What started your interest in genealogy?
I’ve always loved history but hadn’t really thought about my own genealogy until I came across an old tin of my late grandfather’s hidden away in the garage. It contained various family papers including some birth, death and marriage certificates, some mortgage papers and some photographs. Up until this point I believed that this side of the family came from Hereford itself but it turns out that the one branch came from the village in which I have lived all my life! In those days the only census available was the 1881 census through FamilySearch and this gave me the starting point to visit my local archives and look at the parish records. Then the excitement of the 1901 census being released and I was truly hooked. I have since made good inroads into my own genealogy but there is always more work to do and more walls to negotiate so it will keep me occupied for a good few years to come.
What are your specialist areas of interest and why have you chosen them?
I think that one of my main areas of interest is in genealogical education. I run Family History courses for beginners as well as one to one sessions and it is so rewarding watching how the learners progress and make discoveries about their own past. Despite the adverts, it is not as easy as just typing your name in a webpage and so I am passionate that people should be able to develop their own skills and appreciate the range of sources that are available.
Herefordshire, my home county, is always of endless interest to me and I enjoy tracing families and individuals and building up a picture of life in this rural county.
What is your our most exciting discovery, either personal or professional?
One of the most exciting discoveries was that I have a second cousin living in Edinburgh who works as a Sheriff. We have started an email correspondence but I hope to go and visit him soon. He is an only child so I was able to share some of my research with him, although the O’Gradys are very elusive, and he has shared some of his memories with me. Going further back, I knew that one of my great uncles was in Holy Orders but only knew him by the name he took on ordination, Cornelius, rather than the name he was born with. I contacted the Passionist Order and they couldn’t have been more helpful. They confirmed his birth name, sent me a picture and also an obituary. This obituary is so valuable as it gives a picture of him as a man and also the things he went through as a priest in Paris during WWII. It was such a shame that I never had the chance to meet him as his warmth and humour really came through.
Professionally, the work I’m most proud of is the research I did on someone’s Belgian family tree. It stretched me linguistically but the Belgian Archives have a very good online service and online parish records (which are a lot more informative than most UK ones) and so I was able to make good progress.
Describe a typical days work.
Every day is different depending on the amount and type of work I have. I also teach people how to use computers so both sides of my work have to exist in harmony. I do a certain amount of research online but also visit my local archives to fill in any gaps. If I have teaching work, I spend time looking over my lesson plans. Each group is different so I am continually adjusting to make sure they get the best experience. I also write an article a quarter for Herefordiensis, the journal of Herefordshire Family History Society. This consists of a guide to certain kinds of sources so I need to read round the subject and make notes before I write it up. It is one job I do enjoy doing as it keeps me sharp and expands my knowledge base.