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Who were your ancestors?

Updated on March 12, 2011

Who were your ancestors?

Finding your ancestors is a fascinating journey
Finding your ancestors is a fascinating journey

Putting flesh on the bones

 You have your list of ancestors all displayed on a nice family tree.  You have their births, deaths and marriages recorded and you know where they lived.  But what now? Do you really understand them or know anymore about the world they inhabited.  It's time to put some flesh on your ancestors bones and get to know them a bit better.  It can be a fascinating journey of discovery in which your ancestors can answer many questions for you, like who you get your artistic talent from or why your children find it easy to learn music.  It is surprising how ancestors can influence the family even today.  So I've put together some tips and information  on useful web sites that might just help you to know your ancestors a bit better.

Check old maps

Check out old maps, many railway stations closed, but your ancestor may have worked there.
Check out old maps, many railway stations closed, but your ancestor may have worked there.

Take photos

Take photographs of any buildings that were around in your ancestos time.  Note down any of the cottages names -if you can
Take photographs of any buildings that were around in your ancestos time. Note down any of the cottages names -if you can

Check dates on tomb stones

Always check out the churchyard in the parish of your ancestors, you may find someone you didn't know existed
Always check out the churchyard in the parish of your ancestors, you may find someone you didn't know existed

The Journey begins

The first place to start your journey is the parish or town they lived in. There are lots of family tree sites that have information about the relevant parish or town. Simply type in the area name followed by either genealogy or family tree. There are some very good resources out there it's just a question of patience. If you have exhausted this way of tracing your ancestors then you could buy a data CD from one of the many genealogy suppliers out there. Don't forget to try E-Bay, there are many a bargain to have.

However the best way to get to know your ancestors is to leave the computer for a while and to visit the place they lived. Take with you a note book and a camera and set forth into the past. When you arrive walk the area noting down the names of the churches, pubs and street names. Now I don't advocate drinking, but you may find that a drink and a chat with the people in the public houses give forth valuable information.Very often the locals have regional names for specific areas, so taking notes on this can help your research later. So you may just have suffer alcohol this once. Moving on take photos of old buildings from your relatives era, noting any worn out house names. A trip to the churchyard to take photos of tomb stones with your ancestors surname is worth doing. You can research these later. I have found two previously unknown relatives this way and readjusted several dates that have been recorded wrongly in records. If there is a museum or library in the village or town you are in, then go and look around. There could be information on groups or societies that were thriving at your ancestors time. Study photographs, a group of people with their racing pigeons , might be enough for you to research your relatives hobby. The clues are there if you look closely enough, brass bands, gardening club, and Co-op societies, take down names and dates in your trusty note book. Some museums have research rooms, you won't know if you don't ask. Look at the big events recorded from the past. Did Queen Victoria visit? A lot of places formed committees for events like this, so see if your ancestors were involved. If someone in your family tree had any standing in the area there may even be a photograph of them, or their name mentioned in committee minutes and agendas, so look and ask.

Old Photographs

Old photos in libraries and local museums are always worth studying for a long lost ancestor.
Old photos in libraries and local museums are always worth studying for a long lost ancestor.

What to do next

Once you have gathered your information, come back to your computer and begin to search. The church is a good place to start. Many genealogists have transcribed church records for us all to share. A big thank you to these people, without them our research wouldn't get very far. There also might be transcriptions from old parish magazines, like the one I found that gave me a better insight into the character of my great grandfather. 'Silas drank more than was good for him. On one occasion he was found asleep in the Churchyard;when someone roused him with "Wake up,Silas", he replied "Let I bide! Wake some o'they t'other up,They bin 'ere longer than l!" Oh well not exactly Shakespeare, but it certainly says something about his character. Another good source of material is the local school, many of them have records on-line like the school my ancestors went to, where I found this gem. "16th Cha’s JONES asked to leave School at 31/2 p.m.; he said he was wanted at home to rock the baby while his mother was baking.' 

Another thing worth doing is checking when the next Family history Fair will be visiting the area that your ancestors lived in. There is always local experts on hand and CDs and books to buy that relate to that area.  These fair are brilliant, I hope you get the opportunity to attend one. 

So I hope now you have read this that you feel inspired to dig deeper and try some different avenues of research.  Please leave any advice you have in the comment boxes below and together we can all enjoy this journey.

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    • oceansnsunsets profile image

      Paula 6 years ago from The Midwest, USA

      JayJay, Wow I really enjoyed reading this hub. Genealogy is a great hobby of mine. I want to get back into it more in the future. I think your ideas are wonderful, thank you for sharing what to do next when you think you have exhausted all other possibilities. Its great to know that churches are such a vital resource. I know this has helped my family very much, as have visiting cemeteries and other things you mentioned. Voted up!

    • Sherry Zimmerman profile image

      Sherry Evans (Zimmerman) 6 years ago from Troy, Ohio

      Love the suggestion to leave the computer behind and visit where your ancestors lived. Not long after I started my research my dad took an out of the way route when we were going to pick up building materials. He stopped on a road in front of a huge farm and said "You're on Manning Road and that old barn back there is over 100 years old."

      It was his grandparent's place and when he was a boy it had already been passed down through several generations. He remembered when Manning Road was a dirt track back to the house and pointed out the houses in the area that belonged to family members and farm laborers. It really gave me a much better sense of how they had lived.

    • jayjay40 profile image
      Author

      jayjay40 6 years ago from Bristol England

      Thanks for the comment and good luck with your research

    • delobar profile image

      Dee Sharp 6 years ago from East Texas

      Great information! I'm going to apply your knowledge to my searching.

    • profile image

      Multiman 7 years ago

      Good article. I voted up.

    • jayjay40 profile image
      Author

      jayjay40 7 years ago from Bristol England

      Thanks for the very kind comments, if you need help with research just ask and I'll see what I can do

    • FOREX NINJA profile image

      FOREX NINJA 7 years ago

      Interesting article and very well organized work which i really enjoyed reading from.

    • Alastar Packer profile image

      Alastar Packer 7 years ago from North Carolina

      Much appreciated jayjay40!

    • jayjay40 profile image
      Author

      jayjay40 7 years ago from Bristol England

      Thanks for sharing your journey of discovery with us Alastar and I hope you get answers to all your questions. Don't forget that the north of England is worth looking for your names as the boundary with Scotland has changed a lot. Cumbria and Northumberland counties are worth looking at also this site on surnames

      http://www.one-name.org/

    • Alastar Packer profile image

      Alastar Packer 7 years ago from North Carolina

      Hi jayjay40,enjoyed your article,I'm from N.Carolina and only recently found my birth mom(Packer)the adopted side was(Turnbull)both of which believe are Scot names-have any your way? Its hard enough tracing family roots over here, can't imagine trying to there.Anyway Thanks and will continue to follow your hubs.

    • jayjay40 profile image
      Author

      jayjay40 7 years ago from Bristol England

      Thanks Mrs Cookie, that's what I like about genealogy you never know what's going to happen next. All the best with your research

    • Mrs Cookie profile image

      Mrs Cookie 7 years ago from United Kingdom

      I think you have some really good ideas here. There is so much more to family history than names and dates.

      Visiting the area where your ancestors lived is always a good way to find out more information. I once asked a passerby if he knew anyone in the village with my surname and I ended up having Sunday lunch with four generations of my very distant cousins!

    • jayjay40 profile image
      Author

      jayjay40 7 years ago from Bristol England

      Thanks for the great comments guys, i very much appreciate it. The Edinburgh photographs are a great resourse and our thanks should go to all the volenteers that look after these things for us all. Making a family tree is such an exciting think to do. I wish I could start mine all over again to feel that buzz of excitement.

    • kashmir56 profile image

      Thomas Silvia 7 years ago from Massachusetts

      Hi jayjay thanks for this very interesting and informational hub, my brother is making a family tree of our ancestors, it is something he enjoys doing .

      Awesome hub !!!

    • JaneA profile image

      JaneA 7 years ago from California

      Love the link to Edinburgh photographs - great resource. And point well made about leaving the computer. Thanks!

    • jayjay40 profile image
      Author

      jayjay40 7 years ago from Bristol England

      Thank you for your very kind comments and wish you all the best at the start of your journeys into your pasts. It is so exciting to see things that your ancestors saw.

    • workingmomwm profile image

      Mishael Austin Witty 7 years ago from Kentucky, USA

      Good tips. I did find the church (at least the remodeled version) my great-great-great-grandmother attended here in Kentucky. It was a really interesting trip because there were bricks from the older buildings out back by the creek (the church is called Indian Creek Baptist). Maybe some of those bricks were used in the original building she sat in. And I also got near the place where my her husband (my great-great-great-grandfather) was gunned down by Confederate soldiers. I did take pictures, and it made them come that much more alive to me.

    • A.A. Zavala profile image

      Augustine A Zavala 7 years ago from Texas

      I was just getting into genealogy when this hub popped up. Great minds think alike. Thank you for sharing.

    • Hello, hello, profile image

      Hello, hello, 7 years ago from London, UK

      Tome, it is always a fascinating subject. I would like to do it but never get round to it. Great hub.

    • jayjay40 profile image
      Author

      jayjay40 7 years ago from Bristol England

      Thanks very much for the comment, I love the old photos as well.

    • lmmartin profile image

      lmmartin 7 years ago from Alberta and Florida

      A fascinating journey and great advice for those seeking to know more about their family background. I particularly enjoyed the old photographs. Lynda

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