Anyone engaged in writing family histories will understand the challenges in uncovering supporting documents. But, the bigger challenge we face, as amateur family historians, is finding the hidden stories behind those "facts". I can now declare that finding hidden stories in military records is a whole new ball game! During WW1 my Great Uncle Arthur Ilson moved around, a lot! Different battalions, different countries & various hospitals. I know all this because somehow, in all the chaos and mayhem that surrounded him, someone kept hand written records that have been saved for me to read 100 years later!
Military historians poor over the records to dissect, analyze and speculate about the places, arsenal and movement of the "troops". When a family historians pours over the same military records they will take on another dimension altogether. The "troops" include your Great-Uncle. The location becomes a place your visit and put your hand on the bark of an old tree. The speculations include the sister who receives payment every month for the efforts of her baby brother. The same military records will become the scaffolding for a story that has been hidden for over 100 years.
As family historians we can all agree that coincidences happen. Where we may disagree is whether they are meaningful coincidences or meaningless coincidences. Which you choose will depend on whether you believe in cosmic forces, outside the world of pragmatism, or not. If you are firmly in the "random" camp you can admit it's odd and move on with out any further engagement. But,what if you don't move on?
Some of you may set an alarm to remind you to get up from your computer, stretch your back and re focus your eyes. But then again you may be like me and only resurface when your bladder, partner, kids or hunger demand attention. I have found podcasts to be the perfect alternative to alarms that go off just when you're on a roll. It also has the added advantage that my research/blog is still making progress while I have my feet up and a cup of coffee in hand!
If the last time you wrote a pen portrait was at school then take a look at my earlier post to refresh your memory! The digital version is not that much different but it does have the added advantage to easily add photos, newspaper articles or copies of letters etc. Pen portraits also make great presents for those "hard to buy for" members of your family.
Last week I posted a photo on Facebook of my mother on a "Charabanc" I was surprised to see the comments & "likes" rolling in so quickly. Experiencing my Mother's history like this had me hooked!. The research began & in the process I learned a little more about her life. The questions I should have asked her have been answered. From start to finish the journey has been a happy one. It seems I have found a formula for writing that works for ancestry blogs. It's time to share!
If photographs are anything to go by, life in the East End of London for my parents did not include holidays. It seems that hop picking and bus trips were a more frugal substitute. On the back of one of the photos Mum had written, "On a charrabank" I had no idea what she meant......but I do now!
I'm not sure I have ever had a hobby. I just do things I like to do! I also have a sneaking suspicion that hobbies were invented in order to combat the biblical quote about "idle hands" If a hobby is something we do to just to keep ourselves busy then count me out. It sounds too much like housework! No, a hobby should be enjoyable, enriching and energising!
Writing stories about our family history is not the same as writing a novel. Our characters already have their place in history. Their life events have already been written. If we don't want our ancestors relegated to column of numbers we have to ignore that persistent voice in our head that whispers, "You're not a writer, you have writers block, stick to the records!