Well over 25 years ago I thought I’d spend a little time researching my family history – a bit of light relief from Economic History!  It wouldn’t take that long, I thought. I just wanted a rough outline of where my ancestors originated from, who they were and, perhaps,  what they did…

Inventory 1543

It wasn’t quite so easy then as it is now. The internet didn’t exist: it was a trip to London to St Catherine House  for certificates, to Portugal Street for the microfilms of Census Returns, and visits to various County Record Offices to look at parish registers.

Oddly enough, I found it easier to do the resarch when I moved from England to Darwin. There I discovered that the Church of the Latter Day Saints has filmed thousands of parish registers, has copies of the Census microfilms and that I could hire a film for around $6.00. It was, of course, a bit farther to go for certificates, but I didn’t plan on buying that many, anyway…

Over 25 years later, with at least 500 certificates, numerous copies of wills, inventories, marriage, baptismal, and burial entries, rentals and other documents, not to mention an extremely large hole in the bank balance, I’m still looking for ‘just one more generation’ back …

14 thoughts on “Obsession”

  1. Yes, it’s not an easy task, Boadicea, but at least you’re a historian. When I worked as an archivist in London, we found that many searchers had no idea how many parishes there were including the City of London. Those parish records were in a separate record office of course, always assuming that they had been deposited in the first place. So someone looking for John Smith of London really was facing an uphill struggle. Many Americans did not like the idea that an ancestor might have been deported for some crime – I got to wondering just how big the Mayflower had been. Australians were generally much more relaxed about the prospect of a convict ancestor. But in the end, due to 17th century records not being typewritten (another nasty shock for many would-be genealogists) many searchers either gave up or had to pay professional researchers. That leaves an even bigger hole in the bank balance.

  2. Sheona

    A long time ago, I went into the Bedfordshire Archives and asked for a couple of 14th C manorial documents. The archivist slapped a roll on the table, and growled “I hope you can read that”. I shrunk into my seat, and thought what an ill-mannered fellow he was.

    Some 10 minutes later, I overheard a conversation between the said Archivist and someone else… I say overheard, I had no choice. The ‘client’ was asking for details of a John Smith who lived in Bedford sometime in the 1700s. His voice got louder and louder as he, obviously, thought the Archivist was being awkward when he tried to explain (oh so politely!) what the situation was…

    I’ll add that I got a wonderful smile, and a very pleasant response from the said Archivist when I handed the first roll back.

    I don’t know if you know that the City of London registers and those from Surrey are now all on line? I expect a few people in those Archives are breathing a huge sigh of relief!

  3. My father-in-law is similarly obsessed, Boa. He took up the ‘hobby’ when he bought his first computer and hasn’t looked back, first researching my mother-in-law’s family history and then his own. They are both tickled pink to have First Fleet convict ancestors.

  4. Bilby – It’s now a Badge of Pride!

    Personally, I’m quite proud that any of my mob who came here did so on their own two feet, but I’d only say that on here (and very, very quietly!)

  5. I too have had success with the ChurchOTLDS. In fact I bought a copy of the 1851 census too which contains data from earlier generations too.

  6. My American brother-in-law could never understand why I didn’t want to do any research on the family. Perhaps the term “busman’s holiday” is not known in the US. My own father did do some research on our family, but stopped when he found an ancestor hanged for sheep-stealing in the 18th century. Given the dates and location he was probably a drinking crony of Rabbie Burns as well. It is well known that a genealogist will expand to fill the archivists’ time available.

  7. I have two relatives who fought at Agincourt.
    So it appears the family have been suitably xenophobic for some time!

  8. Sipu, gold star!
    Sweet of you, but did you need to ask?
    Now we all know what begins at Calais!

  9. CO, I am sorry, but I could not resist. Your comment prompted me to look at the website of a cousin of mine who is into this sort of thing. I also have a few ancestors who fought at Agincourt. My cousin has named them and given their descendants. Actually, he has done a lot of work and has uncovered several thousand ancestors. And before you ask, they fought on the winning side.

  10. Boadicea – It is indeed a fascinating hobby and, as you infer, quite obsessive.

    My own parents, both now in their eighties, have done an enormous amount of research on the family tree over the years. We are fortunate as a family not to have moved far from our geographical roots for generations (yours truly excepted) and so to have a huge archive of photographs going back to the late 19th century, but even so it is sad that even within two or three generations distant family members can become completely anonymous. The folks are busy writing names on the reverse of these photographs, linking as many of the individual images as they can indentify to the tree and writing down as much of the family history and anecdotes as they know.

    It is an archive I shall both cherish and expand wherever possible.


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