What does the word family mean to you?
I developed my fascination with genealogy a long time ago, I think I was about 10 at the time. Thinking about where this love came from I can actually remember the moment. My family and I were on holiday in Cornwall, and visiting the graveyards in the Parishes my ancestors had lived in. At this point I need to draw your attention to the fact that Pearson is my married name, my maiden name is rather rare and actually means “end of land” in Cornish. Throughout my childhood, I had never met anyone who shared my surname outside of my very close family. It was, therefore, a moment of great excitement to discover the grave of my five times grandmother who I shared my whole three names with. A photograph was taken of me with my grave, unfortunately, I have no idea what happened to the photo. I do know though that I returned home with a genuine interest in finding out more about all those who had gone before me.
Initially, my father began the research in the days before so much information was available online, in fact, none of his research came from the internet. Instead, he gathered it by going to Cornwall on holiday and spending time in Graveyards and Research centres. As the years ticked by he made slow inroads into the history. His style of research is very different to my own, he preferred to trace the pure male line. I can see some advantage in that as the majority of individuals in the tree all share the same surname, very pleasing to see when the surname happens to be your own. When it came time to hand over the research to me for me to continue his work, thanks in no small part to my ready access to the internet and all the fantastic resources available out there, my philosophy was to simply keep searching and adding each individual I came across. The beauty of this is that there is never a need to hit a brick wall and get stuck I simply move to a different branch of the tree and come back later to search for the missing information which is often readily available later due to a fellow genealogist reporting errors in transcriptions. I have set some great plugins up on my software to conduct searches, for instance, people with missing birth records or missing from one of the census record years. These are fantastic because they basically randomly generate a new starting point every time I hit a brick wall.
However, this brings me back to the original question. What does family mean to you? Is it a couple with 2.4 children? What about adoptive families, there are no blood ties but in every way that really matters, of course, they are family. As families are increasingly spread out geographically in the modern world many people class their nearest friends as family. For me, having researched ancestors throughout the 18th and 19th centuries often living in small villages where eventually all the names become interwoven and intermarried, family means community. However the community I live in doesn’t, in return, resemble a family. That, I think is one of the paradoxes of modern living.
(Disclaimer I do not receive any payment for recommending Family Historian, I am just a long time user who has tried several programs over the years and found this to be my favourite and use it on a day to day basis)