I’ve enjoyed family history researching for many years but like lots of people eventually came to a full stop after following up the births, deaths, marriages, occupations and addresses of even the most distant relatives. I turned my attention to the various documents, photographs and memorabilia that had accumulated in the loft as grandparents and parents had died and I spent many happy months researching the background to an old diary and photograph collection that my dad had kept during World War II.
Eventually this diary became my first ebook and was published as I Think I Prefer the Tinned Variety: The Diary of a Petty Officer in the Fleet Air Arm during World War II. I was thrilled and delighted with the reception the book received from family and friends and amazed that so many people wanted to read it. I think my dad, who died in 1978 aged just fifty four years, would have been even more amazed.
I’ve always enjoyed undertaking history projects: in fact one of my earliest memories from primary schooldays in the early 1960s was writing a little booklet about the life and times of composer Ludwig van Beethoven. My happiest secondary school memory is of a Sixth Form project researching the history of our local town as it prepared to celebrate the nine hundred years anniversary of the founding of its magnificent abbey church. As sixth-formers we’d been invited to write a history booklet which was to be printed out and copies given to local dignitaries. We were given access to all the abbey documents and were staggered to find in an old, rusty chest the original Elizabethan Poor Law documents for the town. Needless to say it was only a few days before they were all packed up and whipped off to the local diocesan archives away from the heavy handed research tactics of four over-enthusiastic teenagers. At college the most enjoyable part of my history course was when we had to undertake original research using first hand material and for this I got access to the local school records: admission registers, site plans and log books; and lost myself in the minutiae of everyday life in a Victorian elementary school.
I started exploring my family history in the late 1990s when I first got access to the internet. The 1881 census made available by The Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints was the only on-line source I used in those early days but it wasn't long before I stumbled upon Free Births, Marriages and Deaths and from then on I became completely hooked on genealogy. After a couple of years I signed up to ancestry.com and when the 1911 census went on-line I signed up for that and subsequently Find My Past.co.uk.
I read somewhere that family history is the pastime with the greatest number of enthusiasts in the whole world even more so than gardening. I don't know how that conclusion could be reached but apparently the audience for Who Do You Think You Are exceeds 6 million just in the U.K.
When I was researching my husband's family history I stumbled on a really useful website for anyone with Essex ancestors. I managed to look at some parish records for a village called Beaumont cum Mose where his Starling ancestors had lived in the nineteenth century which added some extra bits of information to our family tree. The site is provided by the Libraries and Archives Department of Essex County Council; it was free when I used it but it might be subject to a charge now. Well worth checking out though if you've got some origins in that part of the world.
I made a start a few weeks ago in scanning my old photos and adding them to my on-line archive. I've been pre-occupied in recent days with my epublishing empire but I've added some more photos to the archive to-day so do take a look if you've got a few minutes to spare.