What started your interest in genealogy?
My interest in genealogy started whilst I was at school. During the 1977 Silver Jubilee celebrations my school studied the Royal Family, a subject I was already interested in. This progressed to learning about the monarchs of this country and culminating in a project based on our own family tree. I spoke to my aunts and uncles, and my Granddad, and came up with a family tree of both sides of my family going back to my great-great-grandparents. Mine was the project chosen to go on the wall at parents evening. The rest as they say is history. For my A Level Communications final project I did a slide show on how to trace your family tree, after feedback on this from Cecil Humphery-Smith, and alongside my first degree in Librarianship and Information Studies, I undertook the IHGS correspondence course. My degree dissertation was entitled ‘Sources for Family Historians’. Whilst working full time as the Assistant Librarian at The College of Arms I undertook the IHGS qualifications, Part II (Intermediate) Certificate in Genealogy (1990), Record Agent in Genealogy (1997) and Diploma in Genealogy (2003). After being made redundant from the College of Arms I found work locally at a further education college and worked part time with my husband in his genealogical and heraldic practice; I also undertook a basic teaching qualification and went onto teach beginners classes in family history, a very fulfilling activity. I also studied for a Part time Master of Studies in Local and Regional History at St Catharine’s College, Cambridge (2006-2008). I joined Hertfordshire Family History Society in 1987 and now serve on the Committee and edit their journal, Hertfordshire People.
What are your specialist areas of interest and why have you chosen them?
My specialist areas of interest are individual family research, building and locations research and also speaking, writing and event organising. I enjoy the thrill of the chase of genealogical research, finding clues, finding pieces of the jig-saw and proving each part of the pedigree for my own or our clients’ families. I find it useful to put the families into their context by looking at the area in which they lived and if it still exists finding their houses. I have undertaken research into our own home and the people who lived in it before we did.
It is so satisfying when you find that illusive ancestor or piece of evidence to prove a descent. I enjoy working on individual cases for clients and also passing on the research skills I have to beginners to family history research by way of short courses, workshops or lectures. With my husband we organise the biennial congresses for The Heraldry Society, at various venues around the UK.
Your most exciting discovery, either personal or professional.
This is a difficult one – most cases we undertake professionally are interesting in their own way, but my research my own family in Hertfordshire and Suffolk has been the most rewarding, challenging and satisfying. With my Dad’s family I managed to trace them back to just after the Commonwealth gap, with enough evidence to conjecture that they were kin to an armigerous family who appear in the Suffolk Heralds Visitation of 1561. This descent is recorded in the College of Arms and my Grant of Arms in memory of my parents uses the same arms, with a border for difference. My Mum’s family still intrigue me, they have not moved from a 20 mile radius of Hitchin in Hertfordshire since the 1600s. My paternal grandmothers family are also of great interest to me, my great grandfather was a music hall artiste in London the 1870s – my love and performance of this genre stems from my research into his family. I’m one of the very few female siffleuse in amateur music hall. I blame my Dad who taught me to whistle!
A typical days work
I still work full time as a curriculum administrator at a local FE college, but in my spare (!) time I assist my husband in his genealogical work. Ideally I would like to work in the genealogical field full time. I serve on the Committee of the Hertfordshire Family History Society and edit their journal, Hertfordshire People and am also the Membership Secretary, Hon Librarian and Bookstall Manager and editor of The Heraldry Gazette, for The Heraldry Society, jobs which, although they are voluntary, are very rewarding and enjoyable and are funnily enough my relaxation from work. My attention to detail and excellent communication skills are I feel essential for a successful genealogical career.
A typical day would be the day job, then in the evening review any genealogical cases we may have on the go, work on a journal, read, do more research or mull over a knotty problem. There’s never a dull moment with genealogy.