From a very young age history has fascinated me. Whether it was castles, mills or old manor houses, I loved to explore ancient buildings, drinking in their smells and atmosphere and imagining the lives and loves of their former inhabitants.
From these early beginnings it was only a matter of time before I became interested in delving into the history of my own family. By the age of thirteen I had already visited St. Catherine's House in an attempt to try and unearth some facts about my grandmother's ancestry.
Many years on, and now based in Lancashire, I have researched four branches of my own family tree and have helped various friends get to know their ancestors. When researching someone's family tree I don't just like to find out the basic facts such as birth, marriage and death dates but am particularly interested in researching the human interest side of their stories, such as the social conditions that they were faced with. Where possible, I like to try and include photos or pictures that help bring the period and person to life.
My academic and professional background is very varied. I have a BA Joint Honours degree in French Language and English Literature and have worked in the charity sector, the world of business and in education. As a result of my academic background I am meticulous in my research methods and place particular emphasis on accuracy and attention to detail.
With my English degree and experience of writing reports, press releases, publicity materials and teaching materials, I am well equipped to present my research findings in an accessible and entertaining way.
Historic buildings like this inspired my love of history.
General Register Office Certificates
From 1837 all births, marriages and deaths were supposed to be registered. Obtaining the correct certificate can provide all kinds of useful information such as fathers' names, maiden names and dates of birth that can help me to take your research one generation further back. Unfortunately, for a variety of reasons, not everyone officially recorded these events.
The records of baptisms, marriages or burials kept by local churches can provide similar details to certificates and, indeed, may be the only way of obtaining such information prior to 1837. Entries, especially the earlier ones, can be frustratingly sparse, but are still a very useful tool.
From 1841, the census returns provide a snapshot of individuals every ten years. They can confirm where an individual or family was living at that time, the work they were doing or even hint at deaths or marriages by the absence of a name. The quality and quantity of information provided does vary depending on the particular census and the abilities of the enumerator.
Local Trade Directories
These can pinpoint your ancestor in the time between each census and allow me to position him or her in the business and social context of their local area.
Surprisingly even people of quite modest means did make wills. They are held at a number of repositories nationwide and are not always easy to locate even with the growing number of on-line indexes. However, they are a valuable resource because they can confirm and provide a unique insight into the relationships between forbears and also give an idea of their relative prosperity.
Local Newspapers, Maps and Old Books
These can often give a 'feel' for ancestors' lives. Although many newspapers are now on-line or have been microfilmed by local record offices, it is still extremely time-consuming to read through them. However, if a relevant article is found, it can literally put 'flesh on the bones' of an ancestor.
In the past my research has led me to military records, tithe maps, cemetery records, school registers and many other different sources.
A major problem for researchers is that we are reliant on records made by other people a long time ago. Often events were not recorded, or if records were kept, they have not survived the passage of time. Frustrating though it is, sometimes you just have to accept that you will never find that elusive bit of information.