The Many Branches of an Old Family Tree

The Mighty Oak!

A couple of weeks ago, I was talking with my parents when the subject of our family history came up.  My father said he didn’t want to sound morbid or anything, but that documenting our family’s history before there is no one left to tell it would be a good idea.  Since my parents are fascinated with my ability to pull up information at the drop of a hat via Google (I am a master Googler), I opened up my laptop and thought I would delight them with my skills, and started searching for information and/or records of our family on an ancestry website.

Well, sadly, my skills fell flat because I wasn’t a paying customer and would need to register. I cut that exercise short and instead, started playing 20 Questions.  You see the thing about my family is that in its current state, it’s quite small.  Obviously, there are many, many family members from the past, but sadly I never met most of them.  Something as simple as my grandparents’ full names was not common knowledge in my head, I needed information.  A few names, birth dates and birth places turned out to be a good start.

Later that day, I registered on the family tree website, started my tree and began digging around.  It didn’t take very long before I got a couple of hits.  To say I was excited is an understatement.  The first document I found was the baptism registry for my maternal grandmother; the second document was the 1911 Census for my paternal grandfather (he was 2 ½ months old!).  I was so surprised and happy that I called my parents to tell them what I’d found.  I have to say, I think I was more excited than they were, but then again, these were their parents; they knew them and grew up with them, whereas I never knew them.

Over the past couple of weeks, I have come up with all sorts of information and documents such as my great-great-grandparents’ names which doesn’t sound like much, but I had no idea what they were until a week ago.  I even got to see the passenger registry from when my great-great-grandfather came over to Canada from Finland by way of England.  It was very surreal.

I never met most of these people that I’m researching and searching out.  I can’t put faces to the names, and I don’t have many, or any, stories to go with them, yet.  These names that are popping up on my computer screen are names of my family, family I never got the chance to meet.  They are my history.  I know that I’ve only just begun this project, but I’m happy with my progress so far and I don’t intend to stop.

My next step will be to start getting that history, the stories, from my parents and anyone else who is willing to share their memories with me.  It seems like the older I get, the more I want to know where and how our family began.  It’s a lot of work sifting through all the hints and documents, but it’s definitely worth it.

If you’re interested in starting your own family tree, I have few hints and tips that I’ve picked up from my, so-far, short stint as an amateur detective.

  1. First, write down all of the information that you already know such as your grandparents’ names, maiden names, dates of birth, etc.  It’ll give you an idea of what is missing and if you’re like me, you’ll see that a lot more information is still needed.
  2. Next, start asking questions, and write down everything that you’re told.  It might not seem important, but trust me on this, you will probably need it.  You’ll find when you’re searching through documents, that it’s the small details you’ve been told that will help you to determine whether the information you’ve found is about your family member or not.
  3. If you’re using a site dedicated to documenting your family history, put ALL the information that you have in the search engine because that’s how you get hints from them.  That’s not to say that all the hints or hits you get will be relevant.  In fact, 90 percent of the ones that I’ve received so far are duds, but following this tip helps to narrow the results from hundreds of results to maybe a page of results.
  4. Be patient.  Most of what you’re going to find, like I said in number 3, will not be relevant to your family.  Keep looking.  Patience will also be required when you do get hits on documents.  You see, by law most documents cannot be made public for a certain amount of time.  For instance, Censuses can’t be made public for 100 years.  Well, 100 years ago most everything was handwritten, and I’m telling you, it’s not easy to read!  Take your time, read and re-read the documents, and chances are, you’ll see what you’re hoping to see.
  5. My last tip is to go outside of the site to look for information.  I did just that and found out tons of details that were missing for a lot of the people on my tree so far, specifically dates of birth and dates of death.  After Googling a number of different things, namely obituaries, I came up with a great site listing all of the registered deaths of Finlanders in my hometown.  Bear in mind, I found this site on something like the fourth or fifth page – remember, Google always comes up with more than one page on a search!  So dig, dig, dig.

More than anything have fun with it, enjoy the process.  This isn’t going to be done in a day or a week or a month, this is going to take time.

What started out as a quick search has turned into a bit of a project for me, and I’m happy to do it.  I’m finding out about my family, my history, the story of how our family came to be our family.

~Trisha~

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2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. susanbahr
    Aug 30, 2012 @ 13:47:34

    Hi Trisha – I’ve been going through the same thing all summer. Been trying to recreate the lineages of my mom and dad before there’s no one left who remembers. I found the Mormon sight incredibly helpful. It’s free and you don’t even have to sign in – any one can use it, you don’t have to convert. It is in fact, the largest data base of family history in the world – many sites use it’s information, including Ancestry.com. It can be found at: http://www.familysearch.org. I wish you the best in this worthwhile endeavor. It is truly important that we remember…
    Sue

    Reply

    • Simply Om
      Aug 30, 2012 @ 17:26:23

      Hi Sue, thanks for reading & for the additional information – I will definitely take some time to check the site out! I welcome any tips I can get with respect to this.
      Trisha

      Reply

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