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Family Histories

Why not learn something new about your family history? Once you have something to share, have a look to see what other people are sharing about their family histories.

How to do it

Contact a relative - jump on the phone or online with your grandparents or an aunt, and ask them to share a story from the family.

You could also take this further and do some research on the web or even in an archive. See our tips below for more ideas about how to get started.

Finally, see if you can connect a bridge between your family story and someone else’s. Can you spot any links between your family’s story and another story that someone else has shared? Tell us what you find out!

This activity gives you the chance to:

  • Discover something new about your family history

  • Learn about other families' stories where you live

  • Make connections and see how our unique histories fit together

  • See how our family stories connect from local to global.

Tips and resources

When did you or your family first arrive in the place where you now live? What brought them here? Where else have your family members lived? Or have your family lived in the same area for generations?

Places like Bristol or London have grown because people have come here at different times for different reasons. Cities have always drawn drawn people to them. Scholars often talk about the ‘push’ and ‘pull’ factors when they are describing people leaving or arriving at a place. Another word for this is migration. What brought your family to live in certain places?

If you’re exploring history by contacting family members, then you’re doing something called ‘oral history’. All this means is that you’re finding out more about your history by listening to people tell their stories. When you work with oral history as a historian, you need to be aware that all of us sometimes misremember, or selectively remember the past. Maybe have a think about why this is the case. Because of this, historians often use other sources of information about the past, alongside oral history. Just to make sure nothing goes missing.

If your family arrived in your town or city before 1911, take a look at old censuses. A census is a way to count people and find out who they are and what they do. We all had to fill one out recently. Censuses are really useful to historians because they contain personal information. But you can only look at the actual census returns from around a hundred years ago. You can often see local census returns by visiting library services in your area (such as Bristol Library). Can you find out who from your family was first recorded living in the place where you live now?

How does your family story fit with the stories of others? If you're joining from Bristol, take a look at the Bristol Heritage Framework to see a timeline and series of maps (pp. 12-13) showing the growth of the city and its population. When did your family arrive? Why do you think others were arriving in the city at the same time?

Once you’ve done this for yourself or your family, why not have a go trying to find out something about others’ stories. How are the histories similar and different?

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