As the popular television series teasingly asks, Who Do Think You Are? It is a question more and more people find themselves posing, usually far too late in life; those who could provide so many answers are by now no longer with us.
If only we had thought to ask our parents and grandparents about their lives, upbringing, major events and daily activities such as work, school and play. Instead, all we have, if we are lucky, are old photo albums of unknown faces and packages of uncaptioned pictures.
Like so many others, it was only in my later years that my curiosity was piqued enough to starting asking about those who had gone before. Was I descended from landed gentry or downtrodden peasants; from upright citizens or vagabonds and thieves?
What were their successes and disappointments; their joys and tragedies; births and deaths; weddings and divorces? So many questions, so little time to bring to life the people, relationships and events that shaped me.
Thus I joined the thousands upon thousands worldwide, their numbers ever swelling, who have found pleasure and frustration, excitement and disappointment in unearthing their family’s history. So many false trails, so many dead ends, so many misleading connections. Yet, bit by bit a tree was created; the thrill of discovering and adding each branch, twig and leaf as good as reading any mystery tale.
Oh but how I lamented not talking to Mum, Dad, Nan and Gramps when they were with us. Histories lost forever.
At first I explored only as far as the first census (1831). Then further back as I learned of other sources and linked up with fellow researchers. Not all could prove their sources; their trees loosely rooted in hearsay or from making unchecked grabs from other trees. It’s a jungle out there.
Suddenly it dawned: the mess of notes, scribbles and files I had gathered were just that to anyone else – a mess. Yet within them there were unknown stories worth bringing into the light. Something of interest to others, or at least to the wider family; to be recorded and preserved before being erased and forgotten.
And so From Paupers to iPads was born, my first venture into historical fiction, putting flesh on to the bare bones of names, dates and events.
Deeper and more targeted research followed. And, eventually, the successful publication of Celtic Skeletons and its revelations of hitherto unknown ancestors, and the unimagined dramas of their lives.