Spread the Word — Family History is Cool!

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Genealogists hard at work on their research in the Supper Room

The Ōtaki Genealogy Group hosted in late August a very successful three open research days during the annual August Family History Month, an initiative of the New Zealand Society of Genealogists. A steady stream of curious people viewed what was on display and took advantage of the research services provided by our members.

As the Convenor Len Nicholls explains: “We wanted to give the community an insight into what it is all about, and how to start their family research. It’s not just about the bare bones of birth, marriage or death dates, but the many aspects beyond, like finding individual stories behind the facts and integrating them into the immediate history of their time”. 

For one of the group’s members it was a framed photo of three man hanging on the wall in the dining room of her grandmother. Nobody ever spoke about those three men and it was not until her father died and she inherited the picture that she discovered they were her father’s three older brothers, who died in WW2. Starting her research she found that two of them fought with the Chindits (British special secret forces sent to Burma to perform guerilla operations). Looking further into this she traced back their movements, newspaper articles, POW records, letters from the army to their widows, family photographs. She is now doing further research into her great-great-grandparents, publicans of some well known ale houses in England. How exiting and what more can be found?

Other members showed how important it is to “Check Your Sources”, explaining how easily the researcher can be led astray among the myriad data available. This year some members started a course in how to write up your family history and their excerpts made interesting reading. 

Having computers available throughout the research days was a hit – putting names and dates to those blank spaces and knocking down the “Brick Walls” as they are frustratingly known. Even after years of research, to knock down one of these walls is exhilarating.

Len Nicholls: “All the preparation going into the displays and the time spent with the visiting public is worthwhile and rewarding, especially as we have six new members joining the group.”

The Ōtaki Branch of the New Zealand Society of Genealogists is always happy to help with research of your Family History. A member of the branch is on duty and happy to help every Wednesday morning 10am to 12 noon at the Genealogy desks in the Ōtaki Public Library. Meetings are held on the 4th Thursday of the month at the Gertrude Ardmore Room of the Memorial Hall, Ōtaki.