Do you remember how you first got into family history?


03 May 2023
Was it a person or an event that inspired your love of family history, or was it maybe something you picked up gradually? For me, it was discovering the large age gap between my grandma and her father. By Rachel Bellerby

I know that many people come to family history as adults, perhaps realising as we grow older that those who remember our family stories won’t be around forever. For me, though, it was the curiosity of a child that made me want to dig into my roots.

He was born when?!

I must have been around seven or eight when I found out that my grandma, Edna Holroyd, who was born in 1921, had a father, Joseph, who had been 57 when she was born. For some reason, this fascinated me, particularly when I worked out that meant he’d been born in 1864 – wow, a real life Victorian!

From there, the fascination began and in a very informal way, I began to absorb family stories, ask questions (although like all of us, I wish I’d asked more) and collect photos and documents. 

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Many years later, I had the means to research in a more structured way and started to think about the stories behind the facts. It turned out that my grandma’s mother May had been aged just 24 when she married her 57-year old-husband. They went on to have two children and were ‘comfortably off’, with Joseph working as a manager at the Co-operative.

Another family

What I had never been told as a child, and I don’t think it was particularly hidden from us, was that Joseph had been widowed before he married May and had two children from that marriage, who May took on. A look into May’s background showed that looking after others had been part of her childhood. The 1911 Census had her as a thirteen-year-old live-in servant in a boarding house full of miners. A tough life, I’m sure. And in the 1891 Census, she was the eldest of thirteen children, no doubt an extra pair of hands in a busy house. Perhaps a widow with two children seemed nothing in comparison… 

Joseph and May seem to have had a happy marriage although sadly he died when my grandma was just eight years old and so her memories of him were few. At the age of 14, she met my grandad Stanley (both are shown here) and after a wartime wedding, they went on to have two children of their own – another branch on the family tree.