04 December 2012

Lucky or Fateful Encounters - Part Four

Do you think of yourself as some sort of pioneer, an adventurer or just an ordinary family history researcher?  What have been the main hassles and challenges you have experienced, whether in your investigations and in life in general?  How have your hassles and challenges compared with those of others, including your ancestors?

Life can sometimes lead us towards a feeling of disenchantment and disillusionment.  We can, however, re-enchant life, too.  I prefer my own life to be enchanting but not illusionary.

You may know that I like to ask quite a lot of questions of Ancestors Within readers.  Asking questions can stimulate curiosity and new lines of inquiry.  Questions can also open up a whole new world of possibilities, whether about the past, present or future.

How was the cultural life of your ancestors different from your own past experiences and preferences?  Have you ever thought about the fact that the words answer and ancestor start with the same two letters?

Exploring different ways of life - and different ways of thinking - can provide us with new insights into the world around us, and towards the choices we can make.  Has your family history research ever lead you to explore the interconnections between corruption, bribery, tipping, begging and poverty?  Did any of your ancestors overcome injustice through the use of peace and courtesy?

28 November 2012

Families in Fact and Fiction

When exploring family history, it is interesting to find imaginative patterns.  Although I am not particularly familiar with the writings of JRR Tolkein, my maternal ancestors lived in the region he knew best.  Perhaps my relatives provided some of the inspiration for Hobbits!

My husband's maternal ancestors came from a region inspiring many legends.  Sometimes I wonder if the English Midlands, the Veneto and Australia have much at all in common.  But then I remember my visits to the Wrekin, the Montello and Uluru.

02 November 2012

Town Ancestors and Country Ancestors

The further back we go with our family history research, the more we find that we have both town ancestors and country ancestors.  Aesop's fable about a town mouse and the country mouse may have some parallels in your family history.

Did your rural ancestors behave in different ways than your urban ancestors?  Did they have different values and beliefs?  Were there differences of opinion when they met each other?

You may like to explore these two contrasting links:




Sometimes, the people who grow up in cities appreciate nature more than their country cousins do, and vice versa.  I have often preferred the slower pace of country life and the fresher air, but I have also needed the cultural stimulation of city experiences and foreign travel from time to time.





before 1900 



Provincial towns and sprawling suburbs usually do not hold much appeal for me as I often find them dull.  Such places are very much the same in many ways, in my experience, all over the world, though being somewhere dull can also provide the impetus for some fascinating online research!

01 November 2012

Searching for Useful Opinions

Sometimes it is difficult to find useful opinions, no matter how much exploring we do, whether online or in life.  How do you know when you have found a useful opinion?

Being able to distinguish between facts and opinions is a good starting point, in my opinion.  For example, I usually like the comments on my blogs to be essentially factual rather than just a matter of opinion.


Mow Cop - An example of fact and opinion


How do you distinguish between fact and opinion when writing about family history, planning a holiday, developing a business, working out what to eat, or making any other important decision? 

29 October 2012

Peaceful Enterprises and Lovely Surprises - Part Three

After briefly introducing you to these genealogically applicable topics in parts one and two of this series, I would now like to mention publishing.  Blogs are, of course, a form of publishing, as are websites and anything placed on an Internet server or social networking site.

Soon, this Ancestors Within blog will be inaccessible to the general public.  What will this mean for you as a reader?  If you are one of my relatives, however distant, you can just send me an email to request future access.  Proof of relationship will be required, of course.  How will you provide that proof?

If you are not related to me, how will your access to this blog be of benefit to me and my family in the future?  Investing my time here, and in history, over the past few years has provided many intrinsically valuable rewards for my closest relatives and myself.  Now I am investing my time in the future even more than the past.

One of my other blogs is already less available to read than it once was.  Perhaps that is something you find surprising though not necessarily lovely!  You may not even like the new colour schemes I have chosen for my blogs.  Does pink or brown appeal to you more?

Publishing for profit is a topic I find very interesting, and I intend to pursue it more seriously than I have in the past.  Although I hope my blogs have already met your expectations, I would like my future writings to go beyond your expectations and provide some lovely surprises.

15 August 2012

Ancestors and Asylum

There is an ongoing debate, here in Australia, about what to do about people who arrive "illegally" by sea and claim to be asylum seekers.  For Australians, exploring a family history can reveal many things.  It can especially reveal previous unspoken matters concerning past traumas.

If you have an ancestor who was forced to leave somewhere in the hope of avoiding starvation, violence or even death, where did they go?  How did they escape?  How did they pay for their journeys? What happened to them afterwards?

My husband's maternal grandparents came to Australia probably because they were barred from entry to the United States in the 1920s.  An archive document from Rome states that my husband's grandfather had been in the United States, perhaps before the First World War.  Being an Italian, there was a likelihood that he hoped to spend a few years in the United States, earn some money and then return home.  However, I have found no record of him in the Ellis Island database.

If he had been in the United States before the war, he had returned to his homeland to serve in the war itself.  Born in the mid 1880s, he was described as a farm worker with socialist sympathies.  His political views put his life at risk in the postwar years under Mussolini.  The United States immigration policies after the First World War prevented many southern and eastern Europeans from escaping in that direction.

Many men from the Veneto region of northern Italy were in a similar situation.  I have discovered a document listing all of those who arrived in Australia on the same ship as my husband's grandfather in the mid 1920s.  Perhaps one of your relatives is listed there.

11 June 2012

Peaceful Enterprises and Lovely Surprises - Part Two

Family history has become a major industry in the 21st century.  What are the statistics?  What sorts of businesses make a profit from assisting family historians?  Do you run some sort of associated business yourself?

As you may know, I'm contacted quite often by representatives of companies, many of whom propose that I promote their products on this blog.  How can I know that an email from a stranger is something to trust?

In an effort to gain a small income from this blog, I have sometimes displayed a few adverts through Google, but I've found that they only clutter up the screen.  The ads hardly provide enough income even to cover the cost of a cup of coffee, so there appears little point in me having ads here, especially if they are not of products or services I would personally choose to use.


A little bird told me




There are, of course, many non-financial rewards from writing a blog about family history, which is why I began this one.  You may also be aware that I consider myself to be a social entrepreneur in the broader sphere of existence, so I examine businesses from several perspectives.

If you have found any lovely surprises in this or my other blogs I'd really like to know.  I'd also like to know what you consider to be the qualities of a peaceful enterprise.

If you have not yet seen the first part of this occasional series of blog posts, you may like to read it now.


I've recently come across a few interesting articles about family history as an industry:


Ancestry buys Archives.com to expand family history industry

Online Researchers Spur Growth of Genealogy Industry, According to a New Report by Global Industry Analysts, Inc.

Genealogy Industry Metrics


I know that Mr Thomas MacEntee at Geneabloggers has a few interesting things to say the family history industry, too, as do the people who comment on that site.

My concerns about the accumulation of personal information online have been known to readers of my blogs for some time now.  It is worrying that so many people reveal sensitive details about themselves, and others, to people who may be more interested in profit than peace.  This especially applies when data has been collected from family history websites, blogs and social networks.

So, how do you really know when an enterprise is safe and peaceful to use when you explore your family history, whether physically and digitally?  How can a person find out if someone in their family, or even a complete stranger, is revealing too much about them online?

09 June 2012

Lucky of Fateful Encounters - Part Three

Is there ever anything lucky about mistaken identity, especially in the area of family history?  Sometimes, I am contacted by people who think they are related to me when I know they are not.  It is often the case that a similar name in a completely irrelevant location is the cause of confusion in the minds of the people contacting me.

Sometimes, however, a person who might be unrelated can help us in other ways.  Perhaps they had relatives who had the same surname and lived in the same area as a family member, or even in the same street.  It is something I have found from my own experience.

Being in contact with someone who has an insight into an environment a family member would have experienced can reveal some interesting snippets of information.  I can vaguely recollect my grandmother mentioning a sweetshop near to where she lived as a child, and I think she mentioned the shop was owned by a relative.

Someone with the same surname as my grandmother's maiden name did indeed own a sweetshop in the street where my grandmother grew up, as I discovered while exploring my Shropshire family history and heritage.  The person I contacted by email was very pleasant and informative, though we could not work out if there actually was a family connection anywhere.

It is always important never to jump to premature conclusions when researching anything. I hope you will find some of my other investigations into identity to be of interest.  They are from my By Any Other Name blog:


Unfortunate connotations

Mistaken identity and identity confusion

Entertainment, friendship and identity


Most of my luck with family history has come as a consequence of my research online, of emails I have sent or received enquiring about all sorts of historical matters, and from distant relatives who have been looking at this blog.  

And mentioning a sweetshop reminded me that I have some very nice chocolates in my kitchen...  Now that is lucky!

22 April 2012

Lucky or Fateful Encounters - Part Two

As you may know, I'm interested in everything to do with identity, travel and peace.  Have any of your family members ever identified with, or admired, anyone in particular?

In her youth, my mother wanted to look like Audrey Hepburn, a person more than a decade older than herself.  I have only just realised that in family photographs from the early 1960s, my mother dressed like Audrey Hepburn on special occasions.  And I think my mother succeeded, except for the fact that she is somewhat petite and, at least in her early womanhood, had a shape more like Marylin Monroe than Audrey Hepburn.

Did your parents, grandparents, or even a great grandparent admire anyone?  I know that my maternal grandfather admired Winston Churchill, but he did not try to look or act like him at all.  I just feel I am lucky that my family, like Audrey Hepburn herself, survived the Second World War.

15 March 2012

Getting to Know Great Grandmothers - Part Three

Does anyone in your family have red hair?  Are some of your family members very tall or very short?  Do several generations of your family have distinctive features of one sort or another?

Tall people have been quite common on one side of my family. Red hair has also been quite common on that side of the family.  Have you seen little Annie?  Annie grew to be quite tall, as did several of her children and grandchildren.  Annie also had red hair.

As far as I am aware, Annie's heritage was English through and through.  Her family came mainly from Huntingdonshire and Surrey and she spent most of her life in London.

But what about my husband's great grandmother, Carolina?  She was Italian through and through as far as I am aware.  She was born in Viggiano in Basilicata.  Carolina was a very short person.  She also had red hair.


I have it on very good authority that this is a picture of Carolina, probably taken around the time of her first communion in the Catholic church in Melbourne.  What age does she appear to be?

There is much that I would like to investigate further about Carolina's life.  She grew up to be quite a businesswoman.  I have already written something about her family:

Carolina's father

Carolina's husband

Carolina's daughter


Have you found evidence in archival records of your family members' business activities?

07 March 2012

Getting to Know Great Grandmothers - Part Two

What does "home" mean to you?  You may call home somewhere that at least one close older relatives lives, or lived, such as a parent or grandparent, or a place in which you grew up.  Have you ever considered your real home as a place where your grandparents grew up?

Perhaps at least one your grandparents mentions or mentioned their mother quite frequently to you.  If you have known a great grandparent yourself, you probably only did so through the eyes and mind of yourself as a very young child.

I am finding that learning about my great grandmothers can tell me quite a lot about myself.  Perhaps it is just because I am female, like they were.  Perhaps it is because I am interested in the topics of identity and belonging.

Explorations of family history can often become a reflection on the meaning of home.  You may have photographs or even painted portraits of great grandparents.  You may even have them on display in the place you currently call home.  Some of your ideas about interior decoration may even reflect the tastes or interests of at least one of your grandmothers.

How are your great grandmothers a part of your life today?