Monday, 22 September 2014

How I got hooked on researching my family history...

I came to start researching my family history via a rather circuitous route. It wasn't due to an interest in family history, rather it was football that started the ball rolling. But not due to any family ties to football as I'll soon explain.

Around 2011, I was deeply involved in football (real football - Australian Rules Football, aka AFL) and I regularly kept up to date with several fan forums. In one of the forums someone posted a link to an archive of old Football Record magazines dating back to 1912 which had been scanned by the State Library of Victoria. The Football Record is a match-day magazine that contains football news and articles along with team lists for games being played each weekend. As a fan of Australian Rules Football I was interested in seeing what some of these old magazines were like and what stories they may contain. Normally my interest might have petered out here, but I showed my father the archives and he mentioned that Les Lobb, the father of a friend of his, once played for the Collingwood Football Club. My interest reignited, I set out to see if I could find any issues of the Football Record that mentioned Les.

It didn't take me long to discover the games that Les played and the associated Football Records, which I duly copied and gave to my father to show Arthur. The Football Records had very brief mentions of Les (who only played a handful of games in the 1920 season) so I wondered if I might find some more details elsewhere. A short bit of Googling later and I had stumbled onto a veritable treasure trove of scanned newspapers at the appropriately named Trove website run by the National Library of Australia. Here I found old newspapers that had been scanned and I soon discovered issues with match reports for the games Les Lobb played in, all of which Arthur was most grateful to read.

Now having found the newspaper archives, I started to wonder if I could find any mention of my family in the papers. The first search I did was for "Amos Bannister", which is not only my name, but that of my grandfather and great grandfather. Lo and behold, this first search returned an article describing the theft of a pony and cart from Amos Parker Bannister of Burnell Street, West Brunswick - the very house my grandfather and great grandfather lived in. Given the date of the article (1924) this had to be my great grandfather. I was interested to note that three other results listed related to the estate of a George Amos Bannister and were dated 1882. I showed my findings to my father and he told me that George Amos was my great, great grandfather.

This was all it took, I was now hooked. I started doing more searches, trying to find more articles about my ancestors and before long I had a nice collection of newspaper articles that told the story of my family in Melbourne. Around this time I remembered a book my cousin James had compiled containing a family history which he presented to members of the family at a family reunion back in 2004. I dug out my copy of the book and started to go through the names and searching for any references in the newspapers. I had no clear direction with this, I was just bouncing from one relative to the next, plugging random names and places into the Trove search engine to see what I could find.

Over time I started to look at producing my own family tree and started looking into genealogy software and websites. My first attempts at a family tree were somewhat rudimentary and lacking in any real rigour. I was just collecting names and dates and plugging them into some software and it took me a while to realise I had been going about things the wrong way. So I threw away most of what I had done and started to more thoroughly research my family tree by taking care to (attempt to) verify and document my sources as I went the second time around.

After a few false starts I sought out some advice from various genealogy websites and magazines and I think I almost know what I am doing now. I have managed to trace the Bannister line back to the early 18th century and for some bizarre reason have decided to start over again. I won't be throwing away my research to date, but I want to revisit each person in the tree I have built up and re-verify sources to make sure I haven't accidentally cross-linked someone. I will try to document my progress and the reasoning behind some of my decisions in this blog as I go along.

1 comment:

  1. I found your post very interesting. My interest in a family tree came when my daughter-in-law gave me a family tree she had made as a Christmas gift. It was a tree with branches for my husband's father and mother and my father and mother. She asked for information from the two women (as both men were deceased.) My mother-in-law's branch had plenty of leaves, but the tree was in peril of toppling, as my side of the tree had only a few leaves. In the interests of balancing her gift, which came with plenty of extra leaves, I went on a mission to learn about my family. Almost 10 years later, I have used all of the leaves that came with the tree. It is GLORIOUS!!