Over Half of Brits Know Nothing about their Immediate Family History

by Jasmine Stephens, Family Editor

How well do you actually know your family? I thought I knew mine quite well; my family’s grapevine reliably keeps me updated on all the important things in life like what my Nan thought of the latest episode of Poldark, which jacket my sister finally decided to buy for the spring season and the date on which my auntie’s lawn got mowed for the first time this year.

My phone beeps so much with WhatsApp notifications from my siblings that sometimes I wonder if it’s trying to send me a secret Morse code message and my Facebook feed is full of updates from the lives of my 20-odd cousins. My amazing late grandmother was the ultimate in family gossip. She asked questions that were so blunt it was impossible not to answer her honestly and then she happily informed the rest of the family. I was pretty surprised when she didn’t know I was pregnant with my first child before I did.

But then I came across a recent survey by Crown Carveries that found some shocking gaps in our knowledge of the basic facts about our immediate family and I realised I was as guilty of this as many others. The poll of 2000 people found that 58% of people didn’t know their grandparents’ full names, 60% didn’t know their ages and 78% had no idea how long their grandparents had been married for. Facts about their parents weren’t very much clearer with 56% of people not knowing where their mum and dad met, 64% completely in the dark about the age they were when they got together and 62% not knowing what their mother’s first job was.

I decided to undertake a scientific straw poll of one.

  • Do I know what my brother does for a job? Erm, something to do with data?
  • How many siblings did my grandparents have? Lots, definitely lots.
  • Where did my parents go on their honeymoon? It was the 70s, did anyone go on honeymoon? I know my dad got married in a brown corduroy suit…
  • When are my siblings’ birthdays? I know the dates, but I’m not sure on all the years without working it out. Don’t judge me, I’m from a big family.
  • Mum’s maiden name? Ah ha, finally this one is no problem given that it’s one of those questions that you need to get into your online bank account.

I’d give myself 6/10, requires improvement and I’m certainly with the 70% of people who said they wished they knew more about of their family history. Since I’ve had my own children, having a link to previous generations seems even more important and the idea that details like my full name might be forgotten within two generations is rather saddening if I’m quite honest.

So what can we do about it? Share a meal, take time to ring your grandparents more regularly, chat to your kids about family members from previous generations, get out the old photo albums, maybe take a shot at doing a family tree and above all try to communicate with your family in more than 140 characters. Although, there’s a thought; I wonder if I can get my Nan on WhatsApp?

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