Family Research

Like many aging others, I became interested enough in my family history to spit into a little vial and send the saliva off to be analysed. The DNA results were not totally surprising. I’d expected to find my roots were Irish and Scottish with a dash of West European which I assumed was from a Polish. great-grandfather. However I was surprised by the 6 percent Scandinavian result. Who the heck was that? I was introduced to various second, third and fourth cousins who were already in the data base. I sent messages to these to discover how we were related but despite our connections, we have not become friendly. I have sort of kept in touch with only one who is also on Facebook. Actually his wife is my relative.

My interest in family history began when I was thirteen. My paternal aunt handed me a box of photos, papers, letters and diaries to be sorted. I was fascinated by the contents and spent a happy school vacation arranging the material. I had many questions about the people I met but my aunt could answer only some of them. My grandmother’s diaries were really interesting and I was horrified to discover that if she had married the other man she was engaged to, I wouldn’t have been born. In excuse, I was only thirteen at the time with teenage preoccupations. I handed back the box at the end of my holiday, all neatly labelled and arranged in sections.

I didn’t do any more about the papers until my aunt was getting old and I wondered about the fate of the box if she moved. She handed it over so that I could make a family booklet. I transcribed everything. Deciphering the handwriting was tricky at times and I sometimes had to guess a word. The regular writers developed personalities and I’ve already mentioned the Scottish letters in previous blogs. I did formally receive the famous box when my aunt sold her house and moved into a retirement home.

My grandmother’s dairies were of particular interest. There were six of them written when she was in her twenties. Not only are they a source of family information but also a source of social history, providing snapshots of New Zealand life at the end of the nineteenth century and beginning of the twentieth. At first she lived in a small country village as a postmistress before she was transferred to Auckland, the largest city. This move was a steep learning curve. I think I have written about her in previous posts and will check. If I have not I will do so in the future. I had much trouble relating the formal, slow-moving grandmother I knew to the energetic young woman of the diaries. She rode miles by herself to attend a social occasion in another town and then rode home in time to go to work next morning. Was she really the same person?

y husband and I both became more interested in our family histories after getting our DNA results. We each did more research into the past and tracked down various certificates and census results to build family trees. I found out that I wasn’t Polish as I’d thought and informed other people such as my Polish doctor of the fact. I haven’t confessed the truth in case he rejects me from his practice. My great-grandfather identified himself as German on his marriage certificate. He should know. I wish I could ask him if his mother or a grandparent came from Norway or Sweden. That connection still bugs me.

I shall explore the topic of family research next week as i have more to say. Hardly surprising.