'As you get a bit older you start to wonder, right, where do I come from?'
Cheryl started where all genealogists should: in a music studio pretending to record a pop song, sorry, we mean talking to her living relations. This should always be your first port of call, even if you think you already know everything about your family's more recent history, there's always a chance that something that seemed insignificant at the time could be the key to breaking through a brick wall later down the line.
Conversations about your family's past will, like Cheryl and her dad's chat, probably lead to old photos being dug out and pored over. It might feel like you're procrastinating form the matter at hand, but you're not. Photos of our ancestors can be one of the best resources for finding out more about who they were. Pay attention to who is in the picture, what they're wearing, where it was taken, and any notes scrawled on the rear. Need some help deciphering the clues in an old photo? Send the picture, along with all the information you do have about it to firstname.lastname@example.org – we'll get our fashion historian and photo detective friend, Jayne Shrimpton, to take a look for you.
Next, Cheryl's dad digs out a hand-written family tree. It's a beautiful document, and while we offer a free online tree builder that cross-references your ancestors' details with our records to get even more family members added in double-quick time, there's no denying the pleasure of having a physical tree you can hold and look at with family.
Turns out Cheryl's father descends from a family of mariners. Knowing the jobs our ancestors did can give us an incredible insight into their daily lives. Cheryl is presented with a document pertaining to her ancestor's mariner apprenticeship, getting to see his signature in the process.
The 1851 census is the next step in Cheryl's family history journey. Without census records most of us would struggle to trace our ancestors back much further beyond 1911, but these annual national surveys make it easy to go back generations in a just a few minutes. Don't believe us? Hit the link below, follow the simple instructions and see for yourself.
The final insight Cheryl gets into her father's side of the family comes courtesy of our British newspaper archives. Sadly for her, she learns of a shipwreck that killed two of her ancestors. Family history is like that, though. Show us a family lineage that's totally free of heartbreak and tragedy and we'll show you an old newspaper article about one of your ancestors that doesn't evoke some kind of emotion (clue: unless your heart is made of stone, then we can't).