In previous findmypast newsletters we asked you to email us your experiences of tracing your ancestors. Thanks to all of you who got in touch - your stories make for really interesting reading. Read*on for Trevor Bailey from South Australia’s fascinating story:
‘My 84 year old mother had long suspected that her father (who was accidentally killed in 1934 when she was still a child) had a previous marriage with children, but it was never talked about by her own mother. As an only child, my mother longed to know if she had any half brothers or sisters. As my grandfather had a rather common name, and lived in London, however, checking for any previous marriages on the General Register Office registers produced too many possibilities to easily investigate.
Seeing as I did at least know my grandfather’s exact date of death, a British friend suggested he could check for a will or probate when he was next in London as I live in Australia. In a week or two, a copy was on its way to me and it named my grandfather’s first wife as a beneficiary. Armed with this information, it was not long before I had obtained a copy of their marriage certificate and then names of two daughters. While they would have been my mother’s half-sisters, both had died just a few years ago.
Tracking down descendants of the two daughters meant finding their marriages to obtain their married names. I eventually found a son for the first married daughter but I thought it unlikely I could ever make contact, assuming he was still living. He might have emigrated, too. I tried findmypast’s Living Relatives search facility and obtained a list of well over 100 possible names and addresses in Britain, as the son’s name is a fairly common one.
On an impulse, I decided to order a birth certificate for the son and found that his parents had the unwitting foresight to give him a middle name with an unusual initial (which had not been recorded on the GRO birth lists). I then repeated the search on the Living Relatives page and narrowed my list down to 11 names and addresses. I wrote a letter to each person, giving some details about my grandfather and my email address. Within a week, I had a reply from the right person and found he had an extended family of children, siblings and cousins, some in Canada. My elderly mother was thrilled to bits with the news.
A rapid exchange of scanned family photos and other documents ensued, then phone calls. We are all now planning a Skype link up and making new holiday plans. Persistence does sometimes pay!’
If you have an experience you’d like to share with us and our readers, email email@example.com with ‘My experience’ in the subject line. We look forward to reading your stories!