Learning about family history can help a person uncover more than who their ancestors were, it can also offer insight into why you are the way you are.
Researching her own family history, Kathy Jones, an avid gardener, said it was fulfilling to find out her maternal grandfather was a master gardener in Scotland.
“Also, I have travelled all over Canada, the United States and internationally. I’ve always known I had to live near the water, that’s me. Is that because my great grandfather was a merchant marine sea captain?” Jones said. “The benefits (of researching your family history) are you learn your history, you learn more about yourself and more about the history of everything and it’s personal satisfaction.”
Jones, who is the president, webmaster and journal editor of the Qualicum Beach Family History Society (QBFHS), encourages everyone, young and old, to explore their own family history.
The Qualcicum Beach Family History Centre, run by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in Qualicum Beach, is open on Mondays and Tuesdays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Here the public can come in and use the computers and get help from staff and society volunteers on their genealogy research. On Wednesday, Sept. 26 from 10 a.m. to noon, the centre (591 Arbutus St.) will host an open house and orientation. The orientation is aimed to introduce people to what the centre has to offer and help with family history research.
“You have access to free websites and volunteers from the QBFHS will be there to help you as well as volunteers from the church. It becomes a very social thing,” Jones said.
For Jones, starting the process of finding out more about her ancestors stemmed from a goal she had to learn more about her paternal grandfather.
“I knew he had died in a railroad accident in 1936, but whenever questions were asked about him, my grandmother always said, ‘let sleeping dogs lie.’ Not very helpful at all. So, my goal was to wake up the sleeping dogs to find whatever I thought my grandmother must have been hiding,” Jones said. “Well, the sleeping dog was that my grandfather was illegitimate. My grandfather probably never knew my great grandfather.”
From there, Jones continued to uncover more and more about her relatives. She found out her great grandfather was a captain of the merchant marine in England and her grandparents were a butler and a house maid at a home in England.
Unearthing family history information often comes with hurdles, and facts can take years to find.
“It can depend on how honest and legal their relatives were and if their parents filled out the census forms,” Jones said. “There’s a process you have to go through; start with yourself and work back. The things you always look up are birth, marriage, death and census records. That’s where you start, but you never find all of your relatives.”
Census records, Jones said, were often filled out falsely or could sometimes not be collected at all from certain houses in certain years, making it more difficult today when conducting ancestry research.
“When I got my first job when I was 17, I didn’t have to prove my birth date. I lied, so I became a year older. There was no social insurance,” Jones said. “They had travelling census takers, travelling ministers and if it was snowing or raining they might not hit certain houses. All those things have something to do with how accurate the records are.”
Jones added that the only proof she found about her husband’s great grandfather and great grandmother was a notice in the newspaper because she couldn’t track down the marriage certificate.
The centre offers help with digital research tools and paper records. Jones said volunteers will help get people started in the right direction towards family history research but that people still need to do a lot of exploring on their own.
“You have to do your own research… you’re ancestors aren’t going anywhere so if you quit for six or eight months and go back, they’re still in the same place,” Jones said.
The Family History Society meets the third Wednesday of every month at the legion in Qualicum Beach at 7 p.m. Everyone is welcome to join.