We’ve been here for a long, long time…

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 Janeno, 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!


7 thoughts on “We’ve been here for a long, long time…

  1. I’m reading The Floating Brothel at the moment (about a boat full of woman convicts who were sent to Australia) and it seems like in those days all women were called Sarah, Mary , Ann and Elizabeth. There are one or two exceptions but it still makes most confusing reading!

    My dad’s parents each had a brother called Alan., which was always quite confusing at parties involving both sides of the family. Bot of my great uncle Alans are dead now though, so it doesn’t matter any more.

  2. My family tree now covers 8 generations.

    You think you have problems…. My mother married a man with the same surname minus one letter. Hers ended with ‘ney’ while his was ‘ny’. Waaaaaaaaaaaay back the last names were the other way round – his lot had the ‘ney’ and her lot didn’t. I found it all very fascinating.

    Did you try the old local newspaper archives? Any murders yet? ;)

  3. Nicola says:

    I am sitting with a family tree of our family in front of me at the moment! I’ve been trying to get it put on one of those websites so if we are at the same place we are sure to bump into each other soon!

    If your sister was to marry Cliffard my family tree is gonna get even more complicated than just having all the Nathaniels! Mind you I’d love having the fun of seeing peoples faces when I told them “Oh yeah, my cousin got married to my cousin!” and not explaining that they are on opposite sides of the family tree! lmao!

  4. Bevchen – see, that book would do my head in! I really do seem to struggle with getting details straight in my head, and people all having the same name just doesn’t help…
    Grannymar – I’m getting to the point now where I’m seeing different spellings emerge. I got confused when reading a gravestone inscription that said the man’s name (Hugh, obviously) followed by “of Ahochol”. I thought this meant that he was an alcoholic and it killed him, and couldn’t help but be amazed that they would put this on his headstone. Seemed a bit unnecessary, really, not to mention that they could at least have checked the spelling before commiting it to stone. Then I realised that it was just saying where he came from… Ahoghill. :)
    Nicola – Heheh. I had to make her explain it to me a few times at the start, as I was a bit confused. I am slightly envious that you can use that line!

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