We started our family tree research in 1998 in response to questions from our then seven year old daughter following the death of one of her great grandmothers whom she found it hard to believe had ever been young. She asked: "How many ancestors have I got? Do they go all the way back to cave men? Did they really all have children? How do you know they all had children?"Our daughter's interest prompted her one remaining great grandmothers to give us a draft copy of her maternal family tree dating back to around 1800 (the 5th great grand parents) which her cousin had compiled some years earlier.This acted as a challenge to us to find all our direct ancestors back to the 5th great grandparents of the kids and, if possible find out more about them.
As our interest was to find direct ancestors we set about collecting birth certificates, census data and parish records of grand parents, great grandparent and so on. We discovered how our ancestors had moved around the British Isles coming from Ireland, Wales and many parts of England. We found iron workers from the West Midlands and coal miners from Wales who moved to North Staffordshire to find work. We heard tales of poor catholic migrants from Ireland who met and married more well to do English protestants causing family feuds. We uncovered family myths and mysteries and drew many blanks.
Who was the mysterious Colonel Hallows?
Why did two generations take their mothers' surnames?
We had not planned to trace our cousins, the other descendants of our ancestors, but we were lucky enough to find other family members of whom we were previously unaware. We were extremely lucky to meet Ray and Pat Banks of Utah USA who we found requesting information about Banks-Lemming names in Staffordshire on the UK names surname site. The combination of those two names which were definitely in my family prompted me to contact them. We already had much information in common and it was obvious we had researched the same family. Ray is my 2nd cousin 3 times removed and he and Pat have conducted extensive research into their ancestors. I am very grateful for the information they have provided about our common ancestors and the families of our cousins in the USA. We were fortunate enough to meet Pat and Ray in person on the several occasions they have visited the UK. I have included a lot of Pat and Ray's information in my database, although since I compiled it I know that they have done a lot more research have now published another (I think their 2nd) book about it.
I have already begun to research the local geography and history of the places in which my ancestors lived but much more is still required. I want to get some feel for the types of lives they lead. I know their addresses and their occupations, I know how many people lived in their houses and I know that many moved house and even location quite often, but I don't know why? Was it through choice? Did they have to move to find new work? What happened to them when they were widowed or orphaned? I have collected some family stories and inherited documents from distant elderly relatives. None has been reliably accurate but on the other hand everything has had some substance - dates were relevant but had been mixed up, the fate of cousins and aunts confused; hardships exaggerated; step parents mistaken for natural parents; and of course I got the the usual stories of lost fortunes, displaced land owners, and family feuds. So besides filling gaps in the dates I am looking to put leaves on the tree and build a more complete story of my family history.