We’ve just returned from a wet week in the Lake District and it was bliss. For the first time in years my holiday didn’t centre round researching the Dines story, or editing the narrative, or searching the web for updates. Instead it focused on relaxation and recharging the batteries for the next project.
Now that so many records are available on the internet non-genealogists, or people who collect ancestors in the manner they probably collected cigarette or Pokerman cards in their youth, think that all you need to do is click on the right site and you are back seven generations in one go. Having first got interested in family history back in 1974 when computers still filled a whole room the only way to research if you didn’t have the dates to consult the right documents locally was to go to London and be prepared to heave bound indices, the size of several broadsheet newspapers bound together, around St Catherine’s House and to be prepared to stand while you waded through as many as you could in one visit. When you lived in the North West London didn’t beckon very often unless you had business there. Once the correct births, marriages and deaths were extracted then it was on to Kew and the national archives, or to the relevant county record office to add some flesh to the bare bones of these forerunners you had identified.
Holidays were booked in Hertfordshire, Leicestershire, and Yorkshire. We walked the terrain our ancestors once trod and looked in the local museums for clues and photographs of how they might have lived. Although I still let out a yelp of triumph if I track an elusive character down on the internet the excitement is nowhere near as great as that of finding a relevant nugget of information after three visits to a local library and ten films covering early editions of the local newspaper.
The research holiday bug even extended to visits to Australia and New Zealand and it led to making contact with distant cousins also researching the Dines. It also led to some odd incidents. In 2003 we took advantage of our antipodean travels to meet up with the Rantins whose interest was Joseph Dines also known as Leigh Dines Halstead. We initially hooked up through the Hertfordshire Names List and so when we visited Auckland they invited us to lunch and arranged to meet us off the ferry. As it was the Americas Cup week and the ferry terminals were busy I picked out a petrol blue trouser suit and red trouser suit so that they could spot me a mile away. Sure enough as we got off the ferry a couple began waving and pointing to us and they swooped forward as we disembarked and the woman kissed me and then my husband and we shook hands with her husband and then we set off together to the car park. “Norman doesn’t look a bit like I imagined him,” she said. I suddenly remembered that I hadn’t introduced Brian properly and so did so. “Your email said Norman,” she said. “No, Brian,” I said. She stopped dead. “You’re not Daisy are you,” she said. “No Mavis,” I said and the four of us turned round to meet our respective other halves.
One disconsolate couple stood with long faces and the other two were laughing. They thought that I had met an old friend and had temporarily forgotten them. After a delicious lunch and a long chat about our respective families we then swapped information which proved invaluable in getting A Fascination of Dines together.
In 2005 we visited Australia and after a week in Port Macquarie getting over the jet lag we hired a car and drove around some of the sites so important to the early Dines settlers. We spent almost a week in Singleton, New South Wales and made an invaluable contact in Dot Clayworth, Research Liaison Officer for Singleton Family History Inc. She put me in touch with yet another cousin who we were able to contact when we got back home. We then drove to Bendigo where Charlotte Dines, widow of William Lane, had settled with her three sons and daughter in the late 1850s early 1860s. One day when the Bendigo Family History Library was closed we went up to the cemetery to take pictures of the graves and, with the help of the Friends of the Cemetery, found them all, save one. We were standing outside the office, the Friends having all gone home, and were consulting a large map on the wall, when a car pulled up and the driver asked if he could help as was a Friend who happened to be passing. He turned out to be descended from Charlotte just as we were. He gave me photographs which had been passed on by another “cousin” who lived in Mentone and so our sources and living family grew yet again.
It is nice to see Australian newspapers on line and to be able to read them by accessing TROVE the Australian digitalised newspaper site, and if you have not yet discovered it it is well worth a look.
As to which form of research I prefer then I plump for the speed of the internet followed up by the actual documents if they are not available on line, and a walk in the footsteps if I can possibly manage it.