On the pleasures of sharing stories with living relatives

In the beginning …

I became interested in family history because I wanted to share the stories with my son so that he will have a past and a heritage to share with his children. I was looking forward.

What I’m learning as I search and dig and join the dots, is that I can also look sideways – not to future generations – but to those already here. It began when I started to talk to my mum, sharing my finds and asking her questions. It turns out, that although she’s been a prolific family story-teller over the years, she knew much more than she’d told. Not because she was necessarily keeping secrets, just because it hadn’t occurred to her I’d be interested in some of the more obscure relatives.

It was my mum who got in touch with one of my dad’s cousins to let her know what I’m doing. A couple of lovely, long, chatty emails later and I not only have a new story (and an extra great uncle) that I may never have found, but I’m enjoying my email connection with a relative I last saw in the 1960’s when she was getting married and I was a bratty five year old misbehaving at her wedding.

I’ve read the advice in genealogy books and websites to begin a family history search by asking living relatives for information, but I grew up in New Zealand, half a world away from all but my immediate family. Although I did spend the 1990s back in the UK, I wasn’t interested in “old stuff” in those days, and now I’m back in NZ. The internet makes the world seem smaller, but the path to my relatives in-boxes is proving to be a slow one for me.

Hopefully my mum and cousin Anne have helped me clear that path a bit.

2 thoughts on “On the pleasures of sharing stories with living relatives

  1. I love the title “Shaking the Tree” – it reminds me of trying to get lemons off my lemon tree. I shake it until it is ready to let go and finally give me just the tiniest lemon I need.

    My dad passed away at Easter as you know, and my mother and I are now estranged so I don’t have that access to information which is frustrating. I remember bits and pieces and snippets of stories I heard as a child but, so far, they are just that, snippets.

    Having left Scotland at 21 and lived in Australia most of the years since, like you I have had very little contact with anyone who can shed light on anything in my family history.

    I envy you having had your mum to fill in a few gaps. I also remember my dad saying to me “oh I didn’t think you would be interested!” Grrrrrrrr!!!

    But isn’t it so exciting to find out something, anything that sends us in another direction? And to re-connect with a relative is wonderful.

    A great story!

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