I’M PULLING together my year of research into our family tree into a series of mini-biographies of some of the key characters starting with John Jones, one of my maternal great-grandfathers (left). He was blacksmith from Connah’s Quay, north Wales, near the border with England.
Tracing a Jones family in Wales is tricky as it’s such a common surname and so far I’ve made only limited progress. Now is a good time to go over what I do know and consider the questions that I need to be ask next if I’m going to take things further.
I’m using Apple’s iBook Author to produce an illustrated PDF document that I can e-mail to other members of the family and print out for my mum.
As it’s not for general publication so I don’t have to think about the wider audience or the limitations of print. It’s an opportunity to experiment with the design.
Blue Sky Research
I want to start with the basics and show John’s position on our family tree without all the subsidiary branches. I was considering a simple hand-lettered diagram but then I thought wouldn’t it be more inviting in a digital publication to have something in colour, something like the image that they use in the television series Who do you think you are?; an oak tree in a green meadow spreading its branches into a blue sky.
As I was thinking that I looked out of the studio window and saw a cloudscape that I thought would do just fine. I took a couple of pictures of it one with the exposure set for the sky, the other set for the wood, and I stitched them together in Photoshop.
So that’s my starting point; my mum, her parents and her grandad John. On average one eighth of my genes must come down from him.
The blue sky is a suitable metaphor for the blank canvas that you’re faced with when you start researching your family tree but when I think about times past I don’t think of a vertical axis, like so many in the west I’m in the habit of seeing action as starting on the left and running to the right and my image of the past 2000 years is of a band, like a film strip, curving back into the past.