In the beginning...
One evening, my father handed me a stiff covered notebook, about 9 by 5 inches. In it were the exquisitely handwritten financial accounts for a Welsh border farm between the years 1861 to 1876. Half way through, the columns of figures abruptly gave way to a scrawled message addressed directly to ME over 100 years ago:
“Feb 3rd 1900 being kept in the house under the Doctor, with influenza, I have copied out in this book some of the events that concerned me and my friends in a quick Farmers Life also the year and dates of them. As some Descendent in years to come may look them over and think about old farmers. Thomas Poole Aston on Clun”
I showed my father who promptly left the room, returning with this huge portrait photograph of big old Thomas Poole himself… my Great Great Grandfather.
The rest of the book is a fascinating frolic through his pre-married life from 1857 up to his autumn years in the mid 1890’s.
I was hooked and drank in every word before setting out into the fascinating and wider world of genealogy. My history of the Poole family now stretches back to 1679 and I have roamed the fields and byways of Wales imagining their lives and locating the last physical shreds of their existence (including actually digging up a grave).
But... having pursued and devoured my ancestral origins (Poole, Davies, Walmsley, Langford, Riley, Peter, Jones, Blake, Nightingale, Chelmick, Holland, Vaughan…), I reached a point at which I was exploding with the need to share all the backstories I had uncovered. My family weren’t very excited by my sprawling tree and official records, so I built a website. But it was hard, expensive and lacked interactivity; there was no real way for my relatives to functionally join in.
And so we built We Are [...] to showcase lives and capture memories, to share with relatives and invite them to fill in the gaps. It is truly ‘our’ website; each family member who logs in becomes the central person of the site.
In a family, most generations have one individual who is known as “the one who knows all about family history stuff”. In my generation it’s me, and from the previous generation it is my Dad’s cousin. Together, she and I have provided a critical mass of content (ancient photo albums, diaries, letters, wills… treasured objects). Now it is open to everyone else to add as much or as little as they choose. Without fail, it has stimulated cousins, uncles, aunts to have a rummage; wonderful photos and recollections have been, and continue to be forthcoming.
I hope you have as much fascinating fun as I continue to have.
author: Simon, WeAre[team]
But why bother…
People research their Family Histories and express and share them in different ways and for different reasons. For me, I feel a deep connection with those who carried my DNA through the centuries, as if a part of me lived in them and vice versa. I sometimes wonder if I am too nostalgic and backward looking… life is surely for the living… but I find an equal and opposite magic in contemplating the futures of my families’ offspring and their generations to come.
I want to share my discoveries and to give those that want it the same opportunity to wonder and reflect. I also hope some will contribute, poking around in cardboard boxes for faded images and documents that shed more light and fill in a few of the blanks.
I also want the knowledge and materials amassed by myself, living relatives and various forebears to be revealed to, and retained by generation after generation into the future. As I grow older, I want to add a snapshot of my life and, like big Great Great Grandpa Tom above, leave my message to those that come 120+ years into the future, and I will encourage my relatives to do the same.
Is that all that’s left…
In the English village of my birth, during the late 1800s, one Fanny Wale wrote a beautiful record of the lives around her entitled “Shelford Parva”. There was only ever one copy and by some miracle it has survived and is held by the Cambridgeshire Archive. It is an exceptional document, and one can only speculate at the millions of such ‘labours of love’ that have long since been reduced to dust.
With each passing decade the recollections, diaries, documents, photos, videos, and treasured items of our parents, grandparents and great grandparents are being lost forever.
WeAre[... on a mission…]
WeAre[..] is hellbent on increasing the odds of what sits in our heads, hard drives and filing cabinets surviving and flourishing as it passes under the gaze of as many in those generations to come as have an interest.
The WeAre[...] family history online publisher is there to make it simple for people like you and me to collate, record and showcase our shared ancestry. It has intuitive and hopefully delightful features that encourage our relatives to contribute, ask questions and fill in the gaps… to the point where the online family history record that you create becomes the foundation stone of a definitive and interactive baton that is implicitly handed from generation to generation.
Ultimately, we hope that all of us will in time have contributed to an ongoing historical record of the world we live and have lived in…