Sunday, 9 August 2009


In some ways, many of the things which I have chosen to do since retirement are a bit stereotypical. I haven't bought a Harley, nor have I acquired a pond full of coy carp. However, I have taken up fitness activities such as Pilates and also like to mess about on the water. Both of these are fairly common things for newbie retirees to undertake.

Another new interest which many of my retired friends share is Ancestry. It was something I always knew I would be interested in 'when I had the spare time'. Well now I have.

I began by buying a brilliant beginners book which told me pretty much all I needed to know in order to start my new hobby. It is called 'The really, really, really, easy step-by-step guide to creating your family tree using your computer' which should get in the running for a longest book title competition!

There are two distinct areas involved in the study of genealogy. Firstly there is the obvious aspect of tracing your ancestors. This entails both discovering who they were and also where they lived, what work they did and so on. The second aspect is to trace living fellow descendants who you don't yet know exist.

In Britain, population censuses started in 1841 and it is fairly easy to use those to trace most of your ancestors at least that far back. All that is needed is to join one or two of the popular genealogy sites and search away on your computer in the comfort of your own home. These sites will put you in touch with other people who share some of your ancestors and you can then copy information from their family trees to quickly build your own.

As interesting as finding out about your ancestors is, I soon became obsessed with tracking living relatives down. I chose to start from my paternal great grandparents who had eleven children. Of course, I knew my grandfather's descendants but only a handful of those of his siblings.

It has been a long, hard search but I have now found them all - there are 149 of us! Most are in England and a few in Australia. I have met some of my new found cousins and in the process, I encountered one who had no idea that she had any relatives at all. To see her joy in discovering what a large family she belonged to has inspired me. I now plan to host a family gathering for the 149 relatives. Even if only half attend, it will be a wonderful day.


  1. It's interesting the hobbies and activities we take up when we retire - ancestry is a great idea - we all like to know our background - especially us "Yanks" as we look around the world for our beginnings. I'm amazed at how many family members you discovered and the family gathering sounds like a fun (if a bit overwhelming) idea. I'm the last "member" of my family as far as I know, too - but your post may just jog me into looking a little further into things. Have a great day, Tony!

  2. Tony, thanks for a very to-the-point informative post. My great-aunts were fastidious in keeping track of the family tree. I'm almost sure that my grandmother may have all of the photos and family trees that my great-aunts (twins) put together. If I go back to Ohio as planned in mid-September, I'm going to ask her for all of this stuff -- she's 92 and I would hate for all of it to get lost.

    I have a very old photo sitting here on my computer desk of the great-aunts' parents when they got married at 24 and 17 years of age. I knew them both well as us kids grew up - they always attended our family picnics and they were quite entertaining.

    Sorry for my long-winded comment, but you've just re-ignited my desire to know MY family genealogy, and because of my great-aunts, Eunice and Ennice, I know it is all gathered conveniently somewhere!

  3. Sooooooo.....why haven't you bought a Harley?

  4. A harley would be wonderful :) my late father in law did his family tree back to the 15th Century his younger brother now has the mantle and has found some more kith in kin more recently - it helps when you have one of the less common names.