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  • Family tree and tracing heritage

    Has anyone had success in tracing their family tree?  We have just published this piece for tomorrows newsletter.  It would be great to hear any tips and suggestions from others….

    Posted by Stuart
    • Reply by CarolineB

      Hi Stuart, Loving the article on tracing your family tree. I have been doing family history research for 15 yrs now. I started with my own family and moved on to doing trees for friends and family. I recently spent over a year researching a tree as a present for a friends ‘special’ birthday. I went the extra mile (literally) and travelled all over the country to visit local history centres and photograph churches where his relatives were married or houses they lived in etc
      He was over the moon with his present. Of course a lot of research can be done online now, but be warned it is addictive! The article gives lots of good ideas and advice. I have just advertised locally on Social Media to do family trees as an unusual Xmas present, so hopefully might even make a little extra doing something I love. If anyone wants any help or advice please give me a shout.

      • Reply by Stuart

        Thanks Caroline!   Sounds amazing – post covid I love the idea of travelling to trace down ancestry – it adds real meaning to a trip and becomes a real life detective adventure!   I’m not surprised your friend was over the moon with their present, its such a personal and powerful gift to give to someone!  Thanks for your message and have a lovely Sunday.

        • Reply by RKD

          I started tracing my family tree around 2 years ago. It is very interesting! My maternal grandfather did a lot of research many years ago and had the tree printed professionally. We were amazed to find that we are descended from Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick, who was known as The King Maker. Unfortuanately, when my grandparents passed away, we never found the tree. I contacted the College of Arms in London and they were very interested when I told them that I was going to try and recreate the tree, as they trying to trace Richard Neville’s descendants. The biggest problem is that he only had daughters and a lot of the historical records were destroyed. I’ve gone back to the late 1600’s, but until we can freely move around the country and visit heritage centres again, I’m a little stuck. My Great grandfather also had an interesting life, being a metropolitan policeman in H-Division, which was Whitechapel. He was also on duty during the Sidney Street Siege. I am trying to find out where this photo of him was taken. He is on the far right. I love the photo! My most recent interest has been in my Great Uncle (my Grandad’s eldest brother). He was in WW1 and came home from France in late 1916. He had PTSD and suffered for many years until eventually committing suicide at the Star and Garter Home for disabled soldiers by drinking disinfectant!
          I also did a DNA test and have found lots of relatives, some (on my Dad’s side) who live very close to me. Sadly, the oldest known relative passed away during the first lockdown, so I never got to meet her 😢.


        • Reply by Daisychain

          Do you mean The Star and Garter home at the top of Richmond Hill, Surrey? I remember it as a teenager as I lived quite nearby. Last time I saw it, it had been turned into a rather posh hotel.

          I’m sorry to hear about your great uncle. My great uncle always had the shakes an Mum told me he wasn’t well. I later found out he had deserted in WW1 in 1915/16 but have no more info. to date.






        • Reply by Franfoy

          I agree a DNA test is a good place to start and build your family tree

        • Reply by Fluff

          Hi RKD, i wonder if we could be very distant cousin’s? (My christian name is Neville). I have not attempted to start any ancestry tracing on my Grandma’s side (the Neville’s) & the only info that I have is they were quite ‘well to do; & lived near Tynemouth. A sad story for your Gt Uncle after what must have been horrific campaign,

      • Reply by Tyh234

        Wow! Really impressed!
        I wouldn’t know where to start to get to that level. I have started my tree and got quite a lot of names but need to start trying to validate them and get paperwork and photos but this is where I’m struggling. Any pointers would be greatly appreciated.

    • Reply by Jaynie

      I have managed to construct quite a lengthy family tree thanks to the Ancestry site.  So very interesting, not much travelling involved though, most of my family, maternal and paternal were from the same two counties.  I purchased an Ancestry DNA testing kit for my son last year, the result of that was fascinating – it appears he has a decent percentage of Scandinavian genes along with the four British counties.

    • Reply by Fenfemme

      I started to work on my family tree many years ago in the US when I had to request microfiche films of London parish records from the Church of Latter Day Saints. Today, Ancestry is a treasure trove of information. I started again as a lockdown project and have uncovered family skeletons and the darker side of poverty in Victorian London. It’s given me a renewed appreciation for how hard my past family worked so I could have a comfortable life today. I’ve also renewed contact with distant cousins. I highly recommend it as a hobby but it is like a never-ending jigsaw puzzle!

    • Reply by Daisychain

      I initially started doing my tree in Turkey with Ancestry, Genes Reunited (now defunct), Family Tree Forum (FTF) and loads of other sites. My first interests were my father’s and mother’s paternal families. I was particularly interested in the Blackman family from the Weald in Sussex and Kent. I already had a tree that Mum and her cousin had managed pre-internet that stopped abruptly at 1830. There was a query as to whether there was some bigamy going on because the name Roberts was being used. Some very kind folk from FTF helped me and I found other distant relatives who resolved the issue. I continued on from there, unearthing desertion in WW1, illegitimacy but there are still lots of unanswered questions. I then gave it all a rest.

      Recently a daughter decided to have her DNA checked and managed to find two half uncles and thus her father’s father, who had previously been a mystery. I had my DNA done as well and was contacted by a third cousin. By process of elimination we worked out the identity of his great grand father.

      It’s a never ending detective story and so fascinating to find out about the lives of our ancestors. I still have a number of corrections to do on my tree and will get round to it sometime. It’s rather addictive but a great pastime in this strange period of our history.

    • Reply by Daisychain

      The best tip I can give anyone is to talk to elderly relatives about their memories and their families and make notes. Sometimes even the most unlikely family stories have some basis in truth and will help research in the future.

      Family Tree Forum is so helpful. People there will help you look for relatives and information about them and will do look-ups for you on sites that you do not have access to. Ancestry DNA for relative finding can also point you in the right direction.

    • Reply by Dreamyboy

      Few weeks ago was quietly eating a biscuit, when on a site, I discovered a long distant ancestor was on the Mayflower – I was highly excited by this, believing how unique I now was, as I had traced my family back to the 1600s before but never to any great historical event – I joyfully informed my wife who in a deadpan sort of way asked me to look up how many other people could trace their ancestors back to the Mayflower – answer:30 million………….. I quietly went back to my biscuit.

      • Reply by Kathie



        That’s interesting as I am just doing a history course on the Pilgrim Fathers. Who is your ancestor?

        • Reply by Dreamyboy

          Richard Warren who was a passenger – this was no detective work in my case, someone had already done the hard work for me on the ‘Family Tree’ site (Latter day saints). I had already managed to trace another part of my family back to the early 1600’s who were Dutch emigrants to America who had kept precise records. As for every other branch of my family I have always reached a dead end in victorian times or even sooner!

        • Reply by Kathie



          He signed the Mayflower compact. Do you know where in England he came from?

        • Reply by Dreamyboy

          Hi Kathie , According to Family Tree – London,doesn’t give a particular area.

        • Reply by Kathie

          He may have been part of the crew in which case Rotherhithe. I will ask the history tutor if she has any information

        • Reply by Dreamyboy

          Thanks for that Kathie.

        • Reply by Kathie


          Regarding Richard Warren he was a merchant investor in the Mayflower from London, but nothing more is known I am afraid. His first wife who travelled with him died and he married Elizabeth who arrived on the ship Ann and they had 2 sons. He also had 2 daughters from the first marriage. Richard’s many descendants include; Sarah Palin, Richard Gere, Glen Ford, Ernest Hemmingway, Taylor Swift, Orson Welles and Franklin D. Roosevelt.

          Sorry I couldn’t find anymore information


        • Reply by Dreamyboy

          Kathie, many thanks for the info, much appreciated – wondering if Taylor Swift will appreciate a visit from long distant relative? Perhaps not, maybe just a subtle begging letter instead! Thanks again, Paul

    • Reply by Angel Lisa

      I have been researching my family tree since 2007(I have 14,303 people) and I have learned a lot of things over the years. Do not treat other peoples family tree as if they are correct, many many people make mistakes. Always do your own research to check on any information found/given. Make note where you get your information from and people you contact, their contact info and what family they are linked to. Back up your tree constantly! Save frequently to an external drive and then also somewhere else too! I lost a vast amount of family tree stuff, personal photos of family, landscapes, documents, music…all sorts of things when my laptop and external drive died within a couple of days of each other. It was devastating. We only managed to retrieve an older version of my tree and bits and pieces. I know have things saved on my laptop, I have a general back up external drive and another external drive and I use a ‘cloud’ also…I learned my lesson!

      Check your place names. I live on the Isle of Wight in the UK and I have found many many people who mistake it for Isle of Wight County in the US and when I have tried to help people out by pointing out their error they get quite upset, refuse to accept and then ignore so they end up going very wrong with their tree.

      Always ask a persons permission to use their tree info, photos and records etc. I know a woman who befriends people doing their trees and then takes everything, even when the info has nothing to do with her family, it’s just common courtesy to ask.

      Talk to your older relatives before it’s too late, make sure you write or record all the information down, get names, dates, places etc. I wish I had done this more but I didnt and I now have two parents with varying degrees of dementia and no grandparents left to ask.

      Oh and the last thing…ENJOY! It is a very addictive activity but I love it!

    • Reply by Daisychain

      I’ve also used Freebmd to find both individuals in a marriage and all or most of the children from a marriage after 1916. It amazes me how much you can find out about people’s families from a very small amount of information. In a number of cases just the name and date of birth. It’s rather scary so do be careful when giving others your personal details. If you post your tree to Ancestry you can prevent others seeing it unless you give permission.

      Happy hunting and enjoy.


    • Reply by skb

      I never knew who my grandfather was, or what nationality he was. Through Ancestry DNA, I not only found a living uncle (my mother’s new half brother), but another Aunt from a clandestine relationship in the 1940s. Now I have a clear vision of who I am, and my Mother finally feels complete and unashamed about being adopted. My advice is, do it sooner than later. The people I found are 75 and 85 years old. If I had waited longer, I might not have had the joy of finding them. The search has changed my life completely, but be aware that you might find somethings challenging to deal with, and not everyone might be receptive.

    • Reply by AnnJ

      I started researching my family tree when I retired 3 years ago. I find it completely fascinating.

      As many of my ancestors were Irish who moved to Scotland their records are difficult to find. I still have some aunts who provide me with information but some of the older generation are not at all interested in talking about the past. I realise that a lot of people are not interested in this subject and only talk about when asked. I’ve seen some eyes glazing over!!!!

      Since starting this research I find it very easy to ask people about their relatives and have knocked on strangers’ door asking to take photos of their houses as an ancestor lived there many years ago.

      I have found family secrets which I have not divulged to anyone and 2 people have discussed their DNA findings with me which they want be kept secret so I’ve taken on the role of agony aunt.

      I am appalled at the hardships my ancestors went though just to survive but am sure that they would be happy that their descendants lived a much better life than them. By joining local history clubs I have met some very interesting people.

      I also realise that I am very fortunate to live relatively close to the Mitchell Library in Glasgow and use their resources as often as possible.

    • Reply by Vervain

      I considered doing this but l know very little about my parents and relatives. My immediate family are all dead. I have no idea where the remaining ones living are. So l gave up the idea.

      • Reply by PeteB

        Hi Vervain

        If you’d like to dig a little further, I would love to help you. Unless you were adopted, we can start with your birth certificate and go from there.

        I’ve been doing family histories for 30 years and I love a genealogy puzzle, so I’d be happy to have a go at helping you find out more.

        Up to you of course 🙂

    • Reply by Vervain

      Thanks for your reply l only just read it. I don’t have a copy of my birth certificate at present. I would like to trace my father’s family

      • Reply by Sandyg

        Start by sending off for your full birth certificate, you will need it if applying for a passport anyway, anmd from there you wil have your parents names , address , occupation of father, work back from there.
        I found my long lost cousin by getting her mothers death certificate- I didnt know if it was the right lady til I got igt, and her fathers name was listed, and yes , that was the same as my Dad’s father.
        The informant on aunties death cert. was her daughter, the cousin Id never met, and my dad hadnt seen since she was a small girl when there was a huge bust up amonst the siblings at Grandfather’s funeral, and the sister never spoke to her brothers again, so us cousins never met and my dad was so very sad about losing contact with his adored niece.
        Finding her in his 70s was the best thing I ever did for him, he was so choked up..I asked my cousin to send my dad a birthday card with ‘Uncle’ on it, which he’d never had in his life- and gave her his no.to call on his birthday, which was just days after I found her. Wish I could have been there to eavesdrop…but I was there when I arranged for them to visit my parents while I was staying there a month later…another surprise for my Dad and the 1st chance he had to hug his niece in over 50 years ! It was wonderful and in the nick of time, ..my dad got dementia within a yea of that meeting and died 18 months later..if i hadnt found my cousin there would have been no family exept my own children and my sister at Dad’s funeral, it meant such a lot to have them there…and a bit later at mum’s too.
        Im sos glad to have found this extra family, and Im very close top them and their daughter too.

    • Reply by Donna63

      Hi, yes I have found my very large biological family, biological mother & 9 maternal siblings and my biological father plus 4 siblings. It took a long time 20 plus years to complete but really happy ive achieved it.
      I am very lucky that everyone I met was helpful and lovely.
      I have reunited with all my living maternal siblings, but still have 3 paternal ones to meet. I am also very lucky to have met and been very accepted by my father to. My mother had passed away before I found her.
      Its been an incredible journey. I had one very big heartstrings moment when I got my DNA results, I only took the test because I was struggling to find one brother, hoping to find him that way….it turned out my recorded punitive father was not my father! The family were so good about it, we had built relationships and I had travelled to the states to meet them and they’ve chosen to keep me as a sister/ niece/ cousin etc. Im so so lucky….im waiting for my Nephew or ‘Sister’ to check their DNA results as he could well be the father of my immediate elder sister also called Donna, the dates he was in the UK match with her to. So my search and find may not have been in vain.
      My search took me to so many places, spoke to such lovely people all willing to help especially looking for my father who was an American Air man.

    • Reply by MargaretMags

      I’ve enjoyed getting into my family tree over the years. I got back to the 1700s on one side but am stuck at my great grandma on mum’s side. There are no records before she married my great grandfather. It didn’t help that her surname is recorded three different ways. I think she is the Irish link that my mother always said we had. I won’t give up though.🤔

    • Reply by harry_keane

      I started searching for information about my father over 20 years ago. I used FindMyPast and one or two others, made two visits to Ireland, all to no avail. I joined Ancestry, did a DNA test which I made “shareable” and about a year later received information that confirmed that the man who I’d always regarded as my stepfather was, in fact, my biological father. I’ve since met a number of my Irish relatives and revealed a lot about my family history that I might not otherwise have known.

    • Reply by tang.sue0104

      I was born in South Africa to my British born parents who left here at the end of 1947. Only my paternal grandmother was still alive when I was born and she died when I was 3. My brother and I grew up only knowing my mum’s sister and husband who had also emigrated to S.A. We met their grandson, our cousin, only once, and his son once too. On coming here to work in care, I started trying to find my ancestors. With the help of CarolineB, first commentator to your original query posted here, we have now traced back as far as my father’s 3x great grandfather and his mother’s great grandfather. My daughter came over and we did a road trip and I saw where he was born in Cockermouth, where he went to school and church etc. It finally made me feel that I ‘belong’. Next on the list is to trace my mother’s side of the family – she was originally related to the Mappin family of London and also had Irish and possibly French roots. It is very absorbing and has really sparked an interest in English history as a DNA test revealed my 2% Greek or Southern Italian heritage. I have also been in contact with one of my Welsh cousins.

    • Reply by CockneyRebel

      Before lockdown i used to go to the local library .The local history group were very helpful in helping me find out that my nan had married 3x and my father had other half siblings .I lost both of my parents at a young age, so couldn’t ask them any questions. So have relatives out there just not found them yet…

    • Reply by Toni Samantha

      I started doing my family tree through ancestry in 2010, now during lockdown my daughter and I have continued it, I must admit my daughter has done more than I she is totally hooked, it’s all very fascinating, we have gone back to the 1400. My mum is elderly and we found out that her 9th grandfather on her mother’s side was a Baron, equivalent to a lord nowadays. She was thrilled with that, so my daughter and I have found that you can buy the tiles of lord and lady, we are getting her the title for her 89th birthday. Happy searching everyone

    • Reply by Isabella Twyning

      Hi Stuart. I started my tree back in the early nineties when I focused mainly on my paternal line. Over the years my life has gone in various directions which kept me too busy to really focus on family history but the interest has always been there. Lockdown gave me the opportunity to revisit my research and then my partner died suddenly on Xmas eve and since then its actually been what has kept me going. Its given me a focus and allowed me to immerse myself in the past and remind me that many have passed before and they are all part of who I am now. I have done a DNA test and so have started contacting connections. In addition I spend my time watching documentaries on Egypt, Ancestry, etc. One of my sons has a passing interest but other than that I have no one to discuss and enthuse about my latest discovery so it would be great to share the odd message with a fellow enthusiast.

    • Reply by Julie R

      I’ve been doing my family tree ( and my husband’s) for many years. I find it fascinating – especially my g grandmother who was a bigamist!!