Posted in Genealogy 101

Why Genealogy – Kathryn’s Story

Welcome to week five of the series “Why Genealogy”. I’m sharing the voices of my fellow genealogists and family history enthusiast who were all were bit by the genealogy bug at a young age. Genealogy isn’t something you have to wait to do! There is no age limit to who can learn about their family’s past.

This week, meet Kathryn!

It was a rainy Sunday afternoon and my father decided to get the old family cinefilms out for us to all watch. He dusted off the projector and put up the big white screen and drew the curtains and suddenly all of his yesteryears were being shown. People that had come long before me, were suddenly animated once again and that’s where my fascination with family history started. As a child, I’ve always been interested in history so naturally, a progression to family history was perhaps a given!

By the late 2000s with the use of the internet and home computers becoming more commonplace, I joined Ancestry in 2006 aged 13, and started to build my family tree. 15 years later I’m still building that tree!

I think what puts people off researching their family history is they believe their family isn’t that interesting, but it’s the stories of the ordinary folk that keep me hooked. The stories of bigamous marriages, murders, accidental poisonings, industrial accidents, and more are what I consider the most fascinating. I love sharing these stories and discoveries with my family whether they want to hear them or not! Joining the social media side of genealogy and sharing my knowledge and stories was something I had always wanted to do so I threw myself into it this year and was so pleased to discover a growing group of young genealogists already present.

Kathryn Archer is a 28-year-old genealogist based in Yorkshire. With familial links to Yorkshire, Warwickshire, and Cheshire. When she is not researching family trees or going through DNA matches you can find her digitising old cinefilm or scanning family photos. Her other hobbies include stamp collecting and coin collecting. You can follow her on Instagram, Twitter and TikTok @that90sgenealogist.

Make sure to check out the other voices featured in the “Why Genealogy” series!

Posted in Genealogy 101

Why Genealogy – Sophie’s Story

Welcome to week four of the series “Why Genealogy”. I’m sharing the voices of my fellow genealogists and family history enthusiast who were all were bit by the genealogy bug at a young age. Genealogy isn’t something you have to wait to do! There is no age limit to who can learn about their family’s past.

This week, meet Sophie!

A seed of curiosity is where my genealogy interest originates. My paternal grandmother is a many-cousined woman, and she would return from the funerals of her numerous aunts and uncles naming reams of people I was related to but didn’t know. She kept their names up her sleeve like a Magician’s never-ending hanky. The fact that my Nan held all the knowledge about these people and their relation to us began to worry me. One day she wouldn’t be here, and then who will remember their names, or how we’re related? I decided I needed to take on the job myself to preserve the information. So in 2012, at the age of 16, I began building out my known family tree online, pulling out the never-ending handkerchief from Nan’s sleeve, and laying out each square to untangle the list of cousins she’d preserved. Soon I was able to document everything we knew about her side of the family. 

Moving on to my paternal grandfather, I asked about his extended family but he didn’t really know anything. How can my Nan know so much about her family, but my Grandad know so little about his? My nosey nature sent me digging to find out more. This led to me uncovering that his parents had moved to Derbyshire from Gloucestershire after they married. My Grandad’s mother, Dorothy, was from Somerset and hadn’t always lived with her parents and siblings, instead living with a different family nearby. Perhaps this was why my Grandad never met his maternal grandparents, despite the fact that his grandmother lived until he was 15. Then on my Grandad’s father’s side – James was his name – he’d been born in Leicestershire, then moved to Lincolnshire, to Gloucestershire before finally settling in Derbyshire. Both James’ parents died before my Grandad was born, and his three siblings lived in Yorkshire and the Isle of Wight, which is likely why my grandad never knew a cousin on that side.

As to why I love genealogy is a layered answer. I’ve mostly grown up with one side of the family, and have never known my aunt, uncles, and cousins on the other side. It’s a shame, but it’s hard to navigate a mountainous landscape of relationships without a guide. I find genealogy is a great way to feel more connected to these people, even though we don’t have contact in daily life. If we ever do get the chance to meet, I’ll have plenty to tell them about our shared history. 

A lot has happened in my life since that seed of curiosity first sprouted in 2012. Genealogy has grown roots deep into the foundations of my identity. Having struggled with mental health issues, the process of researching is a logical and organised task that’s been a great distraction at times. Each time I’ve found stories about my ancestors has felt like lighting a candle in a dark room, over and over until the whole room’s illuminated and you can finally see what’s around you. Having a clearer picture of my family history has helped me understand more about my living family. Knowing I come from generations of working-class families and who sometimes worked and worked in difficult and dangerous conditions has helped me understand my family’s background and attitudes more. The process of learning more about the hardships and events that my ancestors lived through in order for me to be here has given my life a renewed sense of meaning, and has made me feel happier and more appreciative for the life that I have.

It’s been empowering to learn where I come from, after feeling so lost and disconnected from myself. I feel emotionally and spiritually closer to family, and connected to some of the places they’ve lived, especially Derby. It’s the city where I grew into myself as a person; where I lived and worked, studied and struggled. Knowing that for multiple generations, this city shared the same importance and was home to similar life experiences for my ancestors, which makes it feel like such a special place. Being able to walk through the city reminiscing my own memories, whilst envisioning their lives among the same street names, buildings, and monuments is a magical feeling that I am so fortunate to experience. 

Sophie Haire is a 25-year-old genealogist based in the UK. Her research interests are in the East Midlands, Somerset, and Aberdeenshire, and in the use of DNA. She is a member of The Hidden Branch and enjoys encouraging genealogy among younger generations. Alongside genealogy, she enjoys writing and psychology. In 2020 Sophie graduated with an MSc in Psychology, and also holds a BA in Creative Writing. Sophie is passionate about researching the intersection of these three areas. You can find her on social media @DerbyGenes.

Check out the previous voices featured in the “Why Genealogy” series!

Posted in Genealogy 101

Why Genealogy – Katty’s Story

Welcome to week two of the series “Why Genealogy”. I’ll be sharing the voices of my fellow genealogists and family history enthusiast who were all were bit by the genealogy bug at a young age. Genealogy isn’t something you have to wait to do! There is no age limit to who can learn about their family’s past.

This week, meet Katty!

I sat my Dad down. The burden of my news weighed heavily on my five year old shoulders.
“Daddy, did you know that you are not my real Daddy?”
No-one knows who told me. My biological father had left before I was born and the divorce finalized before my first birthday. I was almost two when my mother married my Dad. I grew up with parents who loved me and loved each other. It wasn’t a family secret, there had just been no reason to talk about it.
“Yes.”
“But you still love me don’t you?”
“Of course! You will always be my daughter!”
Content with that answer I merrily trotted off and carried on doing the things five year olds do. Dad says I did not mention it again for years.

I don’t look like my Mum, Dad or younger brother. They are tanned and dark, products of generations of English agricultural labourers on both sides. I am fair skinned and blonde, like my Irish biological father. Ireland was a place I owed half my heritage and clearly a lot of my genetics to, but had no link. This missing piece of my history laid the foundations for my interest in genealogy.

At eleven years old, I sat at the family computer listening to the whirs, beeps and whistles of the dial up modem. The birth of the internet had opened up the possibility of researching from your own home. I Asked Jeeves how to find my family, and then posted in all the family history forums and genealogy message boards I could find to try and locate my biological family. Alas the internet was too young, and there were not enough people to connect with to get any real answers.

Three years later my biological father made contact, and my parents welcomed him into our lives. He has now been in my life for longer than he was absent. My children have a huge loving family and no idea that 3 sets of grandparents is not the norm.


The way I was raised has given me the strong belief that family and genealogy are not the same. It is why I am interested in the stories and relationships behind the names. I look at next door neighbours on census records and trace the lives of the witnesses on marriage certificates. A third of my family are no blood relation to me at all, yet I research my Dad’s family as thoroughly as my other branches. I may not share their blood, but I am part of their story. I share their name.

I was pregnant with my daughter when I started researching my family history seriously. There was something about preparing for a descendant that made me feel linked to my ancestors.

I signed up for a free 2 week trial with Ancestry, and bothered all my relatives for names of great aunts and uncles and any other tidbits that could help me in the right direction. After 2 weeks I wasn’t finished, so I bought a month, then a year. I learned that a family tree is never finished. That is the addiction. As my tree grew, so did my fascination. Finding more sources, and documents. WWI records with my Great Grandfather’s height and eye colour. Newspaper articles of unpaid bastardy payments. Plans of an avenue of tree’s planted by a landscape gardener 5 generations back that can still be visited today. People who lived and loved, drank and fought, won and lost. People who raised children, who raised children, who raised children, who raised me. Forgotten people, remembered.

I recently discovered that my beloved Grandad had an illegitimate Aunt that no-one knew about. Census records show that she was raised by her grandparents. I wonder if she ever knew her biological father? Or if she was able to find that sense of belonging and family that I am so fortunate to have. That sense of family that is nothing to do with bloodlines. I hope so.

You can find Katty on Twitter at @gene_alogy

Katty is a performer and director from South London. Since Covid she has been at home raising her two young children by day, and researching family history by night.

In case you missed week one, go check out Daniel’s story by clicking below!