Genealogy can put you in touch with your ancestors

Genealogy can put you in touch with your ancestors

Genealogy can be defined as the study of family ancestries or histories, or a record or account of the ancestry and descent of a person, family, or group.  At least, that’s the official definition.  One may think it sounds rather dull – just a list of names, but there are often interesting stories as well, if one digs hard enough.

I got interested in genealogy a few years ago, and now wish I had gotten interested a whole lot sooner.  I had the chance, way back in 1980, to go to Germany with my mom to visit with her side of the family.  I was just 18, rather shy (those who know me now may not believe that, but it’s true), and didn’t really speak much German (still don’t), and not having gotten into genealogy yet, passed up on the perfect opportunity to ask my maternal grandmother and grandfather about their side of the family.  They have both since passed away, and now I can’t ask.

Where to start?  Well, if your parents are still living – start there!  Ask them about their family, their parents, grandparents, brothers, sisters, aunts and uncles and cousins.  While you’re getting the names and birthdays, don’t forget to ask for the stories.  I’ve started writing down my dad’s stories about his growing up in the Netherlands and posting them on my internet blog.  My nieces and nephews read the stories online and then send questions to him for more info or different stories they vaguely remember him telling in the past.

My mom passed away in 2001, and while I hadn’t written them down at the time, I had already started asking her for stories about her growing up.  I’ve started writing them down now, as best as I can remember them.  In this day and age, it is so easy to record the stories, too.  There are apps that will transcribe the spoken word into text (my brother Robert, in Vancouver, has that one on one of his gadgets), or you can video tape them telling the story and post the video clip.

Once you’ve spoken, or written, to all the living relatives you can find, the next step is to check the internet.

Thanks to the internet, searching for info has gotten way easier, and getting in touch with relatives overseas is also easier – and free if they have an internet connection, too.  I have several cousins, some close – some distant, who are “friends” on Facebook and periodically add another one or two as I find them (or they find me).  I got lucky with one such cousin, a distant cousin who happens to work at the archives in Horst, in the Netherlands, where volunteers are entering all the church and government records onto the internet.  The website it and is free, and is an awesome place to look for records if your ancestors came from the Netherlands.  They have a huge number of entries already input, mostly from 1800-1950 so far, and are posting more every week.  With his help I was able to add a whole pile of names to my family tree.

One of the easiest ways to search on the internet, is to type one of the names from your list into the search bar, and place the name in quotes – “Penelope Pitstop” – this makes the search engine look for records that include both the first and last name.  If you leave off the quotes it will bring up all records that have either name.  If you get a lot of resulting hits, you can always narrow the search by adding, again inside the quotes, the year of birth or the place of birth – “Penelope Pitstop 1966”.  Keep in mind that the farther back in date you go, the more likely there could be variations in the spelling of the names.  In my family, there are lots of Peter Houben’s.  Peter may show up as: Piet, Pete, Peter, Peeter, Pieter, Petrus (the latin form), or Pierre (the French form).  And that’s just the first name!

How do you know who is a second cousin or a third cousin once removed?  Well, the easiest way is to show you the chart.

It’s actually quite interesting when you examine your ‘tree’ to see if or when cousins marry each other.  At least in my family, there are a fair few instances of 3rd or 4th cousins marrying.  (Now I know why we Houben’s look so much alike – it’s all that inbreeding – lol.)  I think, if I remember correctly without looking it up, that one of my 7th great-grandparents had a son who was a 6th great-grandparent, and a daughter who was also a 6th great-grandparent.  They each had kids, who had kids, who had kids, who married each other… so what looked like two separate branches on the way up, suddenly merged into one branch.

I haven’t run into anyone particularly famous yet, but who knows, maybe tomorrow.

Watch for the next installment of this column, when we will go into some of the more popular genealogy websites that are available.





Just Posted

Okanagan Lake (File photo)
Thompson-Okanagan ready to welcome back tourists

The Thompson-Okanagan Tourism Association expects this summer to be a busy one

Dynamic drives and pitiful putting helped even the score

Another Ladies’ Night has come and gone. This season is passing by… Continue reading

Tim Schewe
Drivesmart column: Traffic cop humour

He demands to know what sort of device had been used to measure his speed

(L-r) Cody Lee with six-year-old daughter Paisley, and Joshua Burleigh with his seven-year-old son Noah are extremely thankfull to Heffley Creek residents and First Responders for the help they received after their canoe capsized in rapids on the North Thompson River on Sunday, June 13. (Facebook photo)(L-r) Cody Lee with six-year-old daughter Paisley, and Joshua Burleigh with his seven-year-old son Noah are extremely thankfull to Heffley Creek residents and First Responders for the help they received after their canoe capsized in rapids on the North Thompson River on Sunday, June 13. (Facebook photo)
North Thompson River canoe trip almost ends in disaster

‘Only way I managed to get us to shore was the thought of not letting my boy drown’

A for sale sign is shown in by new homes in Beckwith, Ont., just outside Ottawa, on Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Thompson-Okanagan population grew despite COVID-19: report

The Chartered Professional Accountants of BC said there are 8,462 new residents in the region

Maxwell Johnson is seen in Bella Bella, B.C., in an undated photo. The Indigenous man from British Columbia has filed complaints with the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal and the Canadian Human Rights Commission after he and his granddaughter were handcuffed when they tried to open a bank account. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Heiltsuk Nation, Damien Gillis, *MANDATORY CREDIT*
VIDEO: Chiefs join human rights case of Indigenous man handcuffed by police in B.C. bank

Maxwell Johnson said he wants change, not just words, from Vancouver police

Tk’emlups te Secwepemc Chief Rosanne Casimir stands outside the former Kamloops Indian Residential School after speaking to reporters, in Kamloops, B.C., on Friday, June 4, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Kamloops chief says more unmarked graves will be found across Canada

Chief Rosanne Casimir told a virtual news conference the nation expects to release a report at the end of June

A woman wears a vaccinated sticker after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination clinic run by Vancouver Coastal Health, in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, April 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. ranks among highest in world in COVID-19 first-dose shots: health officials

More than 76% of eligible people have received their 1st shot

A screenshot of the First Peoples Cultural Councils First Peoples’ Map. (First Peoples Cultural Council)
Online resource blends B.C.-Alberta’s Indigenous languages, art and culture

Advisor says initiative supports the urgent need to preserve Indigenous languages

An artists conception of the new terminal building at the Pitt Meadows Regional Airport.
Air travel taking off in B.C., but lack of traffic controllers a sky-high concern

There will be demand for more air traffic controllers: Miller

Canadian Armed Forces experts are on their way to North Vancouver after a local homeowner expressed worry about a military artifact he recently purchased. (Twitter DNV Fire and Rescue)
Military called in to deal with antique ‘shell’ at North Vancouver home

‘The person somehow purchased a bombshell innocently believing it was an out-of-commission military artifact’

Phil McLachlan/(Black Press Media
Man shot at Kamloops shopping centre

The man is believed to be in stable condition

Amy Kobelt and Tony Cruz have set their wedding date for February, hoping that more COVID-19 restrictions will have lifted. (The Macleans)
B.C. couples ‘gambling’ on whether COVID rules will let them dance at their wedding

Amy Kobelt and Tony Cruz pushed back their wedding in hopes of being able to celebrate it without the constraints of COVID-19

Most Read