I’ve been addicted to family research — my own and others — for 18 years. I have created numerous questionnaires to use when first beginning work with a client. I think that the questionnaire I have developed is….close. So, I am curious – whether you are a fellow researcher, or someone looking for help with research…what do YOU want to know about your family?
My personal bent, when it comes to genealogical research, is to go past the names and the dates. I want to know the WHY. My family emigrated to the United States from Ireland in the 1850’s. Some of them did it because of the famine, others, well, it’s not so clear. Yet.
When I had the chance to go to Ireland, long before I began the foray into the family history that now occupies my every thought, I was 16. I knew this was my homeland, and I was beside myself. For the first time in my life everywhere I looked I saw family. And I was seen as family. My DNA makes it pretty unmistakeable, in the physical form, to question whether or not I might have Irish ancestry. I felt at home. For the first time in my (then) young life. I felt a part of things. I felt surrounded by people who understood how I thought, what sparked interest, without me having to say a word, or ask a single question. The only other place I’ve ever felt that is in Australia, my home now. I don’t think that’s a coincidence.
So, when I did start working on our family history, 8 years later, I wanted more than names and dates. I wanted more than what was published in the newspapers when milestones in my family happened. I wanted to know why they left the one place that I felt I was at home as soon as I stepped onto Irish soil. I wanted to know what was going on with them….personally.
Later I discovered that my first ancestors in the United States from my father’s side of the family made an amazing choice. A painful choice, I am sure. They left for the new land, and left their children behind. For one year. I cannot imagine the grief, and guilt they experienced as they travelled so far, to such an unknown, with only a hope of creating a stable life for those children, and no guarantee when they would see them. I still don’t have all the answers, but I continue to look.
On my mother’s side it was much the same. They came from Canada (originally the British Isles, but that’s another story) in the early 1900s. Several children in tow and a brand new baby…my maternal grandmother. Why would they move such a large, and new, family to a completely different place? What made them take that leap? Why did that choice make the difference for them?
These are the things I want to know. Why these people, my ancestors, made these massive choices.
Having recently made a similar one myself, to emigrate to Australia to be with the love of my life, I like to think I have a little more insight now….but my filters, my personal assumptions from my own life experience, could be completely wrong for my relatives….only continued research will tell. Too many who may have known have passed now, for me to make a simple phone call and ask such a simple question. But the answers are there, if you are willing to look.
So, as I rebuild my business to help others find their whos and whats and whys, I ask you all – what do YOU want to know?