It came to me, after reading a family tree which was mine, by someone else, that gave my great-grandmother an extra child that she would have given birth to in Ireland, when she was in fact in Montreal. I was frustrated by the assumption because of a common name, not thinking that in that part of Ireland the last name was more common, and the first names of Mary and Patrick far too common to many families. I wanted to scream. I tried emailing the author, but he only took part of what I said to correct another part of the history. And this led me to some introspection.
What of the individual stories of my ancestors, who would tell them, and would they come from careful research, and presented in a way so as to illustrate their life, and also give the reader a place to check the facts? Who would do this? Well, really, since I trust my research skills, and my historical writing skills (after all I do this for a living) it would have to be me. But what kind of format? Then I thought to use the Dictionary of Canadian Biography as a sort of a template.
So I have now been carefully writing small biographies of individuals I feel I have enough information about, and who are now deceased. I started with my parents, as a way to ease out the kinks, figure out how to say it. I won’t be publishing them here.
There have been problems writing these small biographies though, and that is that the information I am finding for the women in my family is far more sparse than that of the men. The tendency of records – specifically genealogical ones – is that the men are more important. They are the heads of households, they are the ones who most likely held the only paid employment, and of course, they are often the only parent listed on baptismal records. I try and balance this as much as possible, but there is a limit to my skills, and the records. Sometimes I have chosen to highlight the man, but the biography is really the family unit. And so there it is.
First one – Richard Baron