The search begins


Why did I start researching my family history? In common with many people, I knew very little about my origins. For three of my four grandparents, the trail was easy to follow. I found lots of ‘Ag Lab’ (Agricultural Labourer) references spread around Sussex and Kent. Piggybacking on the work of others (an important point) I traced one line back to 1526. What difference would it make if could go back another 100 years? These people are impossibly remote. Bluntly, I became slightly bored.

My paternal Grandfather, Patrick, was a different proposition. My starting point was a date, 2nd March, that was celebrated as his birthday. The year of his birth was subject to some uncertainty. Patrick’s age moved up and down depending on the circumstances. He fought in the Great War, but, like so many, he didn’t talk about his experiences. I knew that he was Irish. I did not know where he was born. From the marriage certificate I knew that his father’s name was John, and that John had died by 1920. My motivation, to paraphrase President Kennedy, was not that it was easy, but that it was hard. I like solving puzzles. That motivation has sustained me for over ten years.

We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.” President John F Kennedy 12/9/1962

At the time of the speech, Americans had made just two orbital flights. Their total time in space was under ten hours. The task wasn’t just hard, it was almost inconceivable. Neil Armstrong walked on the moon six years, ten months and nine days later.


1526: Henry VIII was King of England (ruled 1509 – 1547). He was still married to his first wife Catherine of Aragon. One down and five to go.