Sunday afternoon Genealogy Fun

Sunday Afternoon Genealogy Fun – What Started You Actively Researching Your Family History?

Each week on Randy Seaver’s Genea-musings blog he has a post for Saturday night Genealogy fun. Because of the time difference, I have called my series Sunday Afternoon Genealogy Fun. This week the mission was:

1) What was the “trigger,” that started you actively researching your family history and genealogy?

2)  Tell us about it in a comment on this blog post, in a blog post of your own, or in a Facebook post.

My thanks to Jacquie Schattner for providing this challenge via email.

Here’s mine:

At Christmas in 1990, my brother in law gave me a brief family history for my husband’s paternal grandfather’s Willis family, which had been given to him by a distant cousin.  I then wrote to that cousin for more information, as well as to a great aunt and uncle in his paternal grandmother’s Smith family.  They sent me two family histories that had been prepared on the two branches of the family.  I then set about contacting family members on my side of the family, as well as family members on my husband’s mother’s side of the family.  Once I had contacted everyone I could think of, I then started researching at my local library, which had a Genealogy room. This room had two microfiche readers, and copies on microfiche of the following resources from Victoria, Australia:

  • The birth, death and marriage indexes
  • The Assisted Immigrant lists
  • The Fawkner Cemetery registers
  • The Bailliere’s and Wise’s Post Office Directories, and the Sands & McDougall Melbourne directories

I then started going to the State Library of Victoria, to access the Electoral rolls from around Australia, the birth, death and marriage indexes for other Australian states, and the Newspaper collections, which focused primarily on Victorian newspapers, but also had the newspapers from the major cities in the other Australian states, as well as a number of other resources.  I have also accessed a few probate and inquest records at the Public Record Office.

With the information from family members, and the few certificates I needed to get to fill in the gaps, it wasn’t long before I had traced the various ancestors back to their arrival in Australia, so I then focused on finding out as much information as I could about their descendants in Australia, because I had limited access to overseas records.

I started entering all my research into Microsoft Word in 1996, when I had my first Windows computer, and I bought Family Tree Maker in 1999. I switched to RootsMagic around 2002, and then to Legacy Family Tree around 2005.

Once I gained access to the internet in 1999, my family tree grew quite quickly.  To begin with, I was relying on the family trees that other people had put online, but over the years I have gradually able to confirm the information against primary records, as well as adding much more information to my family tree.  It has also been much quicker to find records using online search engines, than searching manually through microfiche and microfilm.

Although I have found out quite a bit of information, I don’t have many stories about the family.  I wish I had started my research when I was younger, preferable when I was in my teens, because at the time I started my research, most of my great aunts and uncles had died, and my mum had died in April 1990.  I wish I had asked my mum in particular more about the family, because she had kept in contact with family members on her side of the family.

At the time I did start researching, I had two young children, and my daughter was later diagnosed with autism. This restricted my ability to go and visit my aunts and uncles, to ask them about the family, although I have exchanged Christmas letters with a number of family members over the years.