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Way Back When in England
By Glynn G Burrows -
Owner of Norfolk Tours in England
As a new contributor to the Big Blend's 'Way Back When' magazine, I wondered where I should start, there is so much history around me, that it is impossible to decide which period or type of history would be best to use as an introduction to England.
I decided to start with family history and that also gave me a good point in history to begin, because, to do any research in your family history, you have to start with the known and work backwards towards the unknown. Yesterday is history and it is quite amazing how quickly it turns into ancient history!
With family history, we generally double our ancestors every generation as we go
back. (I say “generally”, because if cousins marry, it means there are less ancestors.)
I have two parents, four grandparents, eight great grandparents, sixteen, thirty-
If you are interested in tracing your family history, the place to start is with you, as I said, start with what you know and work back. Write down as much information as you can remember about names, dates, places etc. If you have any relations older than yourself, ask them to do the same. Collect any old photographs and documents and photocopy/scan/photograph them and write on the copies as much detail as you know about the subject. Put the original and one of the copies with information, in a folder and keep them safe. (If you can, store the originals in another place, if you store originals and copies in the same place and disaster strikes, everything is lost.) Put the other copy/copies with your working files and keep making notes. Review often and keep adding information, no matter how small, to the files, even if you look somewhere and find no information, note where you looked and what you looked for, so you don't go and look there again for the same thing!
What can most of us hope to have within living memory? How far back can we go before we start using documents and the internet?
Most of us know our date of birth and where we were born. The majority of people know their mother's and father's names, dates & places of birth and where and when they married. Some people know their grandparents' names and dates of birth, when and where they married or where they are buried. Not many people remember the dates when people died, but they often remember how old the person was at the time of their death. We often know where family members were buried because we were taken to the graves when we were younger.
Using these general ideas outlined above, if we are, or we have relations who are in their seventies and they are willing to help us, we can often get details of family members who were alive in 1900. If we talk to someone aged eighty and they can remember talking to their grandmother about her childhood memories, we are actually hearing about a child who was growing up during the latter part of the C19th.
Obviously, all of the things that are in memories, no matter how lucid the people are who are recounting them, need to be checked using documentary sources later on, but memories can be the best sources for the family historian to start with. The other thing to be very aware of is that people and their memories go, I often wish today, that I had asked my grandparents lots more questions, but I can't ask them today. While talking to older family members, take along copies of all family photographs to see if they can name the people on them or the places where they were taken. There is nothing worse than having tons of family photographs of people or places that you have no chance of identifying. (Look at the online auction sites and see all those unknown faces up for sale.) You will also often find that photographs jog memories that would have otherwise been forgotten. A picture of Granny outside her house may well bring back the memory of where the house was, what it was called or what Grandfather did for a living. An old school photograph may well remind someone of where they went to school or who they sat next to in class. All of these snippets of information can be very useful later on when we look into the documentary sources. Take notes about everything discussed or take along a tape recorder or video camera.
Make a start today and write down your own memories, talk to your parents, cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents and every other member of the extended family. Remember that great aunt Maud, your granny's sister, is the daughter of your great grandparents and she could tell you so much about your own family history. Go around to all your elderly relatives and talk to them, they will generally love to reminisce and you will learn so much.
Photos from Top to Bottom:
An early Gravestone in a Norfolk Church-
A Norfolk family outside their cottage
Edmund Bear (my Great Grandfather) and his Daughter Joyce with their "Dickey-
Five of the Children of Edmund & Anna Bear
The village Green.
Glynn Burrows is the owner of Norfolk Tours in England -