How is that my husband can stay up to the early hours staring gormlessly at Who Do You Think You Are, but wipe bogies on my notebook in the event that I mention my own tree?
The entire two year (so far) pursuit is all his fault anyway, beginning when he spent an evening in January 2013 staring not at Sky Sports News, but at his computer screen, locked into what has transformed into one of the most fun puzzle games ever: Family Tree Research. Admittedly, his research has been gratuitously straightforward. Being of mainly English descent is fantastic on Ancestry. However, attempting to build my own history has been more difficult, what with being completely Mauritian on one side and completely Irish on the other. On my first few attempts, Ancestry gave me little more than my Dad’s telephone directory listing from the 1980s, which would have been great had I not known that my Dad existed and at that lived only a ten minute drive from my house.
Setting the Mauritian half to one side, partly due to my Dad being a terrible historian and partly having no idea how to even begin shaking down the Mauritian embassy for a way in, I turned to the easier Irish side. Oh – the majority of records were destroyed in 1922? And everyone’s named Margaret, Mary, Patrick or John? Yes – definitely easier!
Two years later, I somehow have 322 names on my tree, many of them relatives of my generation, or the one just before; then, ascending from that are entire families whose lineage we share. It sounds stupid, but there’s a sense of magic to it and I have indulged much staring time at the branches. I even have favourite ancestors despite knowing next to nothing about them.
My great-great grandfather James Kinsella for example, who worked as a Boatman in Dublin. His sister was named Mary-Anne Kinsella, and James went onto marry a woman named Mary-Anne Kavanagh. Mary-Anne Kinsella married William Ward. Between the two couples they had about fourteen children, some that I’m still discovering on James’ side. I like them for the fact that they and their spouses and in-laws continue to appear as witnesses for baptisms and marriages. It gives me a sense that they remained very much family to each other.
Ancestry is still late to my game even though I use it as my builder (sorry – I’m sure there’s a specific technical word). Weeks after I have added an ancestor from another source, the Ancestry green leaf wiggles suggestively at me, only to confirm something I already know, or to throw hints at me that all somehow lead to paying for their international service (yes, I know the Irish moved around, but really!)
Had I known just how – slow – will be my polite word of choice, Ancestry would be on the Irish records, I would have been less likely to have started there. But, it peaked my interest and made me Google terms like ‘how to research an Irish family tree’, and from there, I found several resources that I’ve relied on to grow my tree…