Saturday, 17 October 2009

Digging up the Past

So, I've begun researching the family tree. I signed up with an ancestry site, which doesn't quite let me view birth, death and marriage certificates, but rather tells me what reference number they are and thus allows me to order them from the Government Records Office.

I ordered a birth certificate, which duly came, but which was also followed by a second one for someone totally unrelated to us down in Dorset. Maybe it was buy-one-get-one-free. Maybe it was just typical governmental bureaucracy and wastage. I'd send it on, but it was addressed to me as if I'd actually ordered it. Unless, of course, the government knows of some hitherto hidden cousin of mine from Dorset, and is doing me a favour by pre-empting my next search. (Taps nose...) Governments know that sort of thing, you know.

The ancestor site also lets me search various censuses. I'm amused that one of the columns households were required to fill in is 'Lunatic?' I've yet to find anyone who has actually put 'yes' in there. Are lunatics generally aware of their lunacy? Maybe some lunatics wear their affliction with pride: "Yes, Lunatic, that's me; fifty years, man and boy".

Searching these things is not as straightforward as I imagined it to be. It's amazing how many people with like names lived close by to each other, so it takes a level of concentration to try and hit one's target. That, and there's the rather restrictive 'hundred years' rule, whereby any census cannot be made public until one hundred years have passed. Presumably, it's to allow lunatic old Aunt Doris to peg it before the world at large learns how she talks to her teapots.

And I haven't even started yet on the Polish/Ukrainian side, so help me.

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