I have been passionately interested in history since childhood. I began researching my own family history at the age of 14, when I sat both my grandmothers down in a sunny garden and got them to compete in telling family stories.
I read History at Bristol University, learning to read old documents in English, Latin and Anglo-French as part of my degree. My dissertation was a biographical study of MPs in the Parliament of 1450 and their family ties. I graduated BA in 1975 with First Class honours and a thorough grounding in historical research. Since then I have taken courses in genealogy at the Institute of Heraldic and Genealogical Studies and in palaeography at the Hampshire Record Office. I am currently studying for a Master's degree (MLitt) in Family and Local History at the Unversity of Dundee. I have so far completed the modules English Palaeography and Diplomatic, House History, Understanding and Reading Latin, Ecclesiastical Archives and Skills and Sources for Family and Local History in England.
I spent 10 years in the Diplomatic Service, doing a variety of jobs in the FCO and in British diplomatic missions overseas. I then transferred to the Cabinet Office, working in various management and business oriented roles. I ended my public service career as a Director at the National School of Government. After a break to care for family I began a new career in historical research.
Family History Research
I have over 30 years research experience and have documented my own ancestry back to the early 17th century in England and the mid 16th century in Scotland. I developed my research skills the old fashioned way, studying original documents in over 20 different archives. In recent years I have become expert in using the internet for family history research. As a professional genealogist I have successfully completed a wide variety of research commissions for clients, including family histories, tracing living people, coaching and problem solving to overcome brick walls.
House History Research
From 2004 to 2016 I lived in a Grade II listed house in Chipping Sodbury, Gloucestershire. Using many different sources, I researched its history from the 17th century to the present day. The information I discovered helped inform the restoration process, as well as feeding into the Bristol and Avon Family History Society's study of historic buildings in Chipping Sodbury. You can read more about my research on my blog, This Old House. In my work for clients, I have researched both large houses and humble cottages. As part of my MLitt degree I studied House History with leading UK house historian Dr Nick Barratt, achieving an A grade.
Cutty Sark Research
In 2012 I was commissioned by HSBC, corporate sponsors of the Cutty Sark, to trace living descendants of the crew and other significant people connected to the ship. My research eventually identified over 600 living descendants, 170 of whom were brought together at a reception on board Cutty Sark on 24 May 2012. Each descendant was presented with a booklet containing my biographies of their ancestors. I am currently developing a website and writing a book about the crews of Cutty Sark.
TV Work: Clydebuilt: The Ships That Made The Commonwealth
In 2013 I worked with BBC Scotland for three months doing genealogy research for a documentary on the Cutty Sark. I was then asked to take part in the programme to present some of my findings. The programme was the first in the series Clydebuilt: The Ships That Made The Commonwealth, broadcast in 2014 on BBC Two Scotland and BBC Four nationwide.
TV Work: Secrets From the Clink
In 2014 I worked with Wall to Wall on the documentary series Secrets From the Clink, sharing with comedian Johnny Vegas research into what happened to his ancestress, Mary Ann Haines, after she left Bristol. Our conversation in Bristol's Pip 'n' Jay church - which ended with an on-screen hug - was broadcast on ITV 1 in August 2014.
I give talks to clubs and societies on a wide variety of historical topics. My regular clients include the Bristol and Avon Family History Society, the University of the Third Age and Probus. My speaking diary shows my upcoming engagements.
Genealogy and Technology
I have been a beta tester for a number of family history programs. I wrote the source citation templates and created the sample project for the UK edition of The Master Genealogist. I now use Family Tree Maker 2014 and The Next Generation of Genealogy Software. I have demonstrated genealogy software for the Society of Genealogists and the Hampshire Genealogical Society and was for some years Assistant Webmaster for the Society of Genealogists.
What I offer my clients
My great grandfather was head of the CID at Scotland Yard and I believe I have inherited the investigation gene from him. There is nothing I love more than being hot on the trail of an elusive ancestor, or grappling with a thorny research problem, gathering clues from a wide variety of sources and gradually piecing together the big picture. My government career taught me how to analyse complex problems, find practical solutions and communicate findings clearly. I combine three decades of research experience with a sound understanding of the broader historical context and an undiminished enthusiasm for my subject.