Wednesday, 1 February 2012

A Personal Family Story

As a family historian there have been many occasions when I’ve found a piece of research which made me stop and think but stored it to the back of my mind…and then there were other times when something I’ve unearthed seemed so important that it simply had to be followed through…..

Usually researching family history doesn’t affect me too much, even when it belongs on my own family tree – let’s face it, these are people and events which I had no knowledge of before I started researching into their lives.…but occasionally someone or something has an affect which causes deep emotion. It might just be one little snippet of previously uncovered information which makes these people we research come to life, and we then begin to realise how important they were into shaping our own lives.

Researching my 2x gt grandfather Edwin’s family had such an impact upon me …
When I first began researching his family some fifteen years ago, I had no idea of the sadness I would uncover….(I wrote a full article about him a few months ago on this blog)… but I could still look at his family story in a fairly dispassionate way, as I’m used to unearthing births, marriages and deaths etc, and this was just another one of them – or so I thought, until I made the decision one Summer’s day last year to visit the churchyard where his family are buried.
… I was totally unprepared for the emotion I felt when I came face to face with this solitary gravestone which stood in a prominent position just through the churchyard gates, and read the inscription engraved upon it….The simplicity of just the names of his wife and their three baby daughters, who had died within a week of each other - two on the same day- lying there together, was more poignant than any flowery epitaph could ever have conveyed. I remember standing by their grave on that beautifully warm day, finding tears running down my cheeks, as the realisation dawned on me that I was directly descended (via their brother), to these three pitiful tiny girls and their mother. This family tragedy was indeed a very personal one –and it felt as intense as if it had happened in recent years and not a hundred and fifty years ago…It is no exaggeration when I say I left the churchyard feeling as if all emotion had been drained from me.
Never has any other ancestral research I’ve done been as profoundly unsettling as this particular experience.

As I said previously, it only takes just one little thing which can affect us deeply and it remains with us for a lifetime.


  1. A very poignant post which speaks volumes to me, and the very reason why I 'fell in love' with family history. For me, the emotions it can evoke are more powerful than reading a bestseller novel! xx

  2. Thank you Debra..I think Family History is addictive but so worthwhile.

  3. I can only imagine how Edwin must've felt at the time and the profound impact that this loss had on the rest of his life.
    I have to say I don't think I have ever felt dispassionate about searching for any of my ancestors, however distant a relation they were. Just a name can spark it off or, as you said, just the smallest snippet of information gets me. I find I want to know all about who they were and what they were like...and what life was like for them...fascinating stuff.

  4. Thank you for reading and leaving your comment - much appreciated :)

  5. Lovely post Ann, I feel the same about some of my Ancestors too, it does put me off looking for their Death dates & reasons. The more we delve into their lives the more we feel part of their lives and you can't help but feel their emotions too

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  7. Thanks Lynn. Family research makes us realise how much our lives today have been shaped by our ancestors.