Family History is For Everyone Spotlight: Alana McCormack
Today I’m introducing Alana McCormack, my newly discovered cousin from London, England. Actually, Alana discovered me! FamilySearch sent her an email that she had Mormon pioneer relatives, something she never thought possible since she and her mum were the only members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in her direct line.
Alana found our connection through our ancestress Mary Holloway, born 1753 in Sussex, England who married James Coomber and had a passel of children. My line comes through Jane Coomber and Alana’s line through her younger sister, Elizabeth Coomber. Jane married Thomas Huggett and had a large family including triplets. One of the triplets died at birth, but the other two girls named Harriet and Ester were identical. They were so unusual in 1826 that they became known as the London twins. Harriet Huggett was my great great grandmother and she married William Henry Kelsey after he converted her to the LDS faith. They emigrated to Utah in 1861 and the rest is history.
Another fun connection I have with Alana is London. I spent six months in 1982 Studying Abroad in London. While there, our Brigham Young University group attended the Hyde Park LDS Ward, where Alana’s mom was also attending. Although I didn’t know it, my cousin was there all along! Without further ado, let’s learn a little more about Alana and her family history journey.
Tell us about yourself.
My name is Alana and I was born and raised and still live in London England. I am 26 years old, am an only child and live with my mother while serving a part-time 18 month service mission at the Family History Centre in the Hyde Park Chapel and The National Archives in Kew for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. I also work full time as a special needs support worker helping children with different special needs access the education system.
How did you get started in family history? Do you remember an initial “spark” or incident that inspired you? Did you have any experiences as a child/teen in school or at home that helped you be more inclined toward family history?
My mum got me started on Family History. Every morning as a teenager I’d see her sitting at the computer indexing before I headed off to school and she’d constantly tell me stories as a child of what life was like for her and for her family growing up. When we studied WW2 at school mum would tell me stories of my grandmother being evacuated to the country and about the bombings, etc.
Mum had gone quite far back when I began my service mission in May 2016 but I noticed that some of the family members had temple ordinances and several hints/anomalies within our direct family tree and started to delve deeper and began to email people who had contributed information to the FamilySearch Family Tree. This was my first spark in family history when people began responding and I found that I had several relatives around the world, some of which only lived an hour or so away from my current location!
What mentors influenced you to get started in family history and genealogy research?
My mum was always my biggest influence. I’d always go along with her when she attended the Family History Centre to get work done and once I was able to do Proxy baptisms I was more involved in continuing the work further.
What personality traits, hobbies, or professional pursuits have helped you in your genealogy research?
I enjoy ICT [Information and Communications Technology] and computers overall so using them for new things is always exciting to learn about.
Why do you do genealogy? Why do you think it’s important?
I started doing genealogy properly because it was the basis of my mission call. I’ve explored and added information and been able to take names to the temple, discover new information about my family and learn about the lines they came from or branched off to. I’ve also learned who of my ancestors were unable to write, what jobs they had, where they lived, causes of death, etc. It has really opened my eyes to where I actually came from and the struggles some of my family have gone through. I no longer just view them as people now gone, they are my Family. Even though I have never met them they will live on through the stories and memories they left behind. With this love for preserving memories for my descendants I have been more aware of taking photos and keeping memories recorded.
We also had the opportunity after my nan passed away in 2015 to take her name to the temple and complete the sacred ordinances for her that included sealing my grandmother, grandfather, and mother together for eternity. It was a moment my mother and I will treasure forever.
What are your research interests?
I enjoy looking through Ancestry.com to see if any of my relatives have trees already made about them that I can contact. Puzzilla.org, I find is a great way to sort out various missing areas, duplicates, and hints that are needed to complete the person details on FamilySearch Family Tree. I’ve also enjoyed using Facebook a lot to add information from my living relatives including their children, etc., to keep my tree up to date.
How do you preserve your family history?
I currently only have a tree on FamilySearch but as it is a public site we recommend that patrons also keep a private tree that no one else can edit, so I am currently transferring information onto Ancestry.com and my mother is keeping it loaded onto PAF. We also have kept photos in various boxes and albums. I constantly scan photos onto my computer which is backed up to an extra hard drive along with posting important events on Facebook that I will leave my descendants access to.
I am no good at keeping a journal currently but that is my new goal to keep stories or special events kept recorded either electronically or paper version.
What is your favorite way to share genealogy and family history with others?
I have discussed it verbally with work colleagues and they have all expressed interest in doing family history and have had an invitation to come and research. For some I’ve taken names and done some basic research for them to show them just where to start.
If you had all the time in the world to spend on family history, what would you do?
I’d travel to all the areas my ancestors grew up and lived within the UK and Ireland and visit the churches they were baptised, married in, etc. as well as travel to Europe, the USA, and Australia to meet the new family members I have gotten into contact with.
What’s the best discovery you’ve made about your family?
Besides finding new family members I think discovering that my grandmother’s ancestors and my grandfather’s ancestors lived only 1 hour away from each other back in the 1800’s. Who would have thought generations later their descendants would have met and married.
Who is your most interesting ancestor?
I’m not sure I have a most interesting ancestor. I have a few who have me intrigued as one was a patient in a hospital during a census but no note about why and other minor details that have me intrigued to find out more.
What has been the most difficult part of your genealogical journey?
Not having contact with my father since I was 4 disabled me from working on his line for the longest time. It was a sore subject to broach, particularly with family history, and it was difficult having this huge chunk of who you are missing. However, in 2013 a cousin on my father’s side got in touch and I now have contact with my father’s side of the family. Through this I have had the opportunity to speak with cousins, aunts and uncles, etc., and found out that a family member had already completed the majority of his side back to the 17th/18th Century which has helped tremendously in moving my family history forward.
What is the most rewarding part of researching your family’s history?
For myself, I feel the most rewarding part has been finding new family members situated around the world; and to know that I have other family members who share my beliefs. My mother and I are the only ones in my direct line here in London. There is also the joy of finding a missing ancestor, and discovering a new line in your tree. This is also coupled by a sense of belonging and allows me to look at the larger perspective of things.