I hope a lot of people can add to this thread with anecdotes or photos of their own..
Having to track down my parents marriage certificate in order that my late mother's estate can be settled, lead me this morning to St.Peter's Anglican Cathedral in our city. This parish has an archive section. With the date of their wedding and knowledge of the church where it took place, I was taken to a small office by one of the staff. Within minutes she produced the old marriage register from All Saints Church, covered in a rather used plastic cover. The pages were dog-eared and brown with age. Undeterred we found the page so very necessary for the completion of her estate.
A photo-copy was made and certified as genuine. While the young lady was doing that in another room, I took the opportunity to snap the scene. The walls were surrounded by photos of clergy, past bishops etc. I soon came across my old maths teacher, who after leaving teaching entered the ministry and became a bishop.(sorry about all the reflection).
A strange moment as I gazed down on my mother and father's signatures. She signing her maiden name for the last time. Studying it further I notice her younger sister, my aunt, sign her maiden name. To think they rested their hands on this very page......
I've done a lot of this over the years (and as it happens, I'm currently waiting for the official certification of my grandparents' marriage in Durban - there is an image of the record online, but that might not be accepted for settling a legacy, which is what I need it for).
If you dig, there are all sorts of stories to be found. I knew my father had an older brother who died in WW1, while a prisoner of war of the Turks; but it took some digging to realise that the Ottomans weren't party to the Geneva Conventions, and information and contact was very slow and limited. So by the time his mother received the information that he had been traced and was a POW, he had in fact died from some unknown illness months before.
I was amazed once when I visited the cemetery of Courbevoie, which is in the shadow of La Défense in the Paris suburbs. I had been to my great aunt and uncle's grave there just once, probably in 1973 with my parents and had no idea where the grave might be. The city website says that the cemetery has 9093 documented tombs for 21,770 dead people. Luckily, the office was open so I went in to ask. I asked about my grandmother's favourite sister and really all I basically knew was the family name and the maiden name -- which were the same because she married her first cousin! and yes, their first baby died -- and the year of death which was 1972. This was about 15 years ago, so I expected them to type in the information on a computer, but no, they pulled out the ledger for 1972 and found her on the handwritten list. Maybe it is computerised now... The grave was pretty much abandoned because their son and his wife had moved to a tiny village near Le Mans the moment they had both retired because they despised everything about Paris and felt the same about their suburb (Epinay-sur-Seine). My second cousin would always proudly announce something along the lines of "I have not been to Paris since 1966" even though he lived about 10km from it and his parents only about 6km. I pulled the weeds out of the planter and regretted not being better prepared with some new little flowers or something. I promised myself that I would return, but guess what? It was one of the usual hollow promises that one makes in such circumstances. A few years ago the son died in his village of Sainte Osmane (pop. 188) and was buried there. Unlike many non-blood relations, his widow has remained in faithful contact over the years and she is an even better person than I thought, because she wrote that she had had the graves of her in-laws moved from Courbevoie to the cemetery of Sainte Osmane so that the tombs could be looked after properly (she has two children who in turn have another half dozen children). She herself is no longer living in Sainte Osmane but is not very far away, at her daughter's home. Some day I will make it to the cemetery of Sainte Osmane, but I will probably have no trouble locating the tombs that I want to see.
When I started family research about 15 years ago, all I was going on were my grandparents' names and some rumours. Most recently, I've had a gravestone placed on my great-great-grandfather's grave in California (I didn't even know what his name was or where in England he was born when I started).
Out of hundreds of stories of poverty in the slums of Europe, fraught ocean-crossings and horrible deaths by various means in the New World, the one that affects me the most is my great-great-grandmother. Her father was French and she grew up on a farm in rural Ontario. She had several children by several men out of wedlock and died at the age of 38 in a nunnery in Montreal. For some reason her story breaks my heart, and I'll keep trying to sort it out.
None of this was possible without the internet, god bless its black heart. I'm gathering dribs and drabs of documents, few of them notarized because there is absolutely no legacy for me to claim. I found the probate will of the above grandfather on-line, courtesy of the Mormons, of course. It seems all of his modest estate ended up going to his second wife's childless daughter. My grandfather and his siblings were sent 50 cents each, which even in 1911 was a bit of an insult.
I have a huge database of documents, photos and notes and I don't know what I'd do if I didn't have a genealogy program to keep it all organised. I have two road trips planned. One that starts in Country Antrim in Ireland, across to Aberdeen and Edinburgh, down to Nottingham, jumping over the Channel and all over Western France. The second trip starts in Québec City and goes to Northern Ontario.
The funny thing is I have no children or grandchildren or nieces or nephews to pass years of information onto, but I do have lots of cousins; bits and pieces are pertinent to them.
Researching family history is fascinating but one wanders down blind alleys and comes up against dead ends, all very frustrating. I did some bit of research into my own family some long time ago and finished up on a wild goose chase, but it was entertaining as it went along. No magic appeared and I lost interest.
Man is not lost, only temporarily uncertain of his position
I too have been much luckier with the internet than with paper and ink. My parents separated when I was 12, so I knew very little about my father's family. I met some of them when I went to Poland for the first time in 1974, but have not kept in touch. About 2 years ago, I googled a few names and discovered lots of information about two of my father's brothers. One even has a Wiki page because he was quite famous as a resistant in the Warsaw Uprising. Another brother also has information about his actions in the insurrection listed at the Central Army Archives and War Museum.
And when my husband and I went to Ukraine a few years ago, we went to Lviv (previously Lvov, Lwow, Lemberg) and to the Polish cemetery where my father's oldest brother died in the Russo-Polish war in 1920. We spent ages going through all the tombs, which had been recently renovated (the previous tombs had been razed by the Soviets after WW2). With no luck. Then, one day, looking on the internet, I found not only his full name, his rank but also that he had died in Krakow.
The Mormons indeed went around microfilming lots of records, including some in Poland. But in the past few years, volunteers at Polish genealogical associations have been scanning records and putting them online, so I have found lots more information and have been able to find many names and places.
That's fascinating stuff, bjd. I did a show about the conflict in L'viv a while back so I know a tiny little bit about it. How lucky that you found out more information.
If anyone has Scottish blood out there, the Scots have been putting every document they can find online, for a fee, of course. It must be a huge income generator for them because so many N. Americans have ancestors from Scotland.
I think I have mentioned in threads previously my experience with the Ancestry websites.
The amount of information that you can find amazed me. I had four family tree projects going on at once. I was quite successful with three but the fourth was the most challenging. My maternal grandfather was quite elusive and was successful in his quest to not being found, even in death. He changed his name, and never married the mother of his other 5 children. I finally found his name in print from the obituary of his common-law wife just a few years ago. While she kept his secrets for years, the one child who composed the obituary did not.
The tree of my paternal grandfather ended up joining with a tree created by my fifth cousin, once removed, from Devon, England. He had just completed a book on our family and through emails, I received a copy. We have developed a friendship and I enjoy receiving his emails and hearing about his family.
I've done a lot of this over the years (and as it happens, I'm currently waiting for the official certification of my grandparents' marriage in Durban - there is an image of the record online, but that might not be accepted for settling a legacy, which is what I neeed
Patrick, if they were married in an Anglican Church, I can obtain the record from the same archive. Just let me know. It takes a few minutes.
No worries Patrick - We were also Presbyterians at one time and got married in St.Andrews Presbyterian Church in Durban. In your case there obviously was no signing of the register as they were not in a church but the record of the marriage had to be lodged with the Dept. of Home Affairs.....which is probably who you are dealing with. Although married in Durban, all records are kept in Pretoria.
In desperation I phoned the funeral home that saw to my mother, and know the director very well. She has a contact in the department in Pretoria and is assisting me. For me to apply here in Pietermaritzburg, I would have to be in the queue at 4.30am and may still be there as late as 4pm depending on how many people arrive ahead of me or sleep at the door of the building to be attended to that day. Chronic, really bad.
Not always! This is one of the oldest records I have, a birth register from 1630 (Châtillon-sur-Seine, France). Other than the fact that I know this is Pierre Godin's register and his godfather's name is Salomon, I'm at a bit of a loss.
I think most of the French Canadain registers I had were written by the parish priest, and the quality can be dodgy sometimes.
This topic continues to interest me, but for a different reason. I've mentioned in other posts that I had my DNA sample added to a couple of databases several years ago in an effort to learn some of my biological heritage. I receive match information from time to time and another woman has been very helpful in providing information about a French line of my ancestry. That one was a big surprise.
This morning I received a match with a relative whose last name is of Scottish origins. The best I can tell, this person lives in an area of the U.S. where other DNA matches also live.
Following the topic of documents, when I was adopted as an infant the courts issued a brand new birth certificate with my adoptive parents' names. Though my original birth certificate was sealed, many years later I was able to obtain a copy. It lists my biological mother's name, age and local address, but further investigation proved the address to be non-existent. It's very possible my biological mother's name was also falsified. This was most likely done by the attending physician who had a reputation for providing anonymity for young women who would agree to give their babies up for adoption.
I have heard of mother's looking for their babies given up for adoption, as was the case with my daughter. I suppose it works the other way around just as well when children become adults and want some answers. My son has never indicated that he wishes to find his biological mother but does know her name so there is not stopping him from picking up the telephone directory and locating relatives. Maybe he has already done so but I doubt it. In the case of his sister, her mother asked Child Welfare to locate her. What a shock she must have had when they told her my daughter died just before her second birthday. I would have thought it would have been done automatically by welfare. The adoption of my two children was termed a "Non- Disclosed Adoption" which means we got to know the circumstances of the birth and mother, but not the father. She on the other hand had no idea who we were. Because adoption is so much harder today most adoption are disclosed and both parents know of each other. I'm not sure if it goes further than that.
One of my colleagues had a child with someone who did not want to be a father. So the birth certificate was issued with "father unknown" but her daughter became tormented as the years went by, wondering who her father was. I think it was when her daughter was about 17 old that my colleague finally relented and gave her the details of the biological father. (Meanwhile my colleague's husband, who is a good guy, had 'recognized' the girl as his daughter over the years so that the birth certificate could be 'corrected.') The daughter looked up her father and apparently observed him from a distance but never officially contacted him. She was very happy with the father she had.
I have no problem with discussing adoption. However, it doesn't exactly meet the spirit of this thread except as a reminder that documents can be altered, and that can frustrate any type of genealogy search.
I have both my original birth certificate and also the one with the changed name. I do not have the slightest idea why any official authority would do such a thing because the later birth certificate shows a father that my mother did not even meet until I was 15 years old.
mich, if you're renewing you don't have to send your birth certificate in, your old passport is enough. I have to renew and I'm getting excited about the 10 year renewal. It means that in a decade I'll still have the same photo (just have to make sure it's a good one!)
I can not remember now if I had to send it in the last time we renewed or not? I know they changed the requirements back and forth in the past few years, so good news for me! I will not have to unfold it. There was a link I had been given a few years ago to try to renew my birth certificate, but I could not get through it, maybe I will go in person one day.