Month: January 2010

52 Weeks to Better Genealogy: Week 3

I’m a bit late starting on Amy’s 52 Weeks to Better Genealogy Challenge, but late is better than never, so here goes.

Week 3:

Assess yourself! You’re great at researching everyone else’s history, but how much of your own have you recorded? Do an assessment of your personal records and timeline events to ensure your own life is as well-documented as that of your ancestors. If you have a genealogy blog, write about the status of your own research and steps you may take to fill gaps and document your own life.

What do I have to document my life?

I have my birth certificate, and my marriage certificate. Those are the essentials, I guess.

I have my two university degrees, and transcripts. And my counselling diploma.

I have old journals and diaries.

I have these blogs, and their backups on my computer.

I have masses of family photos, some of which have me in them. The early ones are classified and named as best I can. They are in albums and on my computer and backed up on an external hard drive.

I tell family stories to my nieces, including my own, but I’ve realised they probably don’t really know much about me. I can change that, I guess, or I can write more of it down.

Some of this would need an IT-literate person to dig up, like the blog backups.

If I think of more, or more likely when I think of more, I’ll add them later.

Next morning

I was lying awake last night thinking about this, and I realised I was thinking of the documents and photos that a future family historian might be happy to have. I thought of some more:

  • my resume, detailing the jobs I’ve had and what I did in them
  • copies of references, from the days when written references were normal
  • a folder full of certificates of attendance and such at various courses, mostly in IT but there’s one on Thai Cooking
  • various documents and search results relating to the house we currently own
  • mortgage documents which a really keen family historian could wade through
  • a Google Map, showing where I’ve lived through my life

But the other thing I was thinking was that I could have taken this a different way. Very little of all this wonderful detail is documented in my family tree software. I use TMG, which is more than capable of handling any and all of this stuff. All I have about me personally, though, is my birth, marriage, university degrees, and attendance at various family funerals.

It has never occurred to me to try to document my life as part of the whole family history I am trying to build, and that never really part of the plan.

One good reason to do it, though, is for the practice it gives. I know more about my life than anyone else’s, and the problems I will encounter and the procedures I will have to invent will be useful when I come to document the other members of my family.

So there it is. More work to do! I knew there was a reason I was hesitant to get started on these 52 Challenges!

Australia Day family history events

It’s Australia Day, and I was inspired by Shelley’s blog to find out what happening on this day in my own family’s past.

Here are the highlights:

1616 – Eleanor Nicholas, my 9th great grandmother, was baptised in St Keverne, Cornwall.

1823 – Martha Miles, my 3rd great-grandmother, was baptised in the Wesleyan Methodist Church at Towcester, Northamptonshire. She married George Goode from Yardley Hastings, Northamptonshire and they migrated to New South Wales with their two young daughters.

1840 – James Pascoe, baby brother of my 3rd great-grandfather Henry Pascoe of St Keverne, Cornwall, was baptised. He died unmarried  when he was only 31.

1865 – Grace Pascoe nee Oates, my 3rd great-grandmother, her daughter Bessie, and her mother Elizabeth Oates nee Williams arrived in Sydney on the Hornet from Plymouth as assisted immigrants, eventually joining their brothers and sons in the Millthorpe area of New South Wales. Eleanor Nicholas was her 4th great-grandmother.

2008 – dear Uncle Ray passed away after a long illness.

For all but the last one there was no ‘Australia’, let alone Australia Day.

To find out how I got the list out of my family tree software, see this blog.

When is a substandard photo a great photo?

I’ve recently updated my Facebook photo from the Christmas version to my normal one. The normal one is taken from an unusual angle, and it’s a bit fuzzy. I love it, though, because of the photographer and the circumstances in which it was taken.

My niece turned 13 early last year, and for her birthday her parents had approved a mobile phone. This is no ordinary 13-year-old – she looks after her things amid the chaos of living in a small house full of teenage girls. So the day this photo was taken I took her shopping to buy her the Aunty Carole present,  and we looked for her mobile at the same time.

In the end the mobile she wanted was more expensive than her parents had approved, but with my contribution would work out. We called her Dad, he said yes, and we bought the phone and went home with it.

The battery had a bit of charge, and she started playing with the camera. She took this photo of me as I was leaving – the car keys are in my hand.

So every time I see this photo it reminds me of her, and what a good day we had that day. It’s not a great photo as a portrait of me, but I love it. She’s taller than me, as you can see.


So it’s the memories associated with the photo that make it special. I used to find this when I would edit the enormous numbers of prints from an overseas holiday. We used to go to exotic places with wildlife (and we will again one day), and we’d come home with dozens of rolls of film. When the photos were developed I’d sort through them and choose the best to put in an album. [This is like a history lesson, we don’t do this any more!]

Sometimes it was hard to choose the right photo, because the memories attached to the photo outweighed the objective interest of the photo itself. The first lion we spotted in Africa resulted in a photo of a small blob in a large expanse of yellow grass, which could just as easily have been a bush. Anyone looking at the photo would not give it a second glance, but for me it brings back the excitement of the day, with everyone leaning out that side of the truck trying to decide what it was, and realising it was a lion! The first iceberg on the way to the Antarctic peninsula is equally unspectacular. So the photos are in the albums even though they mean nothing, and may be uninterpretable, to anyone else.

Family history

Perhaps this is a by-product of the Camera Age, where we all take way too many photos and keep them all. Or the Tourist Age. I was recently subjected to the digital photos of a nephew’s trip to Egypt, all 1050 of them. Overseas trips are particularly susceptible to this. After I had chosen the photos and put them in the album I would check with my husband to see if I’d left any out that he has particular memories of – a shot re remembers trying to take of a leopard, or whatever, that had no significance for me.

Looking through old family albums, then, may not be the time-consuming process it is for more recent ones, but the same principle applies. Before you flick past to the next page, looking for a face you recognise, think about the photo you are looking at.

Why that building? Or that tree? What could it’s significance have been? Who took it? Is the format different from all the others, an indication that someone else’s camera was involved?  Do the same people, or buildings, or even trees, keep turning up? Is it just a blob in the grass?