with these groups I keep up to date of what is available for those areas. If I have a question then the chances are that sending them an email may result in an answer.

Occasionally the records that would help me with my research are not available in any form on this side of the Atlantic. You can sometimes find local members of the society who are happy to help you with your research for a small fee and/or a reimbursement of expenses. Some societies offer a research service. If they can not help you they can recommend someone who can.

Lately I have been catching up with my reading and while reading The Manchester Genealogist the journal for the Manchester & Lancashire Family History Society I came across an article about the future of Clayton House where the society has been housed for about twenty years. I had the privilege to visit Clayton House in 2003 and while there I did some research, picked up a few interesting publications and got some advice.

The Society has been considering a move because the rent has become too much for the society and their membership has dropped by over one thousand in recent years. This is very sad news indeed.

Family history societies are the backbone of the genealogical community. The people who began and continue these groups have a true passion for family history research. They have spent countless hours transcribing, indexing, creating and typing many of the databases we take for granted today. The latter members have worked diligently in getting some these databases published and put online.

It can not be said enough that you will NOT find everything for your family history online. At some point you will have to go to the area where your family originated and the family history society for the area would be a true asset to your research. If you do not support them now they will not be there when you need them.

Another consideration is that not everyone is online and they could be members of these societies who read the journals. Are you missing out on finding someone who has a wealth of family history information relating to your family simply because you are only looking online for information?

The closure of family history societies due to lack of membership would be an enormous loss to the genealogical community. Please join your local family history society today and at least one in the homeland of your ancestors.

©2011 – Blair Archival Research

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While watching television I have noticed that genealogy is appearing in pop culture. There is a commercial for a vitamin C product and above the bed of the cartoon character is a copy of his family tree. In the television show “Brothers and Sisters” there is now a theme involving family history that is bringing in a new story line regarding the past of one character and the parentage of another. In the movie “Little Fockers” the Focker grandparents, played by Barbara Streisand and Dustin Hoffman, research the genealogy of the character Jack Byrnes played by Robert De Niro. Ancestry.com is broadcasting commercials in mainstream media. I wonder where genealogy references will appear next. Have you seen references to family history in mainstream media? Where? Let me know by leaving a comment to this post.

©2011 – Blair Archival Research

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Nowadays everyone who has an opinion is blogging, texting or tweeting that opinion to the world. Where can you find a lot of these people? They are in the coffee shop. They are using the free wi-fi to upload blog posts and their hand held devices to send their 140 character thoughts through the airwaves while having a coffee. Since you can only use 140 characters a new form of writing has become necessary. The coffee shop has become a place of business for a lot of people.

So let’s rewind about three or four hundred years. What were people doing? Oh yes, they were voicing opinions but the way those opinions were sent out into the world was a printed pamphlet. Oh, but these were very expensive so they had to develop a new form of writing to use less characters to get their message across. Hmmm

The coffee house was the hub of the community, next to the public house. Coffee was all the rage and coffee houses were the place to see and be seen. Samuel Pepys and Samuel Johnston frequented them. Business was also conducted in the coffee house.

Everything old is new again. What are you doing now that your ancestors might have been doing three or four hundred years ago? If you did not have any of the currently available technology is your life really all that different from your ancestors?

©2010 – Blair Archival Research

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Everyone who researches their family history ends up sharing their data at one point or another. It is the nature of family history research. I do it myself particularly when I first started out.

Twenty years ago the problem of identity theft was not as big as it is today. We still had to use the mail to share our family history information so you always had a mailing address for the person on the receiving end.

People did not have their entire family trees online. No concern was given to the information relating to the living members of the family.

Today you have an email address that can be as fleeting as sunshine on an overcast day. The personal contact information for the people you are sharing your information with is not freely given either.

I knew things were moving very quickly in the world of family history when my own information came back to me within one year. I had sent out a descendents chart to someone in Australia, they sent it to someone in Florida who sent it to someone in Alabama and then to Texas. Texas sent it back to me and they did not know that the information had originated with me in the first place. Everyone passed it along without informing anyone about the name of the data’s originator.

I then started putting my address stamp on every page of information I sent out.

Next I started shortening the information being shared. I would try to figure out which branch the enquirer came from and send only the information that would relate to them. They would ask for the other branches of the family which would not be given out, especially if our shared ancestor was six generations back.

Sometimes I wish that I knew twenty years ago what I know now and maybe my data would not be floating around the world unidentified. The other thing is that I have improved my research practices. Sources are cited in more detail and even if it is a tiny bit of information from someone they become my source reference.

Hind sight is always twenty twenty and we can only do better when we know better. Everyone is on a learning curve. Not many of us knew how to actually research our family history when we started we just jumped in and went for it.

Lately my own personal data has been found online which came from descendents charts that had been sent to “new cousins” years ago. I had already started making notes of who received what so the trail could be followed. A little piece of innocuous information would be imbedded that could identify who had received it. These people were contacted and nicely asked to remove my data. They very kindly did so right away.

The only problem was with Ancestry who said there was nothing they could do and would not take the information down. I was especially cross when one tree attached my family to another family that was not connected in anyway. This research was wrong and Ancestry would not remove it.

I will admit that these experiences have made me think twice before sharing my family history data. It bothers me to think that way but my research data is a result of my hard work. I am the one who put in all the hours and a little credit for the work would not go awry.

The need people have for the instantaneous fix has permeated family history research and sometimes not in a good way. Not everything can be found online.

I feel sorry for them in a way because they are missing out on a great adventure. There is nothing like planning a genealogy research trip and going to see actual records. Putting your hands on the documents that your ancestors held or being in the same place where they walked down the hall to register a land transaction or birth. Or to be in a Family History Centre reading microfilms and sharing information with the community that gathers there.

In my opinion to miss these kinds of activities in your research is to miss out on a lot. It becomes a gathering data race rather than a personal journey of discovery.

You can not be in touch with your ancestors only through a computer. They did not have one.

And remember to please ask the living members of your family for their permission before you put any data relating to them online. Or better yet do not put any data relating to living relatives online at all. They will thank you in the end.

©2010 – Blair Archival Research

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The saying that “you don’t know who you are until you know where you came from” holds true for a lot of people. You will discover that as you start researching your family tree you will find out what your ancestors had to go through to get you where you are now. Their journey explains a lot about who you are as a person.

We all make our own choices in life and have our own unique or shared experiences as we travel though it. But these are not the only things that create who we are. The choices and experiences of our parents and ancestors also got us to where we are now whether we acknowledge it or not.

If my parents had not decided to leave Ireland in the 1950s I would be Irish and not Canadian. The choice my father made as a result of high unemployment in Ireland changed the course of his descendents lives.

It wasn’t just the choices of my parents that got me where I am. If my great grandfather, a commercial traveller for Quaker Oats who lived in Lancashire, hadn’t walked down that street in Limerick and spotted my great grandmother things again would have been different.

The experiences of your ancestors and the choices they make or those that are made for them have shaped who you are as a person. The results of these experiences formed our ancestor’s beliefs, passions, opinions, fears and loyalties. As a result this helped them decide how to raise their families and what values to instill in their children.

As you go through the research process you may find that some things have not changed for your family through the last century but then again some things may have changed drastically. Where did your family’s work ethic come from? Why did your family have to leave their homeland?

In 1685 the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes in France sent my Huguenot Sers family to London England. In the mid to late 1700s a branch went to Dublin Ireland. These choices whether made by my ancestors or made for them as a result of other circumstances changed the path of their descendents lives.

Researching family history is not just looking at the individual person or family. You will have to learn about different kinds of history such as social, political, economic and military, as well as border changes and religious beliefs and freedoms. All these created your family history and as a result helped put you where you are today.

©2010 – Blair Archival Research

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You know how people have their “Bucket Lists” of things they really want to do or see; well I will be able to tick one of those items off my own list this year. I have the amazing opportunity of going to Salt Lake City to spend time researching in the Family History Library.

Since most of my research time is spent on client work my own family history has suffered a little over the last few years. In preparation for this trip of a life time I have been going through all my family history files (computer and paper) and genealogy database so that everything can be updated and at the same time creating research plans.

The trip has been the impetus for me to organize my own research but I can highly recommend doing this for your own family history, even if you are not going to Salt Lake City. Over the years I have occasionally found bits of information and just stuffed it in the appropriate family file or in the general family name file for safe keeping.

Since going through the information in these files some treasures I didn’t remember finding have come to light. While updating information and creating research plans I have also been putting together the pieces that were saved in my files.

Some of these pieces have filled in blanks that I had been stuck on for a while. A few have broken down a brick wall. On the other hand some have also created a brick wall and made me rethink my research. These are all good things and will benefit my research in the end.

This process started just before the New Year and it has basically been my weekend project. The difficulty has been that I get so involved with it that I don’t want to stop. My enthusiasm for my own family history research has returned with a vengeance and I love it.

©2010 – Blair Archival Research

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Welcome to the Passionate Genealogist blog. My goal is to share stories and provide information and encouraging support to those who have embarked on this wonderful journey of researching family history.

Researching family history has become a very important part of my life. It is not only my profession where I help others find their ancestors; it is also my hobby as I find my own links to the past. When I travel genealogy is always involved whether by attending conferences, going to libraries and archives to do research or giving lectures. I must say I prefer a dark microfilm reading room or roaming cemeteries to a hot sunny beach.

My family has said that my passion for genealogy has turned into obsession but then there is a very fine line between the two. All I know is that I get great enjoyment out of finding new information and new links. It doesn’t matter if it is with my own family or my clients; I get the same great excitement.

Personal and client family history isn’t my only reason to do research. I have found interesting individuals in my community and other places. These people have taken my fancy for some reason and off I go again. Local history projects that I am undertaking also provide new research opportunities.

I will tell you the stories of my own research and the research into those that have taken my fancy in future blog entries.

Is family history a hobby, a passion or an obsession for me? Yes to all three.

©2010 – Blair Archival Research

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