Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Family Snapshot

I've grown up believing I was part of a very small family; both my parents were only children, so there's never been aunts, uncles or cousins on the scene. I did have two great aunts but between them they only managed to provide me with a single 2nd cousin.

A few years ago I started researching my family-tree, but as this was before the online tools and services were really established I didn't have a great deal of luck. In fact I encountered so many cold trails I began to imagine my ancestors only came down from the trees in the late 19th century.

Of course, things are very different now, and sites like ancestry.co.uk and thegenealogist.co.uk have brought together all manner of census, birth, marriage and death, and parish records for easy access in one place - albeit at fairly hefty subscription prices. I've been using the latter, but will probably change to Ancestry in due course, as it seems to have better global coverage. Nevertheless, I have been able to go back a couple of generations on the families of three of my four grandparents - my Mother's father remains a complete enigma, having disembarked from a ship in New York in 1931 and disappeared from the radar for ever. Curiously there is no record of him being born in the UK either, so I guess he was just passing through during the 1920's.

A couple of weeks ago I decided to join GenesReunited.com to see if it could throw up some new leads. The results have been impressive; immediately I found somebody who had researched a tree that included my father's grandfather and great uncle, the two brothers that according to family legend fell out in a big way, resulting in one of them adding an 's' to their surname Sandy to disassociate themselves completely.

Yesterday I made contact with another researcher who turns out to be living in Queensland, Australia and is married to a 4th cousin on my maternal grandmother's side. He has managed to trace the line back ten generations to a chap called John Bidlecomb who was born around 1660 in Fawley, Hampshire. Pretty impressive stuff when you think about it; that's before the Plague and the Great Fire of London, and only just after the death of Oliver Cromwell and the restoration of the monarchy under Charles II. Even Kronenbourg beer was yet to be tasted.

So in 350 years and nine generations, my Mum's family line has migrated about six miles as the crow flies.

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