1. When did you first start working on your family history?

I started my family history when I was very young. My grandfather had done a lot of research (way before family history was popular and way before the internet!). My mother and I picked it up in the 1980s and grew the tree along with adding to the rather scant information on my father’s side. All these years on, I am sure my grandfather will be watching down, very proud that he inspired my future career.

2. What was your most surprising discovery?

When I was teaching, I went on a management course and met someone who taught in a primary school in Devon. We talked about family history over dinner and months down the track, he sent me a copy of his family tree before I went to visit him and his family. To my surprise, he had my great-great-grandmother on his tree. It was definitely her as she had the stand-out name of Maria Jaycock Steer. Her inclusion on his tree highlighted an illegitimate child born before she married my great-great-grandfather in 1859. I am quite sure if I hadn’t met Tim, I would never have known of Maria’s secret.

3. Have you done a DNA test? Were there any surprises about countries of origins?

I haven’t but I have a test kit sat in my office which I bought at RootsTech last year. I really must do it!

4. What is the brick wall you would most like to break down in your family history?

Where oh where was Humphrey Sillifant baptised? I have fitted him tentatively into a family unit of George and Jane (as Jane’s father was called Humphrey and in Devon in the mid-late1700s, Humphrey is not a common name, by any means). George and Jane moved parishes from time to time when baptising their children and there is a gap where Humphrey could well fit. I have searched and searched (many times over) in parishes in the area and there is no baptism. Sadly, the family were not wealthy enough to leave Wills or naughty enough to be in the Assizes, so I doubt (other than y-DNA) I’ll ever know for sure if Humphrey fits in to George and Jane’s family.

5. What is your favourite part of researching your family history?

I love everything about it! Finding skeletons in the closet, working out the impossible, finding out more about the names on the trees (what they did, the impact they had on their communities/the world, and more) …. What’s not to love?

Speaker Spotlight: Kirsty Gray

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