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I’ve been researching my family history for some time now. A couple of years ago my dad had reached a blank on tracing his grandfather, and asked me to see what I could find on the Net. For a history nut like me this was an invitation to open a door into the past – I was instantly hooked.

Since then I’ve not only traced my great grandfather, but his father in turn and generations before that. I’ve traced the Shelley line back to 1715 to the small village of Broadwell in Oxfordshire, which last year we visited when I was back in the UK. The biggest revelation was that the family name was originally Shayler, and was mysteriously changed to Shelley in the 1850’s, so I’ve no connections to the poet or the miniature painter Shelley unfortunately. One of the other families in my tree, the Herns, I’ve traced back to the 17th Century. I’ve been lucky in that many of the names in my father’s line are quite regionally localised, although other families with more common names I’ve been less successful with. Notably my mother’s family in Wales have been difficult to trace beyond the 19th Century as Welsh names are all very similar, the records are just not clear enough. There are just too many Williams, James, Edwards and Davies.

But I live in hope. Now that my mother is gone I have almost no-one of that generation to refer to for information on the family, so the buck pretty well stops here. The research I’ve garnered is for future generations to preserve, if they so wish.

Of course this has absolutely nothing to do with art, other than a search for some sign of where my meager creative skills descend from. So far the strongest contender for an artistic heritage is my paternal grandmother’s family, the Griffins, my great grandfather worked in a Birmingham engraver’s office in the 19th century.

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