Unravelling My Family History: How Tech Is Making It Easy

The amazing exchange of stories that were not possible just a few years ago

Unravelling My Family History: How Tech Is Making It Easy

I’m a self-professed family history nerd, and it only intensified after my mom died and was no longer here to answer my questions about the past. Like most Canadians, we originally came from somewhere else so there is a lot to learn when it comes to our history. My passion is sharing family history through writing and photography and inspiration for this often comes in unexpected ways.

Five years ago, I spent a lot of time waiting for paper historic documents by mail which primarily led me to dead ends. The opportunity to search and share online has become very meaningful to my research and in my personal life, and it helped me unravel the pathways of my ancestors. It connected me around the world with strangers who I now call family. It nurtured slow connections of reunion for my family with their birth families across continents. These journeys, formerly only in history or on paper, are now real life and the stories of then and now are being shared in real time - all because of connectivity.

An online connection with a distant relative researching the same family name led me on an impromptu trip across the pond in 2002. The exchange of stories with cousins on that trip was incredible, but the highlight was walking the cattle trails of our great-great-grandfather in Ballyworkan, Northern Ireland. My Irish cousin said that she would never have had the courage to knock on the land owner’s door in her home town without us “tourists” as an excuse. The result was hilarious. Upon our knock at his door, the land owner, a man in his 80’s, yelled into his phone, “I can’t talk now. I’m entertaining women from Canada.” He then hung up without so much as a good-bye. Our visit created quite the local gossip and forged connections to Canada for family in Ireland, England, and New Zealand.

Technology has become especially meaningful for family members who are in the adoption triad. In particular, it has helped me keep a promise to maintain birth connections for my Romanian-born children. Now, their entry into adulthood means they’ve taken full reign of their adoption story and they now have the choice to connect how they want and when they want with family in Romania and France. The best story was of my daughter’s delight having seen herself reflected in the faces of her siblings while using video media.

My experiences of delving into family history have touched me deeply, making me want to share what I have enjoyed. In the past year, I’ve found myself amongst the cemeteries of Ontario as a volunteer. I use my mobile phone to upload GPS-marked photos of gravestones. Gravestones are not just names and dates; many include incredible details about lives lived in Canada long ago. Through this, people around the world - sometimes even in their home language - can connect with their Canadian relatives or at least their history.

The stories of then and now are being shared in real time and are rich with history and emotion. For this, I am both excited, grateful, and looking forward to the next chapter of my history research.

From keeping fit and paying bills from the comfort of your home, to being able to talk to loved ones near and far, technology today helps connect us in ways we never would have dreamed of only a few short years ago. We teamed up with TELUS to show you how technology positively impacts your life.

We put the call out for YMC Members to tell us about a time when being connected made a real impact in their community, in their business and/or their everyday life. This story is one of the winners!

Don't miss the other winning stories that will show you how connectivity impacts all of our lives and how you can use it to stay connected in yours.

My bliss is being little Miss Curious in all things and sharing what I find along the way. Born in Calgary, I made Ontario my home in the 80's and raised my children and now parenting a grandchild. Formerly a publicist, I found myself graduating from York at age 46 with my first degree in Social Cultural Anthropology. Always an artist, photgrapher and writer, I love blending technology and media, both traditional and modern. My themes consistently include social culture, nature, food, genealogy, adoption, costume play, art, books and arts and crafts architecture, construction and design. I own a costume business and write OffthePorch.ca I am also working collaberatively on a fictionalized historical novel. Called Drifting Soil, the novel is a series of short stories about the life, love and losses of flapper girl Jem Valentine.