Why am I Interested in Genealogy and how it all began

Why am I Interested in Genealogy and how it all began

One of my earliest memories in childhood and one I remember with deep admiration was spending a week at my grandmother Rosie May’s house, I must have been only six or seven years old and I thought she was lovely as any young boy would for his grandmother. I remember the soap she kept in her bathroom, her Wedgwood pottery and what she smelt like, ‘antiseptic cream’ which she used on her ulcerated legs and  I remember something else too a photograph of her father Ernest James Janes. I have not seen the photograph since childhood my family separated and I lost contact with my Nan, But even so, I have this vivid memory of his picture and the interest I showed about him to her. So as young as I was, I was already showing signs that I had a curiosity for my families history.

My interest didn’t stop there, at junior school I would borrow books from the library of king’s and queens and enjoy writing up little projects about Tudor England, At the age of ten whilst other boys were kicking a football around I was busy collecting fortnightly History magazines and getting lots of pleasure from reading about the Spanish Armada and Guy Fawkes. These magazines often came with reproductions of very old records and I thought I was the luckiest kid to be holding a copy of them. So it’s safe to say that one of my favourite subjects in High School was History, closely followed by English and Drama, I hated math but hey… let’s not go there!

A lot of people develop an interest in genealogy much later in life, but I was just a kid and the past intrigued me. I would often ask Mum questions about her childhood and off her parents and I think she enjoyed reciting me the stories as much as I enjoyed hearing them, junior school came and went as so did high school. Visits to the few castles I was lucky enough to see as a child were big highlights.

Then after many years of exhausting the books on English History I decided I wanted to learn more about my own families history. I was 18 years old.

I began as we should, by asking family members questions about people, places and dates, I had no idea that BMD records were fully indexed or even what records were available to the public I literally walked into the subject blind. Slowly I moved up my tree to the elder members of my family and eventually It was time for me to talk to my great grandmother Doris, it was April 1999.

Doris Plaskett and Stephen Kuta

My Great Grandmother and I, the day we spoke about our family history

 The information she passed on and the little insights into her life she shared captured me, and I think from that day, my love for genealogy was firmly cemented. My Great Gran was 95 years old and being in her presence and to have known her is one of the highlights in my life.

I eventually asked her the question about her parents, at all times being careful not invoke any emotion, she happily told me that her father was William and her mother’s name Barbara. This is where my inexperience really did show, because I instantly thought she was telling me porky’s. All I could think about was the Beach Boys song Barbara Ann and the fact that I had never heard of anyone over the age of 60 called Barbara and certainly not anyone born during the Victorian era, in my mind I was quick to dismiss it and I put it down to old age.

So armed with my new information I decided to visit my local records centre to begin my research. I kindly asked at reception what records were available and how best to begin my exploration. They told me to start with the 1881 census and scroll through until I find my great great grandfather William. Did I forget to mention his surname is Taylor. Now I know what your thinking!!!

Anyway, four hours later I stumble upon William Taylor living in Walthamstow, Essex where my Great Gran was born with a matching year of birth which she kindly gave me for him and to be honest I didn’t even think twice about naming him and claiming him as my 2x Great  Grandad.

Happily I printed out the census return and went home to update my tree.

This new discovery was at the top of my conversation at home and as a family my Mum, Brother and I decided to go on a little road trip to the many Essex villages mentioned on the census. For a full day I dragged my family around Essex searching for headstones, photographing church’s, talking to parish clergy and learning lots about the village stories as I went.

Then within weeks I decided to discover the truth about the name ‘Barbara’ and so after learning about Birth indexes I went along to the record centre again and researched the index details for my great grandmothers birth in order to obtain a copy.

It was a long wait but eventually it arrived. To my surprise her father’s full name was William Richard Taylor and her mother’s was Barbara Walker. I did in deed feel guilty in not believing what was told. The next step was to go in search of a marriage certificate and again to my surprise it turned up in County Surrey and not at all in Essex. I had learnt a second lesson and realised that I had been researching the wrong family. It was a little embarrassing telling Mum that the quite moment we had at the graveside of 2x gramps wasn’t actually our gramps at all.

It has been many years since then and many books and research aids later I have come a long way.

Officially I have spent 15/6 years researching my families history, and during some periods anything between 8hrs and 15hrs a day. I have lived, slept and breathed my family history and at one stage I stopped watching television for a whole year. I am now a walking encyclopaedia of my families history and I know more dates off by heart then all my family put together. The only date I have trouble remembering is my age, I can’t remember if I am 34 or 35, but hey, I did say Math was not my best subject.

I currently have 25,000 people in my family tree and using a calculator if I times an average 6 hrs a day research over a period of 16 years I have spent an estimated 34,944 hours researching my family which equates to 5.3 years of my life constantly researching. I have often been told that my tree is incredible.

I love genealogy, but over the last year I have found myself researching less and less, I suffered an industrial accident 6 years ago and damaged my neck and the many years of sitting in front of a computer or micro fiche reader have also taken it’s toll and most importantly on the  7th February 2011 I began caring for my then 5 week old niece who was about to fall into the care system because of the immaturity of my brother. She has become my world and future because I have no children off my own, she is all but name, my daughter and I her father she is my wish come true.

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2 thoughts on “Why am I Interested in Genealogy and how it all began

  1. So glad you wrote about this, Stephen. It’s remarkable how your interest started at such a young age. I only started when I turned 60 and got serious about it less than a year ago when I was almost 61. All my grandparents and my aunts and uncles had died. Fortunately my parents are still alive, but they know very little. I would give anything to talk to my grandparents now and to meet my great-grandparents.

    I do understand the obsession. I have definitely spent more hours in genealogy since last summer than I have on anything else! And I retire in two months and plan to devote even more time to it. But I will watch out for too much time on the computer…

    Thanks for sharing your story!

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