Thursday, October 01, 2009

Finding out stuff

I have been digging about in the family closet lately, not for tidying up either, just to get a better idea of where my side the family is from and so on.


One of the things I have discovered while digging (other than the fact that a fair few of my bits come from Scotland) is that in 1885 my great-grandfather saved a young girl from drowning in Dowling Bay in Dunedin. She was 10 at the time and was with her father, and 4 siblings when the accident occurred and all 4 of her siblings drowned. According to the news report (written in fantastically florid prose) if it hadn't been for the extensive exersions on the part of my Great Grandfather, the girl would have drowned as well.  He was even awarded a Certificate from the Humane Society in a ceremony conducted in the town square!

That got me wondering whatever happened to the little girl, what sort of life did she have, did she get married, have children of her own...you know, that sort of thing. So I set about trying to find out. She had a rather common name so it was very tricky to find her at all, but eventually I think I found her. If it was the young girl in question, then she did marry and lived to be 60 years of age but not without a few more sadnesses along the way - the tragic death of her own young son being one of them.

I have now been driven to delve deeper into the family than I had before, it is involving such internet searches as "Cemetery search" where you can find burial plots and even the last known address of the deceased but only if they have been dead for over 80 or more years - fascinating stuff!

Has anyone ever delved into their family past? What did you find? Got any tips to share?

15 comments:

kj said...

sag, this is very interesting. i'll love to see what you find out.

my father's mother died when he was two. she is buried in a very old historic graveyard in lexington massachusetts, which my mother took me to only once, after my dad had died. her grave has a very small white flat plaque on it, and all it says is "Mother".
i'll never forget it.

i am taking a program on writing a memoir and there is a woman in our group of 4 who thought she was writing about her great grandfather but it turns out her great grandmother is sending her signals and getting her attention.

xoxo sag.

Steve said...

Wow. This is something I'd love to do but never seem to find time to dedicate to it. I know my mother has done a little research on the maternal line and we seem to be pretty boring local farmers for generation after generation though at some point the roots wriggle themselves back to mid Wales - which possibly explains my love for the area. I think I need to become famous so I can go on Who Do You Think You Are? and let a team of expert researchers do all the hard graft for me...! Trouble is, that might take so long I could be dead myself by then!

The villager: said...

A fascinating tale of your great-grandfather's heroics; and sadly the loss of the other siblings in the drowning.

I would like to think I'm descended from King Arthur, but it's more likely to be a hospital cleaner.

The Poet Laura-eate said...

Wow, what an amazing story! I tried to find out about my great uncle who was killed in WW1 but drew a bit of a blank after finding the basic details on war grave sites.

Margaret Pangert said...

That's amazing, Saj! I think you should use the same useful source that you used for the war hero commemorated by the statue: Owen at Magic Lantern Show! He is incredible at digging up (no pun intended) sources.
I have one ancestral tracing to relate: my maternal grandfather's name was Ingram. We have a picture of him covered with a kilt (or tartan?) at his christening. As his parents came through Canada and not Ellis Island, it was hard to trace. But eventually we found the Scottish Ingrams in a little town in Scotland called Keith, not far from Inverness! Maybe you and I are related! However, the rest of my ancestry is mutt. Did you find any relatives in digging up your yard?:) xxox

The Sagittarian said...

kj - Lovely poignant story from you about your Grandmother!

Steve - There is always that lead you got from Africa that you have yet to follow up on...millionaires apparently!

Villager - ah there's many an heroic hospital cleaner, don't fret! :-)

Poet - once you get the persons full name you can find out all sorts of things, maybe you could try the Defence department they will have records going back, and family birth certificates too, plus marriages and death certs all can carry little hints or whereabouts. I'm finding it all rather obsessive, can't stop digging!!

Margaret - the only bods I have unearthed in my yard relate to the 4 legged family members...Puss, Fat Boy, Lucy, Fritz and Chamberlain...as for the rest of the family, well it's proving to be rather enjoyable tracing it all and on my mothers side we a mutts from Ireland and Cornwall! The Scottish side seems to be Inverness, Dunbarton, Paisley and Aberdeen.
I'm sure Owen will have some good ideas about fossicking in my family drawers!

missbehaving said...

What an interesting story, and that you were able to trace more info on the surviving child.

I have been interested in the past though i didn't do the work myself. Some friends who make a hobby of it did all the digging in London ( pre online info).
My father's side is all Scottish as far back as we could go. My mother's English and Irish.
A plethora of 'mill workers' and 'carpenters'.
You ahve reignited my interest, think I'll dig the papers out and start a project of it with my bored sons.

The Sagittarian said...

Missbehaving - sounds like a great idea! You can download all kinds of family tree charts for free, just a matter of filling them in...make use of the old wrinklies in your family while they still have their marbles is probably the best bit of advice I've had so far (from my mother!!)

louciao said...

When my father was diagnosed with stomach cancer 6 years ago, he began speaking more of his childhood and his own father whenever I came out west to visit. Normally, he wouldn't have much to say, so I seized the opportunity to share something with him and began doing some research about the town in Italy my grandfather had come from, the ship records (through Ellis Island Foundation) that had his name on them, and what little else I could dig up. I put it all together in a hand bound "album" for him.

This research is what eventually led me to go to the south of Italy and make a pilgrimmage of sorts to my grandfather's village, the first in our family to have returned to the "homeland." When we arrived (I took Pierre and our daughter) the church bells were ringing for Easter and the priest's intoned call and response to the assembled congregation was being broadcast over loudspeakers throughout the village. It was haunting and moving; I felt like I was being given a sign or welcomed home. There was,however,no trace left of my grandfather's existence or relatives there and I didn't have the means (language, time,money) to delve further.

My father died before I made the trip, but it was from an inheritance he left that I was able to go.

My mother's side of the family is British...but that's another story.

Adrian LaRoque said...

Never dig to deep you never know what you may find!

The Sagittarian said...

Louciao - how wonderful, as I have mentioned before The Stud's family on his fathers side originate from Italy and we have records going back oh til around 1600+ which make fascinating reading...there are photos as well just to frighten the little 'uns!

Adrian - hm, good point! So far so good tho'.

RB said...

Oh what a wonderful but sad story.

I did quite a bit of family history research a few years back (it provided a useful cover for travelling around and getting up to things) - initially online and from ordering certificates but then latterly from visiting churches etc.

I was blessed with unusual surnames and geographical concentration so that helped. But I never unearthed an interesting story like that - I found ancesters who ran pubs (of course) and ferries and who had triplets but that was about it. I did it for about three years and I haven't touched it since. I am sure I will do again one day - I got back to about 1750 on one strand but got stuck on lots of others. I was more interested, like you, in filling out the detail than just gathering a long list of names and dates.

Good luck with it. I'll be interested to hear what else you find out.

Some people spell yoghurt like this (yogurt).

The Sagittarian said...

RB - I have to say I'm finding it all rather addictive! One of my ancestors was the first Blacksmith in a place near here called Oxford, he had an unusual but famous surname...
Am so glad you're out and about in Blogland.

Meggie said...

A cousin has done a lot of delving into our family roots. I love the old scandals the most.

Owen said...

oh I'm so late getting here !

What a wonderful story, even the sad bits. I wonder what happened that caused the girl and her siblings to be in the water in the first place before your grandfather intervened ? And then she lost a son after having lost her siblings ? Some people seem to be born under a dark star...

Well, your video there ends on a light note, love the "wwheeee- ooooohhhh" at the very end !

Oh boy, and it's Tuesday now, can't wait to see what's coming !!! And I'm betting Lynne is out there in Vancouver checking you page every hour at least to see when the Tuesday Tipple will drop !