This New Year’s Eve, I am sure we are all reflecting on what has been an extraordinary year for the whole world. There have been times of sadness, uncertainty and worry and even as we enter 2021 things are still changing. Looking forward to 2021, I decided to look back on 2020.
It is said that the modern world is smaller thanks to the advent of technology, I can certainly vouch for this as, once again, I have had the privilege of helping people from across the globe to learn more about their ancestors. Clients have come from Canada, USA, Australia and New Zealand as well as the United Kingdom and include Universities and businesses as well as personal commissions.
The Covid-19 situation has meant that some projects took rather longer than anticipated due to Archives closing. Bobbing and side stepping like a rugby scrum half, I’ve conducted research at Lancashire, Cheshire, Liverpool and Manchester Archives as well as the John Rylands Library, as and when they have been respectively open. This has made for a lively time and I should like to thank all of the archivists who over the years have become friends, their help during this period has been invaluable.
Many brick walls have been knocked down and untold family stories have been discovered, including ancestors who were:
- In the Navy in the Crimean War
- Master Watchmaker
- Victorian Policeman
- Hansom Cab Driver
- Master Mariner
- Train Driver
- Renowned Architect
(To name just a few)
Military careers have been uncovered and tragedies and hardship found, such as being in the Workhouse, Asylum and the deaths of children. Families have been researched from Cornwall, Devon, Kent, Essex, London, the Black Country, Yorkshire, Cheshire and of course Lancashire (including Greater Manchester and Merseyside)
As Churchill said “History with its flickering lamp stumbles along the trail of the past, trying to reconstruct its scenes, to revive its echoes, and kindle with pale gleams the passion of former days.” This was from a speech in the House of Commons, as part of a tribute to Neville Chamberlain in November 1940; however I believe it suits genealogy very well. Often the family historian acts in the capacity of a detective, piecing together the story from fragments of facts and clues assembled from meticulous investigative research carried out across archives and interview. This is why I love my work as a professional genealogist, the investigation is everything and as I have strong police links in my own family history:-it must be in the genes! The rewards for hard sought results are simply uplifting and amazing, as it was recently when, via my genealogical methods, I helped to unite a brother and sister. The joy from this result is unexplainable, as is every occasion when I help families discover what happened to relatives they lost touch with many years ago.
Genealogy can be viewed as a stuffy old business, but the advent of DNA testing to establish ancestry heritage and geographic location, is quite the revolution within our world. Utilising DNA results and analysing the centimorgan counts has brought a game changer into the work of a genealogist. I have utilised this approach on several occasions this year to identify family lines that were unknown, further helping to build up family trees.
All in all, a very busy year!
Association of Genealogists and Researchers in Archives (AGRA)
This year I became the co-ordinator for the Northern Group of AGRA and lockdown meant that we could meet virtually via Zoom every couple of weeks. This networking group has grown and has become a permanent fixture, enabling professional genealogists to meet, discuss and encourage each other.
I also took part in the Family History Question Time AGRA Podcasts, providing insight regarding pre 1837 records and Maps. The Really Useful Family History (Virtual) Show took place in November and I was pleased to be part of ‘Ask The Expert’, providing answers and suggestions to help people knock down some brick walls.
To cap off a wonderful year in genealogy for me, I couldn’t have been more pleased in November, to join the National Council of AGRA and am really excited about being involved in its future.
Cannington Shaw Preservation Trust CIC
The No.7 Bottle Shop is all that remains of the Cannington Shaw Glass Works in St Helens, once the leading manufacturer of Glass Bottles. The Preservation Trust is working to preserve this Scheduled Monument and to ensure its future for generations to come.
I am delighted to have joined the Board as Heritage Director and look forward to working with my fellow directors and heritage partners to achieve what we believe is going to be a huge asset for the town of St Helens.
Andy Reid Standing Tall Foundation CIC
The Standing Tall Foundation was established by Andy Reid MBE, to provide solutions for social issues, including homelessness, relationships and mental health, with a particular focus on veterans, young carers and care leavers.
There was no hesitation when I was asked to join the Board as a Director and it is a privilege to be able to play a small part in this inspiring venture, which during lockdown has already helped many people.
I want to say a big thank you to all my clients, colleagues and fellow directors for your support during 2020. May I wish you all a prosperous, peaceful and healthy 2021.