What started your interest in genealogy?
When I was a very young child, my parents used to send me (and my sister and brother) on a plane to Johannesburg to stay with my father’s parents in our Christmas holidays. Of course it was summer there so we had a wonderful time swimming, getting sunburnt and putting on plays for family and friends. But the thing I enjoyed most was when Granny Rose would tell me the family stories: about how she met Grandpa, how she wasn’t allowed to get married until after her older sisters, and how Grandpa had come on a ship from Latvia as a boy. I used to draw family trees and write the stories in notebooks, and I think even at that age I felt a very strong desire to get hold of all this precious information and preserve it. Of course now I wish I had asked more questions, and I have also discovered a few things that she didn’t tell me!
What are your specialist areas of interest and why have you chosen them?
I have three: Derbyshire, because my husband’s side of the family tree is all in that part of the world; South Africa because of my grandparents; and Jewish genealogy generally because although I am not at all religious I feel a strong connection to the culture, history, music and languages of the Jewish people.
This has to be one I made last summer in Cape Town public library. I decided to search the Johannesburg newspapers to see if the story about my grandfather’s father being murdered just before my grandparents’ wedding was true. (I had never been able to find out anything about this from my research online.) I spent a long morning in the library going very slowly through the 1930 newspaper on a microfilm reader, and found it. (Picture on right) It was a heart-stopping, very exciting moment. Tantalisingly, it mentioned a relative who found the body, but I haven’t found out who this person is. And this has made me wish I could spend more time reading more newspapers (or that they would hurry up and put them online!).
A typical day’s work.
When I have a day to devote to genealogy, I’m usually preparing a talk or workshop but I make sure to spend some time tidying up my own tree and checking for new sources.