Thursday, 11 August 2011

Who Do You Think You Are?

The new series started on BBC last night with June Brown. Next week it will be JK Rowling. Now I know she isn't a chick lit author and I actually can't stick Harry Potter but she is a writer and that'll do for me.

I love WDYTYA. It was the reason I started reseraching my own family tree. I'd be watching the program and wondering how difficult it would be. I really wanted to find out what had happened to my grandma's little brother, who died as a toddler. No-one in the family knew why and my grandma passed away 13 years ago and I don't think she knew either.

I decided to sign up for the two week's free ancestry trial, figuring I had a couple of weeks to see if it was possible for a beginner to do and it wouldn't cost me anything.

I started off with a post-it note with the following:

  • Nora (my great grandmother's name. My mum didn't know her maiden name or anything)
  • Dyson (my grandma's maiden name)
  • Dennis (my grandma's brother's name. My mum knew he died at around eighteen months)
  • Wigan (there was some connection. My mum thought my grandma was born there)
And that was it. Not a great deal to go on. We didn't even know my grandma's dad's name.

I set to work on my two week trial and by the end of it I was a subscriber. I found out why Dennis died, his full name (Dennis Darwin Dyson) and where he was buried. To find this out I did have to order his death certificate as there is only so much information you can get from ancestry.

A tip: Never order certificates directly from ancestry. Take the information from the index on there and go to the GRO website and order from there. Last time I checked, it was over £16 per certificate from ancestry but £9.25 from the governments website.

I found out where he was buried by accident. A woman at the local archives told me burials no longer happened at the nearby churches at that time and Dennis would have been buried or cremated at one of two municipal cemetaries. As the records were in the slow process of being transcribed, I had a long wait ahead and so that part of my search had to pause.

I was hooked by now and moved on to my great grandparents and with the help of their marriage certificate, I found out more about their families and was able to use the censuses to go back further. The church where they got married isn't too far from me (two buses but really easy to get to) and they happened to be holding an open day where you could look at their records.

So off I went and found their record, which has the same information as the certificate but it was nice to see the 'proper' record, especially as it had their signatures (which I took a photo of for my records).

While I was at the church, I thought I'd have a quick look in the burials record. The couple lived nearby, had got married at the church so it wasn't such a stretch that Dennis could be buried there, even though the archives lady said otherwise. It would do no harm to look, seeing as I was there already and the book was in front of me.

And there he was. He was buried at the church after all.

I am still hooked on my family history but I have had to put it on hold at the moment as we are saving for our holiday. I'm itching to get back to it and even writing this is making me want to hop over to ancestry. But no, Mama J. Think of your holiday. It's only a few months away and then you can carry on.


  1. Just to let you know you're the winner of the Dorothy Koomson book on my blog. Please email me your address to debs dot Carr at

    I love your blog by the way.

  2. Thank you x a million!

    I haven't won anything since the Easter egg competition when I was ten (and don't tell anybody but my brother made mine). The book sounds intriguing and can't wait to read it.

    You're a star!


Please feel free to leave a comment. I appreciate them all. Apart from spam, obviously.