If you have always wanted to ‘do’ your family tree then next year’s event The Gathering is the perfect opportunity to get going on your very personal project. Get gathering your family stories, the old ones handed down over the years, the ones that you’ve created in your own lifetime. Simply note characteristics about your family good, bad and indifferent. Even health information will be of use to the wider family group. Write them in pen, record them on an old audio or video tape or new iPhone or type them into a document – preferably all methods. The main thing is to listen and record.
Start noting down dates but don’t get hung up on them. The best advice from seasoned genealogists is to start with yourself and work backwards. Your are among the most recent additions to the family tree and that gives you a starting point not an end point.
Take your time and enjoy the journey into your family tree. It is not something that you will have completed in a week, a month, or even a year and anyone who tells you there’s is ‘done’ hasn’t dug hard enough.
Visiting various libraries, repositories and museums will take you to different parts of Ireland and perhaps even abroad if you find ancestors who came from foreign shores as mine did.
Taking time to think and reflect on what you find about the journey your forefathers and mothers took. This will help you to understand aspects of yourself you never realised. You will get those ahha moments that are sheer magic. That might be a taste for tomato sauce or a special understanding of the plight of new immigrants.
Some, who don’t get genealogy, will ask why are you ‘digging up dead people’ or may comment under their breath that you are busy chasing up long dead relatives but you couldn’t be bothered visiting a relative down the road. They might be right, but then again doing family history is the perfect excuse to reconnect with relatives you may have lost touch with over the years. Whatever you do go gently particularly with older relatives who may be suspicious of your new found interest. It takes time to build trust and family history research takes lots of time, patience and trust. Invest the time it and will pay dividends.
Don’t worry about the presentation of your research. Families are messy, research can be sporadic and a folder with scraps of paper, copies of old photographs and copies of certificates is a treasure and fun to pour over with friends old neighbours and those long lost living relatives.
So start today pick up the phone or write a card and make a connection begin your own Gathering -the gathering of your story. It could lead to a family get together in 2013 or may be the starting point for the novel you plan to make your millions with.