What prompted your interest in researching your ancestry?

Last week there was a report on the BBC News website about a message in a bottle that had been cast into the sea some 101 years ago by a young German man Richard Platz which had been found in a fisherman’s net in the Baltic Sea. Researchers from the International Maritime Museum in Hamburg were able to track down his granddaughter and she was pretty emotional about it, having never met her grandfather. The report said it had prompted her to find out more about him.

It would be a lovely thing to be able to see and hold something like that, to have been bobbing around in the sea for over 100 years and to be returned back ‘home’ to Berlin.

Perhaps it might spark his granddaughter to look even further back at her family tree, who knows?

For me, my interest came after looking through a photo album my paternal grandfather had put together which included lots of old photographs of his and my grandmother’s families. They were glued onto white card and put into a ring binder, not the most inspirational or aesthetically pleasing way to display them, but as I sat with my Dad with a pen and pad in my hand noting down the pages and positions of photographs and whatever details he told me about them, I got more and more interested. These were people I had never met, my paternal grandparents both having died six years before I was born, and their relatives either long since deceased or very much long lost in terms of keeping touch.

I also had fond memories of family trips to the Ceiriog Valley, where Dad would talk to us about his Nain’s family The Brown’s and their link to the Tramway there. I remember visiting the slate mine there once and I remembered the books Dad had about the area and how he said there were photos of our ancestors in them. So after looking through the album I spent some time going through the books with a new found interest.

I had grown up knowing a fair few things about my Dad’s side of the family but not much at all about my Mum’s. My maternal grandfather died when I was 5 and we lived a fair way from my grandmother and so didn’t get to see her as often as we would have liked. She passed away in 2002 and is still much missed.

It was only once I started to ask questions that I found out my maternal grandfather had spent some time in Brazil, tales of a Cotton Mill Manager and the sadness of my grandmother’s childhood, that avenues started to open and my uncle sent me what certificates and photographs he had.

In the 11 years that I have been researching my own tree I have uncovered so much information, such a varied tree full of characters and tales, most of which are ordinary lives, but interesting nonetheless.

How about you? Was there an event, a person, a photograph or an object that first ignited that spark of interest into researching your family tree? Are you the first one in your family to be interested? I know I seem to have been – some members had tried doing some small bits but didn’t really know where to look. I’ve been really pleased to have been able to answer some questions they have had, from uncovering the truth behind some long held secrets to finding out the birth name of a much loved adopted aunt who died young, and I have enjoyed every moment of it, even the frustrating ones!


My Dad and his parents circa 1949. I like how this photograph reminds me very much of my little nephew who sometimes looks so much like my Dad! Got the same bottom lip!



9 thoughts on “What prompted your interest in researching your ancestry?

  1. My interest in researching information related to my grandmother’s diary began when my daughter saw a picture of her great-grandmother (my grandmother) as an elderly women. My daughter asked, “Who is that old lady?” I remembered that I had a copy of Gradma’s diary tucked somewhere. . . and the rest is history. 🙂

    • Thanks for sharing Sheryl! Sometimes it can stem from something pretty small but lead to big things! Your grandmothers diary is such an insight on what life was like 100 years ago for a young girl.

  2. My grandmother used to tell me stories of where “our people” (as she would say) were from. I loved those stories when I was younger! That along with my dad, fueled a love of history. My degree is in history (for secondary education, but still) and it is really no surprise to anyone that I do this. The key trigger though was finding a name on a gravestone. I was looking in a cemetery for a plot my grandfather told me about and came across a grave. The name was Mary Witherell Hay Owen. This was about a year or two after my grandmother died and HER name was Mary Witherell so I freaked out a bit. I wanted to see if we were related (we are not) and I’ve been hunting every since!

    • Thanks NikiMarie. How strange re the gravestone! I love delving into my family’s past, and I am always a bit bemused by people who aren’t interested, but each to their own!

  3. I have been interested since I was a little girl. My grandmother would look through photo albums with me for hours on end and answer the same questions over and over again. As the years passed my interest grew and I have been researching for about 16 years. Loved this post, thanks for sharing!

  4. First, thanks for following my blog Brotmanblog. I am always happy to find other genealogy bloggers! Second, my interest was sparked by two things: the television show Who Do You Think You Are and the birth of my grandson. The first showed me what was possible, and the second showed me why it was important. I want future generations to know about their past, and I knew nothing myself. Thus, I started researching and found myself obsessed with learning more.

    • Hi Amy – thanks for commenting! I definitely think that family additions do help to start making you think about family legacy a bit more!

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