In writing on the Web about my family – I have just submitted my 250th blog post – I try to go beyond just listing names and dates and adding relatives to my tree.
How have I gone about my research and what have I noticed along the way?
My method is to be thorough. When I prepare a blog, I revisit any earlier work I might have done and check my notes and the original records. There’s always more to know on any subject, and often there’s something new to say, though I do feel that despite more research I can’t help thinking that I don’t know and understand my more remote ancestors any better than I did. I certainly don’t feel more Scottish or Irish, for example, despite confirming Celtic DNA in my blood.
More than any other topic, I have written about my forebears and relatives who have my maiden name Champion de Crespigny. Because this surname is uncommon it’s easier to research. People with the name Champion de Crespigny are certainly related to me and to one another.
I have enjoyed being inspired by ‘Sepia Saturday’ prompts and by ‘Trove Tuesday’. It’s great fun to explore the immense digitised repository ofthe National Library of Australia, especially its digitised newspapers.
For the last four years I have joined in the ‘A to Z Blogging Challenge’ in April. Trying to find ideas for every letter of the alphabet is not easy but it has lead to some fascinating research. For example, in the first Challenge, I was wondering what to write for the letter Z. My son suggested the Zulu wars. I knew my paternal grandmother’s Mainwaring relatives were in the army and sure enough I found a second cousin of mygreat great great grandfather who fought against the Zulus. I had heard of the Zulus, of course, but the blogging challenge led me to learn much more. It was fun and satisfying.
I used to enjoy historical novels, but now I can find real life history in my own family researches. Who needs fiction!?
And it’s everywhere. For example, next week our family is travelling to the Northern Territory for a short holiday. One of the main streets of Darwin is named after my great great grandfather Wentworth Cavenagh. I visited Darwin many years ago and knew of Cavenagh Street though I only learned about the family connection afterwards.
I’ve looked in Trove to learn more. On 13 January 1869 the SouthAustralian Advertiser, and other newspapers, published instructions from W. Cavenagh, commissioner of Crown Lands, to Mr Goyder, the Surveyor-General, giving guidance to Goyder in his expedition to survey the Northern Territory. These instructions had been tabled in Parliament. The document was more of a mandate to proceed than detailed instructions. The SouthAustralian Register of 13 January 1869 notes that the instructions were in keeping with the Strangway’s Government’s laconic style. It was interested to see what Cavenagh’s role was and how it was interpreted by newspapers of the day.
In the unlikely event that someone asked for my advice about writing family history I’d say just go ahead and do it. It’s great fun.
|Cavenagh Street Darwin photographed in 1915 by Ted Ryko: Chinese shops at the north west end of Cavenagh Street, Man Fong Lau in foreground. Photograph retrieved from Territory Stories ID PH0135/0045