Sunetra Sarker

December 29, 2023 – 08:10 am
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Listen to Your Elders

Sunetra's family history journey started in the same place a lot of good family history journeys do: in her mum's kitchen! Before you even consider searching the internet or ordering documents, your first step should be to ask the oldest living members of your family to tell you everything they know. Who were their parents and grandparents, where did they live, what were their names and birthdays? With no surviving grandparents, it fell to Sunetra's mum to share everything she knew.

Rifle Through the Attic

Once you've racked the brains of your older family members, your next port of call should be the attic, the basement, or that cupboard most of us have where all the miscellaneous clutter gets dumped. In other words: you need to dig out old photographs, letters, or anything from your family's past that's been held on to. Sunetra's mother had a goldmine of stuff relating to her own grandfather, who was a highly respected man back in India.

With all her roots waiting to be explored back in India, that's where Sunetra headed. Your next destination is likely to be a family history website such as… Findmypast! Not quite as exotic, granted, but far cheaper and much less effort. Simply search all the names you've gleamed from talking to your family and digging in the crates, and see what comes up.

Search Newspapers Too

In India, Sunetra met up with various people who helped her learn more about her family's history. As well as those who actually knew her ancestors, she met some academics who shone a light on some of the things people in her family had achieved. How did they show her? Newspaper articles. Granted, Suntera's ancestors were a pretty big deal in their local area, but your ancestor might pop up in an old newspaper article for anything from criminal activity to biggest marrow competitions!

Be Ready for Anything

Though Sunetra's ancestors did plenty of things to be proud of, there were some tales of tragedy she had to deal with. Suntera, like most WDYTYA? participants, was surprised at how hard these revelations hit her. Undertake your family history research with an open mind, and prepare to encounter all sorts of stories; some happy, some sad, some hilarious. Chances are you'll come across a wide variety, so expect the unexpected and you'll be better prepared to deal with the emotions that may surface. Or you could just have a great, big, bloody cry! Whatever works best for you.

Research the Area

Know where your ancestors lived and when they were there? Investigating the history of that area is a fantastic way to gain extra context as to the kind of lives your ancestors led. As a young girl growing up in Liverpool, Sunetra didn't used to listen to her mother's stories about India. As an adult, she was thirsty for information that would put her origins into context. As mentioned above, old newspapers are a great way to do this. But local records offices, libraries and history websites can also help you view your ancestors in a new light.


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