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Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Who Do You Think I Am?

The BBC hit "Who Do You Think You Are?" has done wonders for the genealogy business.
About 4 years ago I decided to pull together my family tree.  More out of interest than anything else, and having asked a couple of questions, I decided it would be fun to see what I could find.  All this was before I had even heard of the BBC programme

It's fascinating learning about your history.  The little bit of history in which you come from and are part of.  I suppose the immediate history is the easy bit.  Been there, done that.  The memories are all mine.

But what about before I was born? 
Before my parents were born? 
Where did my grandparents come from?
Where did my great-grandparents come from?
What were their jobs?
Where did they live?

Starting with now and working backwards, I built a tree, using my knowledge and asking my parents.  Who were their grandparents, could they remember anything about them?  Where did they live? etc. etc....

As with projects like this, I eventually hit a brick wall, so to speak. 

I needed to get more information, but the sources had, well, died!

I then created an account at, to search more deeply.

It was a bit like the BBC's "Who Do You Think You Are?" except I'm not famous.  Nor do I have the resources available to me, like the people in various libraries, who have pre-researched the information for the celebrities! is a rich source of information, if you know where to look and how to search.  There is a lot of useful, helpful, knowledge available, and seeing the pages from an 1891 census, for example, started to bring my family to life.

My father's parents were born in England, but their parents were born in Russia.  With information from my dad, I discovered that his paternal grandfather was a cobbler (you always need shoes!) and I then found his entry in Kellys Directory (from 1912).

On my mother's side, due to a piece of good fortune, I even managed to find out the maiden name of my great-great-grandmother.  With that information, I then found her father - my great-great-great grandfather. Amazing.

I haven't been so lucky with other family members, yet, but there is plenty of other information available, that will bring a history to life.  For example, I found the telephone directory entry of my grandfathers business, in 1926. I also found the emigration notice for my great-aunt, who went to live in America, in 1947.  It's a copy of the actual handwritten notice.

It quite fascinating, and now I'm trying to build on the tree, with some knowledge about how and where they lived. Coupled with some photos of the time, this will be something not just for me, but for the whole family, and generations to come, to be able to understand where we came from, and, more importantly, who we are.
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