So who do you think YOU are?

NATASHA Kaplinsky, Barbara Windsor and Jeremy Paxman all did it. And if Nat, Babs and Jez found it interesting then it s worth a go. Apparently family history is now one of the biggest pastimes in the country. And programmes like Who Do You Think You Are

NATASHA Kaplinsky, Barbara Windsor and Jeremy Paxman all did it. And if Nat, Babs and Jez found it interesting then it's worth a go.

Apparently family history is now one of the biggest pastimes in the country. And programmes like Who Do You Think You Are? featuring celebrities chasing their roots have added to the craze.

But few people know that there is a huge bank of resources on their doorstep.

The Family History Centre at The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Stevenage is one of 4,800 centres worldwide which have access to the records held by the main Family History Library in Salt Lake City, the largest genealogical facility in the world.


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An exhibition took place last week to encourage people to find out more about their history.

And Comet reporter Rebecca Findley thought that it was time to delve a little deeper into her past.

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There is some information known about the Findley side of the family, but on the other grandfather's side, the Pratts, there is little information apart from a number of photographs.

Grandfather Ron's father, Francis Pratt, is olive skinned, with dark curly hair and was part of a horse-riding regiment and a part-time fireman.

Ian Waller, a helper at the church, enters his name and birth date into the computer and starts searching.

Ian is a professional genealogist: "I did it for a hobby for 30 years. I got made redundant and thought 'I'll do something I want to do'."

He has been doing it at the church for 17 years, but said: "It's like a lot of things - it's clinical when you do it for someone different."

On exploring his own tree, he said: "I've got back to 1500 on my dad's side but on one of my mum's side I can't get back any further than 1823."

Through looking up Francis on a website Ian was able to tap into the 1901 census and locate Francis' parents, Jane Leader and Ernest Pratt.

It is weird to see their names on the system and wonder at what they were like five generations ago - what they did for a living, how they lived and where their family had originally come from.

Judging from where they were registered, Ian said: "The chances are they got married in her family parish church."

Unfortunately, to get any further in the search people have to purchase marriage or birth certificates.

This fact may put many searchers off but for those that continue it becomes a bit of an addiction by the sounds of it.

Family history is very important to these churchgoers who believe it increases the sense of identity and deepens the commitment to honour their memory.

In 1999 the church established the website www. familysearch.org which contains more than one billion names and receives seven million hits daily. However, 85 per cent of the users of the records are non-church members.

Don Hull, who set up the exhibition at Stevenage and travels round the centres with his wife, becomes very emotional when talking about his work.

He tells the tale of two strangers who realised they were cousins while sitting next to each other, through surfing the database and chatting, and the story of a girl, who thought she had no family, cry after she had tapped into her roots.

He said: "We just love to see them walk out with a smile on their face.

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