Looking Sideways - Gathering Evidence from Others

Looking Sideways - Gathering Evidence from Others

It’s International Friendship Day today (30 July).

Friends play an important part in our life and as a family historian it's really important to consider researching them, as you never know what you might find out if you look sideways in your research.


Our Friends

If you were to look at the photos on your phone, on your Facebook feed or in your albums, how many photos of these photos have friends in them? You have photos of your friends in your photo collection, now then think of the reverse... they have photos of you (maybe try not to think about how many of those photos might be embarrassing). Wouldn’t be great to share some of these photos back with each other.

Growing up, who did you go to school with? Do you have your school photos named? Is there a school alumni group that you can join? Have there been school reunions? What stories of our days at school can our friends tell and we tell them? Remind me again how you got that nickname...

What about your neighbours? We move into a neighbourhood, we grow up with our neighbours and their families, then we move. What stories could your neighbours tell of your family?

From school did you go on to further study? Are you still in contact with friends you made during university study?

Did any of your friends influence some of the decisions that you made in your life. For example, did you go flatting with friends in an area that wasn’t where you normally lived? Did that move then mean you met a different set of people than those that you grew up with?

How did you meet your partner? Was this through friends? Who were the best men and bridesmaids at your wedding and do you keep in contact?

We’re not normally very good at taking photos at work, with our workmates (maybe you should take some today), but beyond photos who did you work with? What stories can they tell about you or at the very least your working life? That also includes places that you have volunteered for. Did a friend encourage you to join a committee?

Outside of work what clubs and groups have you been part of. I was talking with a friend this week about whether clubs have archives of their photos and memorabilia. Can you contact the group to find information about when you were part of that group? Do they have photo collections?

Some of our friends become more like family, the siblings we never had. Did you call a family friend of your parents Aunt or Uncle? Make sure you record that somewhere in your story so that you don’t confuse your future descendants, who go looking for a relationship that doesn’t exist.

Going Back a Generation

So far I’ve been talking about preserving our friendship stories here, but now take that back a generation or two. Who did your ancestors go to school with, work with, form friendships with? Maybe researching these people can add to your family history,

I wonder how many of those unnamed photos in your collection are not family, but just friends. Start with the photos of the last couple of generations, those that someone alive may recognise. Is there a local community group or Facebook group that you can share a copy of the photo with, who then may be able to help you identify the people in the photos? I’m sure their families would love to have a copy of the photo, just as much as I would like additional photos of my family. It’s worthwhile scanning those unknown photos and sharing them widely.


Friendship is an important part of our history, just as it was for our ancestors. Make sure your friends are part of your story.


I'm grateful for the genealogy friends that I have online and IRL I’m looking forward to catching up with some of them at the Auckland Family History Expo next week (8-9 August 2020) and the Christchurch Family History Expo  the following week (14-15 August 2020).

Ancestry Family History Fridays - Looking Sidways

 We'll be talking more about Looking Sideways in our research tomorrow on Ancestry AU - Family History Fridays. Look forward to catching up with new and old friends there. 

Featured Photo by: Brodie Vissers, Burst.

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