Family history- family story

You’ve heard them a thousands of times. The Story of the Cousin No One Speaks About, the story of How Grandpa Proposed, the story about How the Family Moved into the City. Those are our very personal oral traditions. Some people, however, are not content with the unwritten stories of the families. Some people are looking for facts, those people are family historians.
We had a visitor in the archives the other day- Maureen from the Devon Family History Society. She graciously showed us where to start if you are aiming to track down all the stories you have been listening to since you can remember. We live in the information age and it is our privilege to have computers to help us with digging into the past. Computers are not magic, of course, and can only aid at the start of the journey.
But I’m saying it all wrong, because before you run to one of paid or unpaid sites on the internet, you have a starting point a little bit closer. I mean you, yourself. How much do you know? How much facts do you remember? The names of your parents, your Grandparents, their dates of birth, the dates of their marriages. There are different documents that has been already digitized and that will reveal some information to you: marriage certificates, birth certificates, census documents, service records. I could go into details on how to start distilling history from story, but that is not my aim. There are sites and books that could do that better than me. What I want to say is that family history and family stories are not one and the same. Stories change each time they are being told. The one notable example Maureen told us about is that of a researcher who was investigating the story about their grandfather. The family story said that he was gorged to death by a bull. After some time searching they came across his death certificate. The grandfather in question was admitted to the local hospital and died there. But it was not a death by a bull; he was crushed by a cow against the barn door. But with time this story became something else, something more dramatic. That’s why anyone, who wishes to research family history, must be prepared to find that the things may not be as they were told.

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