I can’t help but feel that this whole genealogy caper would be a lot less complicated if people would just have chosen original names for their children now and again.
I’ve been helping Mum to trace the family tree, and I must say I’m having lots of fun putting all the names and dates into an online “tree builder” and seeing it all take shape out of the confusing mass of papers, post-its, print-outs, and sketches that we seem to have become surrounded by. Even more fun (and please feel free to query my usage of the word “fun”, but I really do think it is!) is delving into the Census forms and seeing original signatures, finding out what our ancestors did for a living, and most importantly, checking carefully in the last column of each form to make sure that no one in the household was listed as an idiot, imbecile, or lunatic. So far, I am pleased to report that the results have been negative, which must mean that none of them had any of Kat the Cat’s ancestors in their homes.
Mum has already done all of the painstaking research, and I have stepped in now that she’s stuck, to see where we can go from here. I’m planning a trip to the PRONI, so that we can go armed with all our information and hopefully get some help or pointers before digging through the archives for more information. I’d really love to be able to trace my ancestry way, way, way back, but I doubt that I have the skills to do such a thing – particularly because, as I mentioned, people kept giving their children one of an extremely small selection of names.
There are so many Hughs, Nathaniels, Janes, and Margarets in my family tree that I’ve had several moments of utter confusion in trying to put everything together for the one big complete online version I’m building. Entire families seem to have identical names, and it’s very easy to get them mixed up when you’ve been typing in names and dates all night. Hugh married Jane, daughter of Nathaniel and Jane… no, wait… different Hugh, marrying a different Jane, daughter of a different Nathaniel…
It would be like my mum being called Hayley, and her mum being called Hayley, and my sister calling her first child Hayley, and me marrying someone (probably with the same name as my father) whose mother and sister are both called Hayley. It is really bizarre. But very satisfying once you get another small section sorted out.
So far, we’re only back as far as about 1800, and now it’s starting to get hazy – missing names, vague dates, and the like. But I’m hopeful that we’ve got enough clues with which to proceed, and quite excited about going to look through archives. I have never looked through archives before. I always used to watch Scully doing so in The X Files, and I thought it looked like a fun way to spend a day. We get to take notebooks and wear gloves and nosy through all sorts of interesting historical documents.
I will confess that I’m a little disappointed to discover, having gone back some 200 years, that my ancestors were still living in Portglenone, Cullybackey, and Ahoghill (all in the Ballymena district, for non-locals). I was hoping to find that they moved to Ireland from somewhere very exotic at one point so that I could go there, Who Do You Think You Are style, and investigate further. But they seem to have been living within about a 10 mile radius for a few centuries at least.
Looks like I can’t blame my addiction to travel and adventure on my genes, then!