The Genealogy Project
One of my current research projects includes learning more about my genealogy and family history. I've been interested in this for as long as I can remember, much to the befuddlement of many of my family members ("But they're dead!" they cry every time I get starry-eyed about an ancestor). As I track clues and follow trails, this research also somewhat fulfils my childhood dream of becoming a detective. A combination of some of my favourite things: history, archives and collections, research, letters, photographs, travel, and talking to people about their life stories, it's a rewarding project that makes me forget the passage of time once I delve in.
Currently, I'm researching the Anglo-Indian branch of my family tree, following my maternal grandmother's line. Perhaps a future project will involve other lines, including stories of migration across the Indo-Pakistan border and the effects of Partition.
If you'd like your family history written in a compelling and engaging style, I can help!
February 2016: My grandmother and I visit her parents' last home in Chunar, where I find stories, photographs, ruins, belongings, and closeness. I pay my respects to them at the cemetery. I return to Delhi, begin my research, and find an exciting lead.
January 2017: After hitting a brick wall, I research Anglo-Indian history for several months and learn more about the community, making useful connections and identifying resources.
December 2017: I take an online course titled Genealogy: Researching Your Family Tree offered by the University of Strathclyde and FutureLearn.
January 2018: I find my way around various genealogy websites and begin collecting a paper trail i.e. BMD and other documents pertaining to various ancestors. I create careful notes for each person, verifying information from oral history with that from available records. I populate my family tree with confirmed and exciting new names.
March 2018: I visit my grandparents and collect stories, documents and other primary sources including letters and photographs. There are some exciting finds.
April-May 2018: I create an inventory, sort, archive, and digitise nearly 300 photographs and negatives for the collection.
May 2018: I research the history of the Indian railways, where two of my great-grandfathers worked for their entire careers.
December 2018: I research the history of the Indian telegraph, where two of my great-great grandfathers were employed.
November 2018: I research tips and lectures on exploring the female line of the family tree, and research the lives of several female ancestors via documents, letters and ephemera.
Early 2019: I research and gather more records, including some from new sources. Among these are pages from my great grandparents' school registers. I add more branches to the family tree.
May 2019: I finish compiling all my research into a 50-page book titled Three Stories, complete with images, document excerpts, and family trees, featuring three key couples and their lives – my great-grandparents, and their parents.
July 2019: I write a blog post about where it all began: Chunar, the town where my great-parents settled after retiring. Read it here.
January 2020: I design and publish Three Stories as a private website that can be easily shared with my family – and become acquainted with several wonderful extended family members around the world.
February 2020: I travel to Calcutta, for the first time, with my parents, brother and grandmother. We visit some of my grandmother's old haunts, my mother's cousin, and the cemetery where many of my ancestors rest. With some help from the staff, I locate several family gravestones.
Following this trip, a family history newsletter is born.
June 2020 - February 2021: I reach out to a relative on Facebook (he remembers my grandmother!); a distant relative reaches out to me, and we exchange notes on our common line (possibly French?) that settled in Quilon (Kollam).
September 2021: I write about my interest in genealogy and the beginnings of my research, as well as its progress and future direction. Read it here.
December 2021: I improve my Lifeline: A Family Member Chronology template, and create customisable family tree spreadsheets and a resource on writing your family history. I also visit Quilon (Kollam) and Alleppey in Kerala, where my ancestors lived in the late 19th century, and find some possible leads.
To be continued.