Today, Phil Gregory tells how he got started in family history in our second installment of the “Family History is for Everyone” series. Phil says, “I think we should all know where we came from, at least in some basic way.” He tells about the value of sharing records freely online and the discovery of his Irish ancestry.
I met Phil six years ago while searching google for more information about a branch of my family tree in England. I found several blog posts by Phil that answered my questions and included wonderful photos and stories that I had never heard before. I had been researching my 3rd great grandmother, Sarah Jane Miller. She left England to immigrate to the U.S. in 1856, leaving her sister Elizabeth behind. Elizabeth married Charles Gregory and settled in Tideswell, a town in Derbyshire, England, and is the 2nd great grandmother of Phil.
While researching Elizabeth, I found the 1901 census, which showed her address as “Merman House.” I searched the web for Merman House and found Phil’s blog post with a picture of Merman House:
Photo of the Merman House from Phil’s blog, A Tideswell Man’s Weblog
The post included the story of how Elizabeth’s son built the house with the winnings from betting on a horse named Merman. I contacted Phil and we corresponded about our the Gregory family. He also gave me contact info for more relatives in England. Making friends with relatives online is delightful! Thank you Phil, for being our first interviewee.
Questions and Answers
1. Tell us about yourself.
My name is Phil Gregory, I’m 42 and I live the Derbyshire, Peak District, England.
2. How did you first become interested in family history/genealogy?
I first became interested in family history about 15 years ago. My adopted dad always had a passing interest in family history and I wanted to see if I could trace the family line back for him.
3. What mentors influenced you to get started in family history and genealogy research?
Really, no one. I was an early internet adopter and worked in tech so I knew how to get the most out of the internet resources. Initially, I got started by talking to some distant relatives and found out that one of them had a fairly rough family tree, put together by another family member.
4. What are your research interests?
My research interests are varied. I have always been into history and as part of my University studies, I started a Black British history website in 1998. My heritage is African/Caribbean and Irish. My adopted family are English, so I have plenty to look into.
5. What do like the most about researching your family’s history?
The thing I like about family history is that whatever you do uncover, it’s a legacy for the next generation. So much family history gets lost or thrown away when people die. That’s a terrible shame. I think we should all know where we came from, at least in some basic way. I have already taken steps to pass the information I have found out to the different branches of the family. At least that way, they will have the ability to pass the information on.
6. What do you hate about family history?
I don’t hate much. One thing that I do find frustrating though is that the first internet age of genealogy was largely done by older folks, who aren’t great at getting everything online. Things are improving all the time though. One thing I do dislike is the opportunistic, money grabbing that goes on in terms of the collation and distribution of public records. I have no problem with people covering their costs, even making a little, but the monthly subscriptions of the larger sites are a hindrance and can be off-putting for those just starting out.
7. What’s your favorite way to share genealogy and family history with others?
I think my favourite way is in blogs and articles that can be easily shared for free. Like I said before, all of this information is public record, so I believe that it should be shared cheaply or freely for the greater good of the community.
8. If you had all the time in the world to spend on family history, what would you do?
Firstly, I’d update the blog and the records so that every record could have it’s own page with details of the ancestor in question. I know that this can be done, it’s just that FTM was only PC last time I looked and I now have a mac, so I haven’t gotten around to refreshing the date on my old PC. Also, I’d go and visit Chatsworth House records because the Duke used to own a lot of land around here. Many of my father’s ancestors would have been tenants, and there may be some records there.
9. What’s the best discovery you’ve made about your family?
Two great things. Firstly, my father’s great uncle built a house in the village of Tideswell with his winnings from betting on a horse. The horse was owned by the actress of the day Miss Lily Langtree. The horse was called Merman and so the house was named Merman House. You can read the basics here:
Secondly, In my bloodline, I discovered that my birth mother was Irish. I met her in 2001 and she told me about her family name Geoghegan (pronounced Gay-gan).
Well, it turns out that the Geoghegans are descended from the Mag Eochagáin family, who were prominent in medieval Ireland and trace their line back to Niall of the Nine Hostages. Niall was the High King of Ireland, brought Saint Patrick to Ireland, and according to Irish folklore can trace his own lineage back to Pharaoh Cingris.
10. Who is your most interesting ancestor?
I think Niall was certainly very interesting but in more recent times, my Grandfather Edwin Gregory was something of an inventor, creating small wind turbines that powered his workshop long before renewable energy was a buzz word.
I hope you found my answers useful, entertaining and inspiring. 😀 Keep digging, you never know what you might uncover.
Thank you Phil, for sharing your experiences in genealogy and family history research! Check out Phil’s blog here: A Tideswell Man’s Weblog.