Genealogy enthusiast, Susan Smith of Darlington, shares the story of how she became hooked on history ..
It certainly came as a surprise to me! I had previously had a passing interest in my family history and an Ancestry.co.uk subscription on and off for a few years, but the thought of Mother taking a DNA test was a daunting yet curious and exciting prospect.
It all came about when a distant relative contacted Mother out of the blue, asking her if she would agree to take an Ancestry DNA test as they were exploring the paternity of someone in their own family history. Mother was his closest living relative (or not as it turned out!).
My Mother’s family history research began when her own Mother died in 1998 and she received a bundle of papers to sort through. In amongst the various old passports, driving licences, Cooperative Stamp Books and pension paraphernalia was her Fathers Birth Certificate.
And something was missing.
The story Mother had grown up with was that her father, Stanley McDermott, was the youngest of nine children and his parents were Thomas and Susan McDermott of Bradbury, County Durham.
But these names were not written on his birth certificate!
Stanley’s mother was named as Mary Agnes McDermott and there was no father named.
This was the spark that ignited Mother’s family history research. She spent many hours talking to family members, trawling the St Catherine’s House Index at the County Records Offices, searching newspaper archives, micro-fiche and as many old documents as she could. Soon a lovely hand drawn family tree took shape and a folio of newspaper clippings, BDM certificates and handwritten stories grew. But this ground to a halt when all the stories and the leads dried up.
Fast forward to the DNA test in 2018.
I found the whole process of using DNA to confirm your ancestors super interesting. It appealed to the scientist in me that chromosomes could be matched and used to find unknown relatives.