Advantages reveals the story behind your family, there's always something unusual to know
Disadvantages it's a seriously addictive hobby, requires time or money or both!
I have a problem that might be verging on the point of becoming an addiction - I spend quite a lot of time learning about dead people! But not just any dead people - this lot are my ancestors, so I hope that gives me some kind of excuse. My head, my notebooks and two separate lever arch files are now full to bursting point with notes, census details, certificates for births, marriages and deaths, little plastic hole-punched pockets containing delicate original items like my grandma's birth certificate and things that can't be hole-punched like photographs of gravestones, I have trawled some churchyards so many times that I can now walk through at least two church gates and go straight to at least four different gravestones of interest, I've spent nights in some dreadful bed and breakfasts, some nice ones and even stayed in the same pub where a relative worked in 1851!On reflection, I think I probably am addicted to researching the family tree but I would like to think that I have learnt one or two things along the way that somebody else can make use of. So this review is by no means going to be a comprehensive guide or a "one size fits all" approach because every family is bound to be different, but some of it might possibly help or give people on here ideas.
You would think that a first name would be something that wouldn't change over time, especially on official documents like the census (that national head count that they've been doing every ten years since 1841, although - as it happens - the 1931 census was apparently destroyed during World War Two and they didn't take one in 1941 because of the war) but it seems not. I printed out a copy of the 1881 census record to show my dad the details of a nine year old boy who I thought was likely to be my great-grandad, Dad looked down the list at the other children living at that address, spotted the two sisters Catherine and Susannah and said he remembered "Aunt Kate" and "Aunt Susan". In another instance, a child born in 1770 and christened Mary later popped up as a godparent to a niece or nephew as "Molly" and, after she married, her children seem to have been noted to be the offspring of either "John and Molly" or "John and Mary". So it's worth keeping an open mind about names - even parish clerks and vicars didn't always feel the need to use consistent spellings, so I have even found christenings where the baby's name has been recorded as, for instance, "Masco" with a note that the name could actually be "Myerscough". Sometimes I think it's easier to forget that I know how the name is spelt and try to think how I would spell the name if I had only heard it spoken out loud. I suspect that sometimes a name varies depending on the age of the person. A baby girl might be christened Elizabeth, named Lizzie as a little girl, turn up as a young married woman named Eliza and have become Bessie or Betty in her later years, but equally she might have simply been christened "Lizzie" rather than Elizabeth.
Is it Mary, is it Molly or is it Polly?
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