I suppose one could argue convincingly that Genealogy is an old person’s game. After all, they have time for research and documentation, they focus more on the past as they get older, they have the memories of the people in the family tree. If you look into it a bit deeper though another trend emerges. Each family will likely have a Genealogy champion, but there are others who share the interest from an early age. I got interested trying to figure out my cousins and other relatives when I was a boy, and I had the example of my great aunts in Cleveland who were the clear family research point people in the 1940s and 1950s. But it goes back further than that. The paper genealogy of the John Price family was originally researched over 100 years ago by my 2X great uncle Albert Price and actually published in 1917.
My great aunt Helen enlarged and updated Albert’s work in 1959. Helen’s task was taken up by her nephew Donald Fawcett in the 1970s and 1980s. Don added another part of my family – the Hawleys – to his list. My cousin Anne Houle did a really great job on my grandmother Houle’s family and I was able to get a copy of that. And then I came into the picture.
I seem to be the default family historian right now, and I’ve done my best to build on what came before – I stand on the shoulders of giants. I found out as much as I could about the McDonald/MacDonald side of things, and did some difficult work in Italian to research my wife’s family. I have been aided by Napoleon and the Catholic Church in my research – how’s that for strange bedfellows!
Right now I am looking to the next generation to pick up the torch – I have a cousin Brad Way who might be the next in line. And my grandson Teddy seems to have the same sort of laser focus that could get into Genealogy some day – assuming he’s interested.
The job gets more complex as you go. Albert was keeping track of 4 generations from John Price. Helen looked after 6. Don added more families and went up to 7. I’m up to 9 and the outer branches of the tree are getting further and further away. It certainly helps that there are searchable databases online and a lot of census data has been indexed – in Canada, the US and the UK. I also have access to a lot of information from other family trees and I try to make my information accessible to anyone who needs it. I’ve also been lucky that most of my family came to Canada a long time ago from mostly Anglo-Saxon places. Maria’s stayed in one area in Italy that had great record keeping so that was also a great stroke of luck.
One area where I’m destined to fail is with the family photos. I have a bunch that my grandmother owned and my mother gave me – some are of the Clancy family of Centreville – and I am hopeless in identifying any of the people in them. Even my mother was of no help. I also have some excellent photos of the Price family reunion taken around the time Albert was compiling the genealogy. But aside from my great-grandmother and my own great aunts I can’t say who’s who. And sadly I don’t think there’s any institutional memory left to assist. Maybe some distant cousins could help but I don’t know them personally. At least these are paper copies of black and white photos from a century ago – so they have lasted. Who’s to say what’ll happen with the selfies and .jpgs we make today.
When I do recognize some of my great aunts it’s a revelation. I knew them in the 1950s as old Victorian ladies. It’s quite a surprise to see them as young and beautiful as they were in 1909 or so. So I take what I can from the old photos and try to document as much as I can.
Here’s the younger generation from a Price family reunion in 1917 or a bit later. Aunt Helen isn’t there as far as I know. Maybe she was the photographer. My grandmother is in the middle row far right – looking serious. Aunt Geneva is dead center looking ravishing. Aunt Alice is at the back – 2nd left and Aunt Julia is in the back far right. I haven’t a clue who anyone else is – but wow! what a bunch.
It’s stuff like this that makes family history all worthwhile.