I am an Executive Committee Member of the British Association for Cemeteries in South Asia and Trustee, Website and Social Media Manager of the Families In British India Society.
What got you into genealogy?
I think it was a desperate need to know and understand where I am from. My family moved around a lot and as a child we moved so often that I attended ten different schools. When people asked me where I was from I couldn't really tell them! I never lived in a place long enough to feel I was from there! I also never really knew my fathers family. I never met his father and only met his mother a few times. As for my maternal family, I grew up hearing stories of my Grandma's life in India and knew her family were in India for several generations. That always fascinated me and I wanted to know more.
What interesting things have you discovered from your ancestors?
Loads! On my paternal side I've discovered Miꞌkmaq and Black Loyalist ancestors I never knew I had as well as ancestors that came over to America on the Mayflower. On my maternal side I discovered I am descended from a Quack doctor in Nottingham, an Indian ancestress, Huguenot silk weavers, and photographers to the Kaiser to name a few.
Is there any source in your research that you’ve used that usually might be overlooked?
Several, thanks to the British Library Archives and Manuscripts Catalogue. My favourite find is a bunch of letters in the European Manuscripts that one of my ancestors wrote from the Fort in Agra during the Indian Mutiny to Lord Elphinstone in England. I never would have thought to look in the European Manuscripts for anything to do with my family in India. The letters were wonderful and full of information no other records would ever have given me.
What are you currently focusing on in your research
I am currently digitising 200 years of family letters, photographs, slides, cinefilm, negatives and documents that my grandmother and aunt left me. Most are of my family in India and Singapore, but the oldest are a couple of photograph albums from the 1880s belonging to my Kuhlmey family in Berlin. I particularly like digitising the negatives and slides. You never know what is going to appear on the screen after the scanner works its magic. A moment frozen in time and my ancestor caught in celluloid like a fly in amber. I call my scanner my Time Machine as when I put a negative on that scanner I never know where in the world or what year it will take me.
What difficulties have you come across in your research?
Finding a birth record for my Great Great grandfather, Frederick Beckwith born c1860. Can't find a birth or baptism anywhere, but family stories and DNA all indicate a possible Romany Gypsy connection. Hopefully something will turn up eventually.
What advice would you give to people starting out in genealogy.
Interview your oldest family members now. Use a dictaphone if possible and record their memories as well as names, dates etc. Not only will those memories be priceless, but being able to listen to them in later years and hear their voice will mean even more to you than you can imagine.
Hope you enjoyed it! Check out Valmay's webiste here & follow Valmay on Twitter here. Stay tuned for more!