Welcome to the new Genes Reunited blog!
- We regularly add blogs covering a variety of topics. You can add your own comments at the bottom.
- The Genes Reunited Team will be writing blogs and keeping you up to date with changes happening on the site.
- In the future we hope to have guest bloggers that will be able to give you tips and advice as to how to trace your family history.
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As we approach Christmas, my December question and answer session on Genes Reunited is noticeably less busy than other months. Perhaps it is because so many people are out at Christmas parties, or busy with their Christmas cards or - I don't know what they're all up to, but the December session is always quiet.
But interest in genealogy is alive and well. In the weeks before Christmas, I get loads of telephone calls and e-mails enquiring about my service, with the inevitable question - "err... how long does it take". Some people want their whole family trees traced in days, to present as a splendid, last minute Christmas present - something I politely tell them is impossible. More reasonable people ask for what I'd offer anyway - which is for me to make a start, or even just give them a letter for their relative, announcing that research had been commissioned, and the results will be on their way during the New Year.
The two subjects go so well together, Christmas and genealogy. It's partly that Christmas inevitably involves thinking back to Christmases past - remembering grandparents no longer with us - that is what I do, at any rate. But when I underwent what amounted to a mini-marathon of carol services last weekend, and thought about what I was singing, it occurred to me that these genealogical stirrings of ours go rather deeper.
Carols are all about looking back, two thousand years back, into the past. "Of the father's heart begotten", for example, contains the resonant lines "By His word was all created/ He commanded and 'twas done;/ Earth and sky and boundless ocean,/ Universe of three in one". Now, I'm not remotely religious, and I don't believe that was how things started at all. But when singing carols we're allowed to suspend our disbelief and enjoy that sense of wonder the carol-writers wanted to convey - and do convey so successfully and think - in this case - about the start of the world.
A wonderful sense of the rolling on of the ages is in "It came upon the Midnight clear" - "Yet with the woes of sin and strife/ The world has suffered long;/ Beneath the angel-strain have rolled/ Two thousand years of wrong". Those are actually quite grim words, but when singing them you just have that wonderful sense of the stately passage of large amounts of time.
So when we spend so much time thinking back to two thousand years ago - or to the beginning of the world, it's not surprising that we start thinking of our own lines of ancestors rolling back towards 1 AD, and wondering who they really were.
At this time of year, a lot of genealogists and genealogy websites tend to say "make your New Year's resolution to trace your family history". I'm not going to say that, because you're doing that already. Please make your resolution to visit an archive, or lots of archives. We've got to keep them open, as they're under awful pressure from government cuts and, dare I say it here, digitised records - and the more of us who go and make it clear we want our archives to remain, and stay open, the more the authorities are likely to do the right thing.