Who do you think you are?

As a question, it can have negative connotations and is usually asked of those considered “bolshie” or with plenty to say for themselves… which might explain why I seem to have heard it rather a lot.

But it can also be a fair question, especially when asked of someone with an interest in their past and that of their family. That’s why the BBC TV show of the same name has proved so popular.

This is a website devoted to the research I’ve carried out into my own family’s history. I started messing around with the popular website Ancestry long before I’d seen this kind of project made flesh on BBC1. I began the project because, having lost both my parents before I turned 30, I had a lot of gaps in my knowledge and I wanted to make sure there was something for my daughter to look at if she was ever curious about her roots.

An initial burst of enthusiasm faded away, but I would log on from time to time when there was a “free access” weekend. A degree was completed, a book was written, but the family tree remained pretty basic.

Then, there was the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020. Ancestry made UK and Irish records “free access” right through the four-day Easter weekend and without football (or much else, other than parenting) to distract me, I rekindled a flame I thought had gone out years ago. A lot of progress was made, then built upon when the free weekend was followed by a 14-day free trial. This trial has now ended… just as a full week of free access to UK Records is launched to mark VE Day. So, I’m going to crack on, find out as much as I can and share a few snippets in this space.

I think that lots of people who dabble with this kind of research do so because they’re secretly hoping to find they are some incredibly minor Royal or Aristorcrat. I didn’t start this project with that kind of thought in my head; I was convinced that I came from a long line of hard-working folk who could be pinned down to three regions: Teesside, where my father is from, South Wales, where his mother was born (her family moved to Teesside in the 1930s as work shifted from the Valleys to the North East of England) and Surrey, where my mother had been born and raised.

There was some element of truth to that, of course, but I’ve found an awful lot of surprises since starting this research. I’ve built this website so I have an excuse to write some of them down and can share them with my wider family – especially my daughter and the little brother she asked for (and got) along the way.