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Is there any better way for a genealogist to spend a Friday night than glued to the telly watching Who Do You Think You Are? The programs have been mesmerising. And although we all know the things that the “experts” explain to the stars, it is once again fascinating to piece it all together and know the story.

 

Watching Kim Cattrall, Rosie and Steve Buscemi, I have decided that when my great grandfather went off to fight the Boer War and never returned, he likely wasn’t MIA at all, but probably started a new family in South Africa. My next line of attack and a brand new hunt. The endless pieces of the puzzle can keep us going for years.

 

I hope that the general audience doesn’t come away with the understanding that you need to engage professionals in order to do your family history. A recent online study of family history researchers found that nearly 73% of us have never hired a professional. Those of us who are totally, utterly and passionately addicted to this hobby know that the scouting, sleuthing and piecing together that we do on our own is the real reward.

 

I was a bit disillusioned by the Ashley Judd episode. Her ancestors coming across on the Mayflower. So many people think that they are going to trace their lines back to someone famous – royalty, a celebrity, or even as in this case, a passenger on the Mayflower. I hope that the message that the general population will take away from the series is not “if you dig back far enough, there is fame to be found” Few of us have that history. And yet are delighted with who we know ourselves to be. I come from a long line of coal miners. I knew that long before starting my family history. My grandfathers and most of my uncles were miners. My dad tried, but didn’t last. So, when I started my family history quest, I  didn’t expect to find royalty or celebrity. Instead and to my amazement, I found dignity and courage. Mining is a brutal occupation. And in Scotland in the early days, miners were more or less owned by the mining companies. Sure the mining companies put up housing, built schools, shops and hospitals, but the miners were indebted to them and often indentured to them as well. My ancestors lived in Miners Rows – row houses built by the mining company for the use of the miners. Neighbours were often other family members working for the mines. All of the mine families lived together and everyone knew everyone else. A large extended family of sorts. During my search for my great great grandparents, I found the death record for my maternal great great great grandfather. I was shocked to learn he died in an accident at Greenfield Colliery. Further research found that his only son died with him. The two were finished their shift. They were in the lift and nearly at the surface when the ropes holding the lift broke, sending them plummeting 780 feet to their deaths. In those days, the lifts were really just wooden cages and when the ropes broke, William and Andrew literally bounced off the walls of the mining shaft all the way to their deaths and were left in a crumpled heap in the bowels of the earth.  I can not begin to imagine the total devastation that not only my great great great grandmother felt that day, but the pain and heartache of the entire community, all of whom knew these two men. (Andrew was only 18).

Discovering Andrew & William’s story gave me a whole new respect for the courage and dignity of my ancestors. And it gave me a deep sense of connection and belonging with mining families everywhere. I have since been riveted to the stories of the Quecreek mine rescue, the Sago Mine rescue, which quickly turned to a mine recovery with only one miner surviving the explosion, and of course, most recently, the remarkable rescue of the Chilean Miners. These men, their families, their stamina, their tragedy and their courage are all a part of who I now know myself to be.

Who do YOU know you are??

 

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Comment by Ms ROBIN COFFMAN on April 17, 2011 at 6:55pm
I agree in that there is no shame and there is much to be pround of in Coal Miner, or in my case farmers, on my dad s side and Elis Island Italian Imergrants on my mom s side. I have 2 Rev War soliders that I know of and two Civil War fighters. I am pround of them all and at lest thus far no one famious or even infamious. I dont care at all , if one shows up grat if not that s cool too.                                                                                                                   However I dont know why it bothers you that someone Cel as she may be , has a Mayflower ancestor. While not everyone has a famious or infamious  ancestors there are many that do just as there are many that dont. Not to include a Mayflower ancestor would be reverse snobery. If people get in to genealogy thinking they will find a famious person.....that s nothing new, I read about all the faked genealogy of the 1800 s becausee people wanted royalty in thier ancestry. I personaly find that sad but it s not new. I am truly happy if someone dose find a NAME but I am THRILLED  when I find my farmer ancestor on the 1870 cenus. And really IF I found a NAME I am not going to cut the tree down, lol. I am happy with my ancestors and dont mind what others find because it s ALL interesting.

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