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I started researching my family history in March 2007. At the time I was a single, stay-at-home Mum to my oldest. Yes, I bought into the Ancestry adverts that one name would be all it took for a complete family tree to appear in front of me. Alas, I was to be very surprised.
Thirteen years on, I can’t even begin to tally up the amount of time, money, and energy I have invested in my family tree. I have discovered forgotten histories, reconstructed long lost lives from bare-bones, and attempted to breathe life into them.
That two-week free trial I took on a whim sparked an intense and deep love affair with the vaults of social history.
I can honestly say that it encouraged the tentative dip of the toes into a history degree. I’m due to graduate in 2 years after beginning in 2010. I suppose that’s what you get when you add 4 twigs to your tree in 8 years.
With all of this, though, it was not merely a case of entering my name and a fully grown tree popping into being. My ancestry is much more complicated than that. There were wrong turns (I said goodbye to my paternal line after months of research because I ordered the incorrect certificate). There were walls I could not break down no matter how hard I tried (William Williams anyone?). Then there was the moment an entire family took offence to the facts (I’m sorry your great grandfather was a bigamist – twice. I’m sorry your grandfather ran off with the neighbour’s daughter. Neither of those things makes them a bad person).
I love this journey into the past. It’s not a hobby that can be simply ‘dabbled’ with. I do dip in and out and have done for 13 years, but it never takes me long to remind myself of who these people are and where they fit on the broader tree.