Isn't it weird how you become more interested in your ancestors once they are no longer there to ask questions? My maternal grandmother had offered snippets of her (hard) life, but I never followed up on the remarks she would occasionally make. I should have done, I don't think she would have brushed me off, but some misguided sense of 'that's not something you do' took over and now I still don't know and she is not here anymore to answer any questions.
During my holiday a few weeks ago, I tried finding out who my mother's ancestors were, where they came from and hopefully even what they did and I've made some remarkable discoveries. Now first I have to tell you that if you were planning on finding out about your ancestors: prepare to wade through site after site after site (if you are lucky) with information. Or (if you are not so lucky) paperwork with illegible handwriting. Nothing alphabetic and sometimes it's just plain educated guessing. But, once you have done that, you can find some great things. A few examples:
|The backside of the book containing all baptism, marriage and death records of a certain church. I had to sift through page after page to find Abraham (I did)|
One of my forefathers who was born at the beginning of the 19th century was a redhead. He had an oval face, a round forehead, blue eyes, a big nose, an ordinary mouth, a round chin and freckles. And he stood 1.58 (5'3") tall! The reason I know this is because this was the description of him in 1836, right before he joined the Infantery. In those days every male had to be registered and if you were lucky, you didn't get called up. He wasn't lucky and spent the next five years in barracks learning how to be an infantery man. I want to find someone now who has a better sense of drawing and painting than I do and who can draw/paint him in what would have been his uniform! I would also like to know more about his time in the Infantery, since his life after the Military consisted of so many different jobs, that I have the feeling he was a bit of a short tempered guy who kept loosing his jobs.
Another of my forefathers studied Theology in Leiden (still a very well known university in the Netherlands) in the early 1600's and became a minister. He held several posts before starting to write a book which was called (translated): "Meditations and Harmonia or similarities of the four gospels concerning Jesus Christ". It was published in 1661, three and a half centuries ago!
What I want to do now (apart from a little more research) is trying to put all this together in one book, with a few stories like the ones above. It will also include the history of my country, of which I know virtually nothing, to put the stories in their time and to show that even though most of my family was at the lower end of society (poor), some national or international events did have an impact on their lives as well.