Family History

Family History Month

Does your family history interest you? August is Family History month here in New Zealand and as I have been very enthusiastic about researching my own history, I thought I would use this subject to post items this month.

Do you ever watch any of the versions of “Who Do You Think You Are” on TV? Each time I see a celebrity tracing their family history I’m astonished at how little they usually know at the beginning of their journey. This has made me so much more appreciative of my story-telling mother. Over the years she introduced me to everything she knew about her parents, grandparents, great grandparents etc, as well as details about where they’d come from. Stories of the hardships they faced when arriving to settle in a new country added realism and turned the mere names into real people.

The First of Many “Four Generations” Photos I Now Have

We are quickly losing the idea of passing our family history onto future generations through oral stories from the elders to the young. As a child without television to fill our evenings, much of our time, particularly in winter, was spent around the fireplace reading or listening to Mum’s tales. Sadly, unlike my mother, I myself am guilty of not sharing very much of my ancestry with my own children. I’ve become stuck in the mindset of “they’ll ask me if they’re interested” and “if they’re not interested, why bother talking about it”. Both ideas are very destructive to the idea of preserving our genealogy.


I dream of one day sorting through all the notes and photos and paraphernalia I’ve collected since I began researching at about 20 years of age. I dream of collating everything in such a way my children and their children beyond them will treasure this information as I treasure it. But since I started my new career, I find my efforts are focused on writing romance stories, rather than sorting out family history. Dedicating one day a week to family history a few years ago, made little impact on my boxes and boxes of ‘stuff’ I’d collected – I saw the need for focused time, not the occasional day, probably not even weeks, more likely months was needed to produce anything of value for myself or those who follow me. Once I’d realised this, it was very easy to allow that one day a week to slip aside and tell myself I needed to continue with my romance writing if I wanted to make a career for myself as a writer.

While my interest in my family’s past has never waned, my enthusiasm lessened as I realised I had probably done everything I could do, found out everything it was possible to find. Instead of doing further research, today and for the last fifteen to twenty years I have enjoyed the contacts I’ve made with “cousins” in England, Scotland and on the Shetland Islands. I have visited the homelands from whence my ancestors came to New Zealand. I have seen their homes, whats left of their homes, or the land where their homes once stood. Perhaps writing a few blog posts outlining my journey into the past during this month will re-establish my interest and force me to start sorting through those boxes.

I hope you might join me as I bring back some of those memories.



Family History — 12 Comments

  1. Hi Ella, its definitely a fascinating subject, isnt it? My family were relatively poor and there isn’t anything exciting in their lives. But to me they are so amazing and every new fact I ever dug up filled me with a satisfaction I don’t think could be matched. Some of my ancestors I would have loved to meet, others I’d have crawled on broken glass to avoid but I love that I know about them. I love that they’ve contributed to who I am. Thanks for commenting Ella, good luck with continuing research, or with collating it all into something for the next generations to treasure

  2. Way to go Mairi, congratulations. You must feel very content to think family lived exactly in the area where you are now. That would give me a touch of the warm and fuzzies for sure. Can I give you a tip before you head to England? Try and make contact with possible relatives beforehand. I wasted one visit because I didn’t have enough information available to me so couldn’t find the people I sought. I’m going to do a post later this week about how I found living relatives in UK prior to my next visit. I’m still in touch with these ‘cousins’ 30 years later. Good luck and thanks for stopping by

  3. Hi Paula, oh wow, how cool to be involved in something like that. I envy you. Of course I envy you even more because you live where your ancestors lived – or at least in the same country. So much easier for researching lol.
    I’ve written a couple of stories involving genealogy, one’s just been submitted (waiting with bated breath) while I’m not sure what I might do with the other. Its only 50K words and to be published in print by my publisher (The Wild Rose Press) it has to be 65K. Big question, submit it as only possible e-book or add a few more words and maybe be able to hold it in my hand?
    I loved incorporating just a little of what I’d learned, it was like adding another dimension to the stories.
    Now I understand your interest in Richard, you’re already a genealogist anyway
    Thanks for commenting

  4. Hi Alicia, I was always very jealous of any other family members finding out dark secrets before I did, lol. And it happened a few times, I’ll tell about the most amazing discovery some time during this month. I just hope my children will be interested as they get older. I’m figuring once their children arrive/get bigger then the history of their family might take on some extra meaning. I can hope, can’t I? Great of you to stop by

  5. Hi Diane, I’m pleased we’ve had a bit of publicity about genealogy this month as it’s spiked my interest again. Not that I’ll probably get much done, but even just remembering all the different, exciting things I discovered is fun. Don’t researchers now have it easy? I used to go home with such sore eyes from staring at unreadable census films etc. And having to scroll through thousands of records, just to find the one you wanted? Typing a name into the Internet and getting an immediate response might be exciting, but I wonder about the level of satisfaction. Oh no, my age is creeping through here, isnt it? thanks for stopping by

  6. Anne, I’ve recently gotten into doing genealogical research of my birth family. I discovered one branch of that family – if the records are accurate – goes all the way back to a man who fought with William the Conqueror at Hastings! One of my more recent ancestors in that branch actually got married right in this very area of southern Virginia where I live! When I learned that, I felt as if I had somehow come full circle. What I would not give to meet that man and his wife.
    I do hope to get to Coyngton England, next summer to visit with my distant relatives who have lived there for 700 years.
    Genealogy is important and family history should be preserved, if possible.
    Thanks for a great post.

  7. I was actually involved with the very first series of ‘WDYTYA’ about 10 years ago, as several of us worked with the BBC on digital stories about our family history. Mine is still online – somewhere!
    My next novel involves family history, and it was fun inventing family trees after all the hours I have spent researching mine.

  8. Very interesting. I have a cousin who has been tracing our family history. I found that intriguing, but I haven’t become involved or asked him for an update lately. I should do that. Thanks for the reminder. I think it’s very important to pass along family history to future generations. It would be awesome if everyone kept a journal of events and family, etc, and passed it down.

  9. Good luck with your research, Anne. Hubs and I have been researching our families since the 1970’s–way before and all the online services. We went to cemeteries, courthouses, scrolled through microfilm at libraries. Then “life” got in the way and I set it aside. My intentions, like yours, was to collate all I knew for my family. Like you, I got involved with writing books and only periodically looked at what I had. Hubs has stayed at it much better than I have. Family history is important. How great that NZ has a month set asides for it. I’m eager to hear more on your family.