16    Jan 20134 comments

Family History: Our place in space

How do our surroundings, our homes, impact our families, our thoughts, our history?

Isn't this what our pursuit of genealogy helps to reconstruct? To make sure that our family history remains alive and known and preserved?

In a poem by Leib Borisovich Talalai, a young poet whose family was from our ancestral village of Vorotinschtina, Belarus, and who was murdered in Minsk (1941), he writes about his family home in the village, "If the walls of this house could talk. ..." When I found two of his slim books of poetry at the Library of Congress in Washington, DC, it was fascinating to read his words.

What an image he presented of a home’s talking walls! What if we could access those memories? What do you know about the spaces in which your ancestors lived? Today, many of us move frequently to different homes in the same city, or even to different countries. Sometimes it is a positive choice made for education, a better job; at other times, it has been a forced relocation.

One of Spain’s most famous writers, Antonio Munoz Molina (“Sepharad,” 2006), asks his readers what might be the minimal portion of country, of roots or hearth, that a human being requires? Do these moves contribute to maintaining or cutting ties to our past and to our memories? What about those generations of memories? Do we pass them on to the younger generations?

Does your family history include a move from an ancestral location? What stories were handed down by those who relocated? How have you preserved those memories?

Share your memories in the comments below.

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Comments (4) Trackbacks (0)
  1. Hi I am trying to find out the history from the house i lived from when i was a baby up to when i was 15. it is a listed building but i cant find anything when i put the address in. also my Parents never told us about their family history and i dont know how to get started, i only know there sur names and mt fathers mother's name. i know nothing at all about my Mothers parents or where they came from only their sur name. my mother never spoke of them and would love to know my family history.
  2. Hi Linda, thanks for your comment. I'm going to answer backwards if that's ok! A good place to start with family history is to write down what you already know, some basic names and dates, and then to speak to your relatives or anyone who knew your family. Try and find out from them some more names, dates, and then start building a family tree (you can building your tree on MyHeritage - free sign up at www.myheritage.com).
    Once you have a family tree on the site you'll start getting record matches. This means our system automatically searches our database of billions of historical records to find ones that match your family tree, and notifies you when it has. You'll also start getting smart matches - this is when branches of your family tree match another user's family tree, and the system notifies you both. These are some of the ways that we help reunite long lost relatives and help people discover lots more about their family history.
    Regarding the house - you can try our research facility (www.myheritage.com/research) and see if a record containing information about the house exists in our database. If not, once you've started looking into your family history, you might get some more information about the house from your extended family.
    Hope this helps, please let me know if you have any more questions.
  3. We have the original picture of the family homestead in Hill County, Texas where my great-great- grandfather went to from Tennessee in 1875 or so. He went with his family. Later his son, my great-grandfather married and went with his wife via covered wagon to Wilbarger county with their daughters, one of whom, was my grandmother, my dad's mother. All we know is the story by covered wagon.

    Of my mother's grandmothers who immigrated from Ireland, we know absoleutely nothing except the names of their fathers which were listed on their death certificates and even then one name was totally messed up from what we had been told probably the accent of my great-grandmother telling my great-grandfather who knows. This alone has caused us to hit a brick wall.
  4. Hi, Linda. Concerning "house history" - contact your local historical society for possible information. There may well be departments in your city or town government that deal with such items as building permits, and often have histories of specific buildings going back to when they were built, when renovations were made. By utilizing these and other items, along with census and other records, you can learn who lived in your home from the time it was built, and who owned the land before it was built, who bought it, and many other details. Some genealogists even specialize in "house history," as so many people want to know about their property. It is fascinating and many records exist to help you in your search.

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