The joys and challenges of researching a spouse's genealogy

The joys and challenges of researching a spouse's genealogy

Taiwan family 1930s via Teldap dot tw

Over the weekend, Nicole and I sat down and worked on a branch of the family tree we should have done years ago: her mother’s family.

We don’t have any family pictures from the 1930s when she was born, but the photo above from Taiwan’s digital archives shows the mixture of clothing styles from that time. They included traditional Taiwanese and Chinese culture, western influences, and Japanese dress (Taiwan was a colony of Japan from 1895 to 1945).

When it comes to family history, it’s easy to take a spouse’s genealogy for granted. There will always be time later to ask questions, or so the thinking goes.

However, every time I opened up my genealogy software, or thought about preparing a chart for our kids, it bothered me that the tree was so lopsided. On Sunday we decided to fix that.

taiwan family tree handwritten

We already had the basic data. About 8 years ago I asked my mother-in-law to record her family tree as she knew it, and in her native language she wrote down the full names of her siblings, her parents, and her grandfather. But I never followed up on inputting the data into my genealogy software, or gathering the all-important family stories. This is information that our children will want to know.

So on Sunday, after Nicole had her weekly call with her mother, I took out that old hand-written chart and made a copy. We then annotated it together. Names were translated. She listed her aunts and uncles, their spouses, and their children, as well as their occupations and other details.

There were some interesting stories, too, like her grandfather’s favorite dishes to cook during the Lunar New Year feast, and an uncle who was a standout youth baseball player.

It was a pleasure to share this experience together. We not only captured a genealogical portrait of her relatives for our children, but we got a better understanding of her mother’s family and the many struggles they endured in the 1940s and 1950s.

spouse genealogy chart research

Later in the day, I sat down at the computer and entered everything into my genealogy software program. I will also use the EasyGenie family group sheet and genealogy stories charts for hard copies that I keep in binders for each branch of the family.

For our children, we now have all of their great-grandparents' names and stories. The family tree no longer looks so lopsided.

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