The first years I spent researching
my family history were spent cranking my way through microfilms hoping to find
some nugget of information. The discovery of every little piece of data took a
lot of time and energy. There were eureka moments that could be shared with the
other searchers bent over their screens. Smiles and congratulations were
exchanged before everyone bent back to their task. Unfortunately, those eureka
moments were few and far between. It wasn’t until I started travelling to find out
more that my research really started to take off.
There is nothing like an in-person visit to
the place where your research families lived. There are often repositories of
local information that aren’t available anywhere else. Who knows what
interesting things you can find out about the family you are researching? Of
equal, if not more, importance is scoping out those places where the family
once lived. If you are lucky the actual building might still be standing. But
chances are that progress has overtaken them.
Where the Hearts of Oak Pub used to be
When I finally got a chance to visit,
I was disappointed to find that the pub on London’s Dock Street where my
paternal grandparents had lived and worked was no longer there. But the trip to
that area of the East End was not a loss. Now I could picture how close the pub
was to St. Katherine’s Dock, handy for dockers after their shift or, in earlier
times, those who were not chosen for a day’s work. It also gave me a better
understanding of my Dad’s stories about being sent on errands to relatives on
Chambers Street when he was a youngster.
Looking down Dock Street towards Chambers Street
These days it is possible to research
a place online before you go. I found out some history of one of my target
areas in Halifax. Unfortunately, parts of the street I am interested in have
been redeveloped. The temptation is to skip checking out the area since so much
has changed. But then I remember my visit to Dock Street in London. Who knows
what information I will find out by checking out Clyde Street in Halifax?