What started your interest in genealogy?
I’ve always had some interest in family history and tales of long dead ancestors. How I wish I could remember them all now. The catalyst for serious research was an Australian temp who worked with my sister. For a few heady weeks, based on her surname, we hoped that she might be a descendant of a long-lost great uncle of my father. Sadly, it turned out that she was from a different family but the whole episode was enough to convince me I needed to get underway with research while my parents werestill around.
What are your specialist areas of interest and why have you chosen them?
I mainly do research on Scottish ancestry and I particularly like work related to Orkney, where I was born and grew up, and Stirling, where I now live. Recently I’ve done some work on European ancestry which put my language skills to good use. And I love using maps too.
Your most exciting discovery, either personal or professional
Ooh that’s a hard question. Seeing a client’s delight at the information I’ve found about their ancestors is always very rewarding. It might not be the sort of exciting stories that would make it onto Who do you think you are? but that doesn’t matter, it’s about their family, their roots and that’s very powerful. My own ancestry is mainly crofters and fishermen so a newspaper article from the 1860s about my great great grandfather nearly drowning both himself and his son when he overloaded his small boat with peats was a great discovery.
A typical day’s work.
I’ve never had a job where there was a typical day and genealogy is no exception. Some days I working at home, writing reports, doing desk research, some reading or other professional updating – and even sorting my accounts. Other days I’m out at ScotlandsPeople or a local archive. Those can be quite intense days, trying to cover as much ground as possible, so I need to stand back every so often and review what I have done. Are any conclusions well supported? Why am I sure that I’ve found the right John Smith? What do I need to do next? After several project and student-focused jobs, self-employment can be a little lonely at times so I enjoy getting out. Going to local archives and libraries, meeting and talking to staff there is great. I also value meeting up with other genealogists at CPD events and less formal gatherings.