I started to research my family history in 1996. There was no one particular reason to set me off on this tack: my mother’s health was failing (she went into a Lewes nursing home in 1995) and we had had lots of conversations about the past. I had very few close relatives left, and I began to realize that if I wanted to piece together our family story, I would have to get on with things... I began by making a hand-drawn chart of all persons descended from the marriage of James Henry Warden and Rosetta Algar. (The Wardens were a large part of my maternal family tree.) As I was the first twentieth century person in my family to think of doing this, it earned me the considerable interest and appreciation of my living relatives, and was in several cases a means of renewing and strengthening family connections.
It wasn’t long before I realized that I needed a database in which to store my newly acquired data, and I chose Brother’s Keeper, because it was ‘shareware’, inexpensive, and I liked the way it worked. As all this happened before the enormous expansion of information available on the Internet, at first I spent many hours working in the Family Record Centre in Clerkenwell, London, the London Metropolitan Archive, the Guildhall Library, and the National Archives at Kew. I joined the Society of Genealogists in 2000 and spent time in that library too.
Nowadays I spend far more time working from home on my computer, using the almost limitless resources available to me on the Internet. Numbered among the many sites I make use of, the most important are : Ancestry.com, Genes Reunited, the Mormon International Genealogical Index (IGI), the Catalogue of the National Archive, A2A, the Society of Genealogists, Findmypast.com, BMD, GENUKI
I now feel that I have reached a stage when I have enough material to create my own web-site. None of my nineteenth century forbears was ‘well-connected’. For the most part they came from the agricultural labouring classes of rural England and the Border Country of Scotland. Through their own efforts, and by their own hard work, they went from being employed to being employers of others. I have not found it easy to trace the origins of such people back beyond the beginning of the eighteenth century. The very nature of their status in society then, meant that written records of the important events in their lives - births, deaths, marriages, wills - were less likely to be recorded for posterity. Nevertheless, the contribution made by their lives to nineteenth century society is worth recording on this personal level, and I continue to be amazed by the fact that it is possible to reconstruct so much from the ‘bare bones’ of official records and statistics.
I consider myself to be first and foremost a professional musician. Over a thirty year period, I have taught a whole spectrum of Lewesians, young and old, to play either flute or recorder, each to the best of his or her ability. I appreciate the fact that semi-retirement has now enabled me to find more time for other hobbies. Not new ones, you note, just more time for the things I have always enjoyed: flute-playing, reading English and French literature, bird-watching, gardening, campanology - and the family history.
Married to Michael Cotgrove since 2002 - my best friend and business partner for almost thirty years - that’s more than enough ‘about me’.