How a Care Giver can play a key role in your genealogy research


I had a lovely email the other day from a lady who had found information about one of my late distant Yarrow cousins via Google. She used to be her care giver.

Having realised that she was looking at my Yarrow tree, she decided to drop me an email to tell me about her work caring for one of my relatives in her later years.

A carer with an elderly woman

Carers may hold the key to some of your un-answered genealogy questions.

This took me by surprise, as I’ve not received this kind of correspondence before, but as she mentioned a few specific details about the relative that she would not have found elsewhere, it got me thinking as to just how much information might your relatives be telling, or have told, their carers?

Think about how many nameless faces turn up in antiques and house-clearance stores – those long-lost loved ones who will rarely find their way back into the families they belong to. Yet, a carer may well have heard many stories about the people in these photos, and be able to give you some small clues as to the identities. Alternatively, they may have remembered being told about the childhood lives of your relatives.

Tracking down a carer for your elderly relative may be very difficult, but if they worked as part of a carer company, then you may be able to ask the company to pass on your contact details in a hope that they might respond. With any luck, they may be able to give you some time for a phone interview.

Act fast…

The advice here, would be to act quickly for two reasons:

  1. Stories can fade or become muddled as time goes on, even those stories that have been told every time the busy carer visited.
  2. The caring profession is generally poorly paid (in the UK at least, with some people receiving no pay at all) and therefore carers move around quickly – and internationally – so if you leave it too long, then you may never be able to trace your relative’s carer.

A word of caution though, carers have no obligation to contact you, and they work extremely hard with a lot of clients – and therefore they genuinely may not have any useful information for you. Some carers work in very difficult circumstances, so recalling details may be impossible or painful for them, or simply outside of their confidentiality comfort zone.

About Andrew Martin

+Andrew Martin is owner and lead writer for History Repeating and Family Tree UK. Genealogist, historian, writer, photographer and would-be archaeologist. He'd love a time machine, but worries that it might take all the fun out of it.
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5 Responses to How a Care Giver can play a key role in your genealogy research

  1. Susi Pentico says:

    Interesting I just added this topic to my report for tomorrow night which I am planning to turn into a book. So to see you write about careers /carers was a bright spot in my day. Sometimes I think we miss the key points because we look for the obvious points. Thanks for the sharing. Maybe I will share some of the talk with you on my blog later.http://ancestorseekersbytherootbound.blogspot.com/

    • familytreeuk says:

      Hi Susi, thanks for commenting.

      Yes, it hadn’t occurred to me until I received the random email, that those people who provide care services for relatives are on the front-line of hearing stories about our ancestors.

      Good luck with your report!
      Andrew

  2. Lauren says:

    I am entirely endebted to a friend/carer of my great grandmother’s for a whole brang of my family tree. Both my GG and her children died before I started my research, and my dad and his siblings weren’t able to furnish me wiht enough information to get going. My ad then suggested I talked to Brenda, who, 20 years on, wass till able to supply names and dates that turned out to be amazingly accurate and enabled me to get started. this branch is now one of the most developed on my tree, and I could never have done it without her help. I was also able to track down my grandmother’s long-lost brother whom we didn’t even know about because of Brenda’s knowledge, and reunite two sides of the family. I dedicated a blog post to her here: http://probablyarboreal.blogspot.co.uk/2012/03/fearless-females-2012-tribute-to-brenda.html
    Lauren

    • familytreeuk says:

      Hi Lauren,

      Thanks for sharing that fantastic story about Brenda and Victorine – really amazing just how much people will remember even when they’re not related but lived a life that crossed so often with that of our relative’s lives.

      Andrew

  3. Hi Lauren,
    This is what we do all the time at Memories UK! We have found fantastic stories and it is really important work for this alone. Many people think that a diagnosis of Dementia means that the memory is all gone – not so! You can try it for yourselves by going through those old photo albums and see the joy on people’s faces because you are really getting through to them! Please read this article http://dl.acm.org/citation.cfm?id=1923690 proving that Digital Life Stories are the best Reminiscence Therapy.

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