Posted in History & Politics

A hobby or a life-long passion

I started researching my family history in March 2007. At the time, I was a single, stay-at-home Mum and I bought into the illusion of the Ancestry adverts. You know the ones, they claim that one name is all it takes for a complete family tree to appear. It didn’t quite work out like that… but that’s a discussion for a later date.

Almost fourteen years after I entered the information I knew, I can’t even begin to tally up the amount of time, money, and energy I have invested in my family tree. I have discovered forgotten histories, reconstructed long lost lives from bare-bones, and attempted to breathe life into those who walked before me.

That two-week free trial I accepted on a whim sparked an intense and deep love affair with the vaults of social history. I can honestly say that it encouraged the tentative dip of the toes into a history degree. I’m due to graduate in 3 years after beginning in 2010.  I suppose that’s what you get when you add four twigs to your tree in 8 years.

I discovered that genealogy is much more complicated than simply entering names in a software programme. It is much more complicated that adding one generation that went before another. In my own research I took many wrong turns, including spending months researching a family only to discover they were the wrong family. In my defence, Evan Evans appeared to be a popular choice in the nineteenth century. 

There were walls I could not break down no matter how hard I tried. Including the challenge of William Williams, of which the breakthrough came when the 1939 register revealed his date of birth.

Then there was the time an entire family took offence to the facts (I’m sorry your great grandfather was a bigamist – twice.  I’m sorry your grandfather ran off with the neighbour’s daughter.  Neither of those things makes them an intrinsically awful person but they did happen).

I love this journey into the past.  It’s not just a hobby that can be ‘dabbled’ in now and then, it it actually a passion. I do dip in and out and have done for 13 years, but it never takes me long to remind myself of who these people are and where they fit on the broader tree.


Beth is a 30-something Mum, History Student and Freelancer. In her spare time she enjoys reading, writing, and researching her family history.

14 thoughts on “A hobby or a life-long passion

  1. I’m a very erratic researcher of family history. Being called Wilson and coming from the North West is a bit of a trial, so I understand your pain in having to find an Evan Evans.

    One of my ancestors was taken to court for hitting his wife. The judge told the police to bring him back in 24 hours as he should be sober by then. As you say – stories…


      1. I have one rare surname that was based in a
        small town where they seemed to embrace the local paper – all sorts of stuff crops up about them. The Wilsons and the Smiths are much trickier. 🙂 We even had one Wilson family living next door to his brother another and calling the kids the same thing. Most of my great uncles, as a consequence, has a cousin with the same name.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Ooooh, those ones are the best! 😁
        Were all the Wilson children roughly the same age too? Funnily, I have a cousin with the same name and she’s around 8 weeks older. 😂

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I have often hit the free trial on this in the past, I do love history and love finding out about past generations. Maybe this is something for the future. My Aunt and one of her cousins did this years ago but only got so far


    1. Sometimes there’s only so far you can go… Some of my ancestral lines can be traced back to the 16th century but that’s very rare!


  3. Researching family history is such a wonderful hobby. One of my cousin does that and digs up some wonderful news, photos and details about our great grandparents.


  4. This is amazing! I started researching my family history about 20 years ago! My dad’s parents passed away when he was a toddler and he had no history. After lots of work and some very lucky finds, I ended up showing him his first-ever picture of his dad. Amazing.


    1. It’s fabulous what you can find out, isn’t it? I’m so pleased that you were able to show your Dad a photograph of his dad.


  5. This has inspired me to get back into researching my family tree. I too started about 12/13 years ago but haven’t done anything since having the kids. Maybe its time to research once more.


  6. I started looking into my family tree years ago and really enjoyed it. I wanted to get back into a few years ago but found that I now had to pay for access to the sites and I just couldn’t afford to carry on, which is such a shame really.


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