Hi I am Janet Few, sometimes appearing as my alter ego Mistress Agnes, a dame of uncertain reputation who dwells in the seventeenth century.
What got you into genealogy?
I have been interested in family history since I was seven for several reasons.
- I had very few relations – no siblings, no first cousins and only six second cousins
- I had an unusual surname
- There were family rumours – my father’s family came over from Spain during the Spanish Armada (emphatically not true). My mother’s grandfather (a Smith from London – always great to research!) was offered a half share in the multi-million £ company Smith’s Crisps for £50 but turned it down saying it wouldn’t catch on (may be some true in this. I discovered that my great grandfather’s first cousin was the founder of Smith’s Crisps).
- I was also fascinated by the family photo album and the four generation family tree in my Baby Book.
What interesting things have you discovered from your ancestors?
My 8 x great grandfather’s sister may have been tried as a witch. I spent three years living in the same road in which my great great grandmother was born. At the time I had no idea that I had any ancestral connections to the county.
Is there any source in your research that you've used that might usually be overlooked?
Not directly useful for adding new family members but invaluable for getting a feel of an ancestral area are the General View of Agriculture Surveys, which were compiled in the 1790s-1810s
What are you currently focusing on in your research?
Finishing off my second historical novel is taking most of my time at the moment. It is based on real events and involved genealogical research. I do have three brick walls which have been nagging at me for decades. I am fairly sure how the lines continue but I need more confirming evidence. I am comparatively new to DNA, so I am hoping that may reinforce my theories.
What difficulties have you come across in your research?
Well, apart from having relatives called Smith in London, there are the Hoggs from a remote area of Northumberland who don’t bother to get married or register deaths – why would you?
What advice would you give to people starting out in genealogy?
Do your own research, don’t graft branches of other people’s online trees on to your own, they may well be wrong. Remember that many many records are not online. Cite your sources and above all have fun.
You can follow Janet on Twitter and on Facebook by pressing the respective social icons. and click on her picture to see her website. Stay tuned for another interview on Friday!