When I was a little girl, I was inspired to start looking into my ancestry by my maternal grandfather who had already begun the process of tracing our Day family history – thankfully! With such a ‘common surname’, locating our line would have been challenging without the road map he had already drawn out. Over the last three decades, I have slowly added to the tree and sourced the information he already had back in the 1980s when he handed the family documents to Ma FWL, prior to moving to Tenerife with my grandmother (whose maiden name was Evans – that’s a story for another night).
Not everyone is so lucky. I frequently lecture on local, national and international stages to groups from 10 to over 1,000. Some people are just starting out and know very little about how to research whilst other people have little interest in searching but love to hear the story-telling aspect of my talks. Frequently, I am speaking at society events in front of audiences with a lot of knowledge already, i.e. members attending a society conference/seminar/webinar etc.
These last two nights I have been speaking to two different groups of Women’s Institute (WI) groups. Slightly odd that two neighbouring villages meet on consecutive nights but I guess it doesn’t matter when ladies are members of one particular group! Last night, a large mixed group (the meeting was open to men as well – somewhat surprised me!) and tonight, a smaller number but far more enthusiastic bunch. Same talk, same jokes (more than likely!) but the giggles were louder this evening, for certain.
At the end of a lecture, I can always gauge how well it has been received by the number of questions from the audience and also, the number of audience members who come and speak to me individually afterwards. Having started speaking at 8pm for an hour, I barely left before 10pm…. One lady came and told me of her struggles to find the marriage of some of her ancestors. Without giving it a second thought, I reached for my mobile phone and brought up FreeBMD. Within minutes, I had located the entry in the GRO index which she had spent years trying to find and then, by sheer fluke, found the image on Ancestry in the records which have been digitised from the London Metropolitan Archives collection. A happier lady in Wiltshire would be hard to find!
So, inspiration passed on…. I won’t say to the younger generations directly on this occasion. But hopefully, these ladies will go home and start labelling their photographs, locating all their family certificates, documents and other paraphernalia, and start writing down some of their stories so that the knowledge they hold can be preserved for generations to come.