Have you ever asked yourself “Who am I?” or “Why am I here”? Some people seek answers in philosophy or religion or other forms of spirituality. But there’s a really simple scientific explanation that overrides all others. We are here because an awful lot of people had a Fantabulous Time. And as genealogists – as family history researchers – we are trying to identify them so we know who, exactly, we should blame ... for everything.
So begins the first chapter of To Trace or Not to Trace: A family history overview for the curious. Full of humour and cartoons, this is a light-hearted guide for pre-beginners, those who are dipping their toes in the water but are not yet ready to dive in.
It talks about information we might already hold for our families, including photographs and family stories about famous or infamous ancestors (says one genealogist dryly: “My family tree is more like a noxious weed.”).
It discusses basic sources that family historians use, including birth, marriage and death certificates, church records, newspapers, census returns, migration records and probate records.
It confronts the brick walls we might face (says the despairing genealogist, “I should have asked them before they died.”). And it explains that, if we go back far enough, we are all related … relatively speaking.
To trace or not to trace: a simple guide to the art of chasing our own tale.