Bloganuary: How far back in your family tree can you go?

Tracing one’s ancestry has become quite the thing in recent years. I first started looking into mine more than twenty years ago while I was, in acting terms, ‘resting’. Or, to put it another way, unemployed.

Back then, genealogy was a labour-intensive process that involved ploughing through fat, leather-bound registers of births, marriages and deaths at an archive somewhere in north London (I forget exactly where). I didn’t get much farther back than I already knew about, or at least had a vague idea of, although I did discover that my own paternal grandfather (born in 1887) was the first in the family line to be able to write.

When I stopped resting, the ancestry investigations fell into abeyance until I returned to them more than a decade later as an interesting project to pursue in my retirement. By then, genealogy had come on in leaps and bounds, with much more information available and, crucially, searchable online.

As it happens, I haven’t pursued the family history for a few years now, although I keep telling myself that I should – and maybe this prompt will give me the impetus to pick it up again.

Reassuringly, I have found that I am categorically not of noble heritage.

I have built a family tree, though, and the oldest ancestor I have on the paternal side that I’m pretty sure of is a man called John, born 1619, died 1664. Intriguingly, his father may have been a Samuel Thompson (1583-1635), who adopted my current family name as an alias. I’d love to know what was the story behind that.

My grandfather was born in Chester, his father came from Manchester and was a labourer on the railways, but before him it looks like I come from a long line of weavers from northern Lancashire – one of them even had Weaver as his middle name.

My paternal grandfather was half Irish, his father having emigrated from Dublin to Merseyside in the late 1800s and his mother was from Liverpool – a scouser. By contrast, my maternal grandmother came from rural Buckinghamshire. I haven’t yet traced her side of the family back beyond the mid 19th century, although I did discover that one of her grandmothers died in the workhouse.


One thought on “Bloganuary: How far back in your family tree can you go?

  1. Wow you go way back. I started looking when it wasn’t trendy either but just when I was on uni break. Never got further back than the 1800’s. It was free back then pretty much but not as much to look at.

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