Importance of Family History
Family history means a lot of different things to different people, but feeling connected to history or a particular place is one driving force. Thankfully, the human race has had several generations of written history, which makes the search for your origins much easier than in say the dark ages! If you are ready to suss out your family line, you are in for quite an adventure.
What is in a name? A poignant question that has many answers depending upon whom you ask, but the real problem is finding out what your true name is! You see surnames were not a common thing before the Norman invasion. Local populations were small but as they began to grow it become important to designate which Richard or Mary you were talking about. Hence the custom of calling someone by a combination name.
For example young Mary who lived near the forest might be designated “Mary of the Wood” or John who lived near a pike filled stream might be called “John of Pickersgill”. Over time, these names became shortened to Richard Greenwood, John Hill and so forth. Keep in mind as you research the origins of your family name that there may have been those in your ancestry that decided to simply change their surname. This was done sometimes merely on a whim and other times because of legal issues. That being said learning all you can about where your name came from can be quite interesting, even if it is not 100% accurate.
Road Blocks to Research
The first few generations of your family history should be fairly easy to obtain, after all, you likely have relatives who can fill in a lot of blanks. At some point in your journey, you will inevitably come to a roadblock or two.
One familiar problem with researching family history is the occurrence of births outside of wedlock. Though this may be common today, for centuries it was simply not done (or at least not talked about). Parents, grandparents and clergy often went to great lengths to cover up an illegitimate child, which creates a nightmare for descendants.
Migrating family members can also present a unique challenge to your research, depending on where your ancestor migrated to and from. At this point, you will need to turn to international records if you are going to continue your research. The good news is there are several online databases of information, including migration logs from the United States, penal colony records in Australia and much more.
Why do people spend so much time and energy on family history? For those who really dig in it is a passion to connect and trace the lines of their family lineage. If you have been considering finding out more about your ancestors there are a lot of great resources available, both locally and via the internet.