When I was younger I had almost no interest in genealogy or family history. I knew who I knew and that was all that mattered. It must be a sign of growing older that made me turn my gaze backward towards my roots. Maybe when we are young we are thinking more of the future and where we are going, rather than back at where we came from. But as the years have passed so my interest in my roots has grown.
It started with my deep ancestry and sending off a sample of my DNA to the National Geographic. I wrote about that in a blog post here. Pretty soon after I joined Ancestry.com and began to look into my more recent history. My mother’s side was easy and soon I found that the Stannett name comes from Bohemia in the 1600s. My Dad’s Mum was also easy to trace and that centred around Sussex. I found I have a direct ancestor from the 1700s buried in Portslade cemetery just a little way from where I live now. My Dad’s father was harder to track down. He never really knew him and also wasn’t 100% sure of his middle name. So that side of the family was left pretty much unexplored.
I filled in what I could find and left it.
About three weeks ago I was contacted on Ancestry by a woman who believed her Dad was my Dad’s brother. Sure enough it was true. Not only that but there was another brother who was living quite a distance away. So I found myself chatting on email to my, until then, unknown cousin! A few days later and we met at my parents house.
It was wonderful. I saw photos of my grandfather for the first time and my Dad’s newly-found brother, who had grown up in quite a small family, now found himself part of a much bigger one. I met two cousins, including the one who had made that initial contact. My Dad has also since been in touch through Skype with the other brother and a meet up is on the horizon there too.
I am an only child. No, I really am – no such surprises for me. So it’s hard for me to even imagine the excitement of meeting previously unknown siblings, but I saw it in the eyes of everyone in that room, and my Dad is so happy, as are his brothers. It’s introduced me to a previously unknown ancestral line, one that is alive and well, and feeling much closer now. I even found out that a book has been written about that side of the family!
So if you have been sitting on the fence about Ancestry, or about looking into your family tree, I hope this little tale might inspire you to have a go. It really is very easy and the tools are all available now from the comfort of your home. All you need is a computer, an internet connection, and some details of your immediate family members.
I do also know that families are complicated, and some people might just want to keep those doors closed. For me, I’m thinking about my children and their children. If I’ve put in the work to look into this then those who follow me will know their roots and this, like the roots of the mighty oak, can help us feel more grounded and centred.