Family history is an engrossing hobby, a fascinating challenge to trace relationships, and an opportunity to discover how a family has experienced historical events.

I am fortunate that quite a few of my forebears and their relatives were also interested in family history, sufficiently interested to write it down. Several of them published books, for example:

  • Philip Chauncy, my 3rd great grandfather, wrote about his sister and wife in his “Memoirs of Mrs Poole and Mrs Chauncy” 1873 republished in 1976
  • J G Cavenagh-Mainwaring, brother of my great grandmother Kathleen Cudmore, formerly Cavenagh-Mainwaring nee Cavenagh, in 1935 published “Mainwarings of Whitmore and Biddulph in the County of Stafford : an account of the family, and its connections by marriage and descent; with special reference to the manor of Whitmore”. His book has now been digitised and is available at archive.org https://archive.org/details/mainwaringsofwhi00main/page/n5/mode/2up
  • In 1985 Helen Hudson nee Hughes, first cousin of my paternal grandfather, published “Cherry stones : adventures in genealogy of Taylor, Hutcheson, Hawkins of Scotland, Plaisted, Green, Hughes of England and Wales … who immigrated to Australia between 1822 and 1850”.
  • James Kenneth Cudmore (1926 – 2013), my second cousin once removed, of Quirindi New South Wales, commissioned Elsie Ritchie to compile a family history of the Cudmore family in Australia: “For the love of the land: the history of the Cudmore family”. This was published in 2000.
  • In 2017 my father published Champions from Normandy: an essay on the early history of the Champion de Crespigny family from 1350 to 1800”. It was a revision and rewriting of his 1988 work “Champions in Normandy; being some remarks on the early history of the Champion de Crespigny family”.
Some of the family history books written by my relatives

I have been able to confirm the family history in these books through access to records such as birth, marriage and death certificates, baptism and burial records, censuses, wills, military records, and other primary records.

I organise my family history in a family tree database, with the most complete database at Ancestry.com. I can attach documents to it, both of records held by Ancestry and also those I upload. My Ancestry tree is a “public” tree, that is, anyone with a subscription to Ancestry.com can view it and the records I have attached. Currently my tree at ancestry.com has 11,533 people with 18,823 records, 2,480 photographs and images, and 357 stories.

I back up that tree to my own computer using Family Tree Maker, which includes software that synchronises Family Tree Maker with Ancestry.com. I also have a copy of the tree at MyHeritage and at FindMyPast.

I also upload my genealogy to WikiTree, a collaborative project intended to produce a ‘singular worldwide family tree’. I hope the research that I have contributed to WikiTree it will be there as a resource for my cousins to use now and in the future, safe, I hope, from accidental and malicious damage. There are several single worldwide trees, including FamilySearch and Geni. In my experience I have found Wikitree the most accurate and carefully compiled. As I add each person I cite sources to show how I know the facts and relationships. Adding my family tree slowly to Wikitree is an excellent way to review my family history research.

This online research journal is archived by the PANDORA archive, established initially by the National Library of Australia in 1996. Its stated mission was: Preserving and Accessing Networked Documentary Resources of Australia (hence the acronym PANDORA). The National Library states it is committed to ensuring long-term access to all its digital collections, including the PANDORA Archive.

However, I am a great believer in the durable qualities of paper, and I regularly print copies of this blog using an instant print service called Blog2Print (https://www.blog2print.com). I find it easier to read the paper version. So far there are five volumes. My father has a copy.

Many years ago my daughter asked me to compile a family history photo book. I included a family tree up to her great grandparents, including her aunts, uncles and cousins. Photos were briefly captioned.

More recently I used the company MyCanvas to generate a book about the family of my husband Greg. It wasn’t just a matter of pressing a button. I added many photos and also relevant entries from this online research journal to compile the family history, which I later shared with Greg’s brother and sister and their families. The MyCanvas system of compiling books has since changed. It no longer uses Adobe Flash.

Late last year my father and I published a biography and family history of Charlotte Frances nee Dana (1820-1904), my third great grandmother. She emigrated to Australia at the time of the gold rushes with her second husband Philip Robert Champion Crespigny (1817-1889). We wrote about her forebears, her father’s bankruptcy, her first marriage and scandalous divorce, living in the relatively new colony of Victoria amidst the goldrushes, and her grandchildren who lived into the twentieth century.

Publishing a family history is a good way to preserve the research but it is certainly challenging. There are so many facts to be compiled and checked. This online journal is an efficient way to share my research with those of my cousins who are interested in our family history. I have been writing for nearly ten years and have published 584 posts, a considerable body of research.

Amy Johnson Crow, an American genealogist, recently wrote about How to Preserve Your Genealogy Research (https://www.amyjohnsoncrow.com/preserve-genealogy-research). She made the following points:

  1. Organize Your Genealogy
  2. Write and Record Your Family History
  3. Pass It Around
  4. Find the Next Generation
  5. Donate Your Genealogy — with Preparation

The best organising tool I have is to attach documents and photographs to my online family tree database. If I am looking for a document there is a good chance that I will find it there.

My online research journal has been a terrific tool to write and record my family history.

I recently learned that the extensive genealogical research of one of my cousins had been substantially destroyed. After he died, his wife, suffering from dementia of some type, would go through the “papers, time after time, weeding out the bits she thought irrelevant and re-arranging them all. So they are now a lot less substantial and a lot less organised.” Fortunately his conclusions were incorporated into the published research of another cousin but the original sources were unfortunately not noted.

As for passing on the research to the next generation, I talk to my children about our family history but I feel publishing it and sharing it more widely on the web will help to make sure our family history is passed on.

The papers of several of my forebears have been archived:

  • The deeds and documents J G (Gordon) Cavenagh-Mainwaring used to compile his Mainwaring and Whitmore family history were deposited in the Staffordshire archives. One relative who could not find them thought my great aunt Rosemary had destroyed them as she took over Gordon’s study as her sitting room after his death and perhaps consigned Gordon’s papers to the boiler room. Fortunately the important papers in fact survived:
    • Description: Staffs (Whitmore, Biddulph, etc) deeds, family and estate papers Date: 13th cent-20th cent Reference: D 1743
    • Held by: Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent Archive Service https://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk/details/a/A13529956: Staffordshire County Record Office NRA catalogue reference: NRA 25297 Cavenagh-Mainwaring https://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk/details/r/N13803132
    • Staffordshire archives catalogue link: http://www.archives.staffordshire.gov.uk/CalmView/Record.aspx?src=CalmView.Catalog&id=K101
    • Description
      • D(W)1743 includes early deeds from c.1275, manorial court records, family settlements, leases, personal papers including appointments to public office and military or naval commissions, legal documents, estate papers including surveys, field books, survey of coal mine, maps (Whitmore, Acton in Swynnerton, Biddulph), rentals, and some later estate administration papers.
      • D5376: Papers of the Mainwaring Family of Whitmore, particularly of Edward Mainwaring (the eighth Edward of a consecutive line). The collection consists of inventories of goods on the death of several family members (1604-1694), land tax assessments for Clayton and Seabridge and Swynnerton (1735), several wills (1756-1770), legal correspondence (1616-1825) and leases particularly in relation to lands in Lancashire (1744-1768).
      • Extent D(W)1743 is 9 box equivalents and 7 maps D5376 is 2.5 boxes, 2 vols

Related posts:

Wikitree: