The Burgum family history society is a member of the Guild of one name studies and researches the names

Living Sources and How I Got Started!

Living Sources

My Grandfather Whit Burgum The first and most obvious sources of information are people. Parents, grandparents, uncles and aunts are all excellent sources of family history. They may be able to recall relatives long since gone and give you a general picture of earlier family life. Much of what they say will be factual (someone’s past occupation or location, for example). Other stories may be anecdotal and have to be treated with care.

Some, of course, have a basis in truth, while others may have become distorted with the passing of time.

Many of the Burgum families I contacted believed the source of their ancestry lay in Norway or Germany. Similar assumptions had been made in my own family. Those assumptions appear to have been misguided (although the name Burgum and Burgham may well have existed in those countries, and others, but without any proof of a connection to our families).

The picture on the right is my Grandfather, William Whittington Burgum. He is very nearly one hundred and two in this picture. He died in 2005 and I wish I had taken notes when, as a child, he told us stories about the East End of London.

Some of my Brazilian AncestorsIncredible stories or family legends, however, should not be dismissed without investigation.

Stories of long, lost relatives making their fortunes in South America (adventures up the Amazon!) prompted me to make enquiries at the Brazilian Consulate, in London. That led to me tracing Burgums living in Rio de Janeiro. After some research, I was able to show we were related and identified my Great-great-grandfather (Henry Burgum) as one of three brothers who ventured to Brazil. His brother John had remained and it is his descendants who live in Rio to this day. The family photo (left) shows John Burgum, his wife and children.

A piece of advice – if you think that some time in the future you might make a few enquiries about your family’s past, interview your elder relatives now. Jot down what they say and put it somewhere safe until you need it. Leave it too long and it may be too late.

How Did I Start?

Manchester Library, EnglandI began much as I have described above. I began with my parents and then contacted other members of my family to fill in the gaps. For twenty years, I was brought up to believe that we were the only Burgums and the rare listing of a Burgum in the telephone directory was explained away as a ‘distant cousin’. One day I looked in a Manchester area telephone directory and, to my surprise, discovered a number of Burgums living in the Manchester area and also in Bolton.

I decided to investigate further and went to Manchester Library (pictured right) and looked up every telephone directory in the country. (This was before computers!) There were a lot of telephone directories! It took me quite some time, but I listed every Burgum I could find and wrote to every one of them. For the whole country, there were less than one hundred listings, so the name was still relatively rare.

Some, of course, viewed me with suspicion, but many others wrote back to me. Gradually I was able to persuade people that I was not selling anything and that my interest was genuine. With the information I was sent, I began to build up a picture of who exactly these people were and who were their relatives among the list of names I had acquired. A picture emerged of about thirty Burgum families in the UK, many believing they were the only Burgums. Others thought the name was quite common as there were several other Burgums in their local telephone book. I sketched out a number of family trees based on the information I had collected and bought a book on family history.

As my knowledge grew, I joined a number of family history societies and learned more about research techniques. Eventually, I extended my search for Burgums to around the world and discovered more in Australia, the USA and Singapore. Luckily I had an understanding wife as the costs in both time and money can be quite considerable. The purchase of birth and marriage certificates (I’ve bought over a hundred!), and the cost of travel to London, or a particular county, in order to search archives and records, sometimes without success. Still, many of my contacts (possibly you!) have been helpful and encouraging and that makes my task worthwhile.