Wednesday 24 February 2016

My Genealogy Hobby: Researching My Family-Tree

Some nine years ago, for some long forgotten reason (possibly due to FriendsReunited - the facebook of its day - suggesting I try it out), I signed up to GenesReunited and began to research my family-tree. Being disabled and housebound for the vast majority of the time, I needed a pastime to keep me occupied on those days when I am compos mentis. Over the years as I have become gradually more bed-bound, this hobby has helped me keep my sanity. Indeed, whenever I feel anxious, I find that I can retreat into the safe world of research.
Some days I feel like a sleuth trying to follow clues and thinking laterally in order to find data. However, the vast majority of the action of retrieving information is repetitive, laborious and requires very little active thinking.
One of my favourite sites is FreeBMD: where one can find the official record of births in England & Wales from 1837 to around the mid-1970’s. Not all records have yet been added. Their ultimate aim is to list all the records up to the mid-1980’s. They have two sister sites which I also occasionally use: FreeCEN, covering the 1841, 1851, 1861, 1871, 1881, 1891 & 1901 censuses; and, FreeReg, which records parish records from around the whole of the UK including the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man. The records contained on the last two sites are very incomplete, so I tend to use them as a last resort.

My favourite parish record site is which lists many, but again not yet all, of the parish records of births, deaths & marriages in the county of Lancashire. Most of my personal ancestors are from said county, so this has proven to be an invaluable source.

Alas there are not equivalent sites for Staffordshire and Warwickshire, the two counties with the highest concentration of the surname Peakman. In these instances I use FamilySearch (FS) which superseded the International Genealogical Index (IGI) - often referred to in the older episodes of the BBC television series Who Do You Think You Are? This site is owned and run by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (LDS), the Mormons. They are however very willing to share their data.

Since I started working on my family-tree on my own computer rather than on the GenesReunited site, I have solely used MacFamilyTree (MFT) produced by Synium as my software of choice. The current version gives the option to share data with and from FS. One of my very first contacts, in New Zealand, led me to the IGI (FS as it is now) and I am ever so grateful.

[image description: RP, a fifth cousin once removed and a Maori,
performing a haka, featured in & © Life magazine]

That same contact opened up a whole off-shoot of distant (literally & genealogically) cousins in New Zealand, a whole ‘tribe’ of Maori. For me this was and still is one of the highlights of my research. I am not related to any royalty, no nobility, no gentry. My ancestors include a fair few smiths, other metal-workers and metal-dealers, petit bourgeois, as well as miners and quarrymen. My modern relatives include some leading scientists & researchers. Criminality is represented by a living Canadian (drugs) and a living chap from the USA (speeding), and in the past by a bigamist, a couple of fraudsters and a few bankrupts (from the days when they were imprisoned). Most folk have been and are ordinary working people.

[Image descriptions: some stats from a screen-shot of my MFT]

I have now breached the 7,000 individuals mark on my tree, as well as passing 2,000 families and there are just shy of 1,000 media. I never expected a family-tree of such size as I am from what I thought was a very small family!

MFT allows its users to post trees to a dedicated site. Thus far I have posted two trees. The original I amended four times. The second I posted a couple of years back. The third (version 7) tree is currently uploading as I type……

Alas, having attempted twice, the new tree will not upload. Should I ever succeed, I shall of course post a link below. In the meantime here is the link to tree 2 (version 6).

Cost-wise my hobby has cost me two sets of software and a handful of certified certificates from registrars of births, deaths & marriages. In other words no more than £150. One can of course spend a lot more if one has the resources. So far, I have not felt the need to lay out monies to join sites, purchase dedicated books & magazines, etc.

Would I recommend genealogy as a hobby? Certainly I should. I also recommend as therapeutic too. %)



Version 7 (incorrectly labelled version 6!) is now live at

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