I'm a professional genealogist, house historian and historical researcher, based in Chipping Sodbury, near Bristol. My clients include the BBC, independent TV production company Wall to Wall and HSBC. I'm a member of the Association of Professional Genealogists, the Society of Genealogists and the Bristol and Avon Family History Society. I'm an Associate Member of the Regional History Centre at the University of the West of England. I'm currently researching and writing a book about the crews of Cutty Sark.
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, specialising in 15th century England. My dissertation was a biographical study of MPs in the Parliament of 1450. As part of my degree I learned to read old documents in English, Latin and Anglo-French. I graduated in 1975 with a First Class honours degree 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 joined the Diplomatic Service and spent 10 years in 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 government career as Director of Senior Management Training at the Civil Service College. After a break to care for family I began a new career as a professional genealogist.
Family History Research
I began to research my family history in depth in 1985 and have documented my ancestry back to the early 17th century in England and the mid 16th century in Scotland. The results can be seen on my website, Caro's Family, and in my blog, Caro's Family Chronicles. 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, family trees, tracing living people, coaching and problem solving to overcome brick walls.
House History Research
In 2004 I moved to a Grade II listed house in Chipping Sodbury. Using many different sources I researched its history from the 17th century to the present day. The information I discovered has helped inform the restoration process, as well as feeding into a wider study of historic buildings in Chipping Sodbury. You can read more about my research on my blog, This Old House. Working for clients, I have researched humble cottages as well as grander houses. My current work includes the history of an early 19th century house in Bristol which has been intimately connected with the cultural life of the city.
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.
Research for 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 on BBC Two Scotland in April 2014 and currently being shown nationwide on BBC Four.
Sodbury Genealogy One Place Study:
I run a registered One Place Study - Sodbury Genealogy - devoted to genealogy and family history in Chipping Sodbury and the surrounding parishes in South Gloucestershire. The website includes a blog on local history topics.
I give talks to local clubs and societies on a wide variety of topics related to family history and house history. My fees are donated to Macmillan Cancer Support, for whom I am also act as a Macmillan Cancer Voice, giving media interviews on various aspects of cancer and survivorship.
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 give demonstrations of genealogy software to family history societies 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.