2. FAMILY HISTORY
Once you have collected this foundational information, it is possible to uncover even more background information about your ancestors’ lives. In each family there is a story to tell. The search options are endless. The most frequently asked questions are:
• What does my surname mean or where does it come from?
• For how long has my first name been in use in my family?
• Where exactly did they live or work?
• Were they rich or poor?
• Did they possess real estate?
• Which school did they attend?
• Which church did they attend and what do the church archives unveil?
• When did they migrate and why?
• Was there a will and what does it say?
• Can my ancestors be found in newspapers?
• Were there crooks or criminals among my ancestors?
The answers to all these questions can be a starting point for doing further research.
The history of a family comes to life if you can imagine life as it was in their own period of time. In the 19th century the lives of day laborers in the province of Groningen were much different from the lives of dockworkers in Amsterdam. Members of the Christian Separated Church in the middle of the 18th century had specific reasons to leave the country. The lives of Anabaptists differ from period to period and from place to place. The rise and fall of the clothing industry in my hometown of Leiden explains a lot about migration and freedom of religion within Dutch history, and is the same for Huguenots and Pilgrim Fathers. And so I could continue with a list of events that could have had an effect on the lives of your ancestors, such as bad harvests, floods, wars, religious quarrels and revolutions, epidemics, and so forth.