For me, as I suspect for many, the tracing of my roots began simply,with a curiosity to know where I came from and a conversation with an older relative. I was 13. A few hastily scribbled notes based on family remembrance may or may not have proven to be accurate, but at least it was a start.
Although my English grandparents lived a continent away and I saw them only once every year or so, they seem to have found my interest in the past somewhat entertaining, and were always willing to share another story, or dig out an old photograph or two. Summer visits would invariably include a trek out to an old cemetary or, if I was really lucky, I could persuade Granddad to walk over to Delapre Abby and sit with me for an hour or two while I pored over old documents in the records office.
I took my notes in pencil, on loose leaf sheets which were later transferred to a three-ring binder. Random scribblings, smudges and the cross-outs which must have seemed clear at the time but make little sense to me now, 30 years later. Tucked into the notebook as well are a handful of letters from dear Aunty Jean, whose enthusiasm for my project carried over in between my visits.
Her letters, among my most treasured keepsakes, are faded now and a bit dog-earred, but the snippets of information and personal history they contain are invaluable to me.
I cannot say enough about the value of asking questions. Family remembrance, while not always completely accurate, is at the very least a starting point and the stuff of family tradition and lore can point us in directions we might not have otherwise thought to look. And while names, dates, and places are the backbone of genealogy, they are not the Story of Our Past, merely pointers to it. Don’t get lost in the hunt to accumulate as many names as possible….stop along the way to learn their stories, because that is how we discover more about who we are.