31 Aug 2011

My First Step in Genealogy

It was 1972 when I decided to learn about the history of my family. A “genealogical novice”, being then a zoology student at Nottingham University, I set off one morning to drive down to Leicestershire Record Office to find out all about the Swinfields. At that time, I knew only three other people who shared my surname. Those were Mum, Dad and Gran. Reg, my father, and Edith Elizabeth Swinfield nee Worsfold (1884-1976) are shown with me when I was just a lad of about 3 in the photo above. The elderly gentleman on the left was my grandfather, Arthur Swinfield (1883-1956), who was to pass away soon after that image was taken.

Earl Shilton
Armed with what Gran could tell me, that the Swinfields came from Earl Shilton in Leicestershire, the confidence of youth lead me to believe that record offices were open on Saturdays. Imagine my good luck when I had picked the one weekend that month when its doors were open to researchers, at least until 1pm. 

I vividly remember being asked by the person who greeted me what I wanted to look at. I told her the baptisms at Earl Shilton and she requested my name for their records. I replied “Swinfield”, The man sitting at the desk behind me enquired what I had said and I repeated it to him.  Imagine my amazement when he told me that Swinfield was his surname too! He suggested that I do what I had come to do and that, when the record office closed, we should return to his nearby home for lunch. 

Geoff, Derrick, Pat (Derrick's sister), Simon (Derrick's son)
Having not found the baptism of my great-grandfather, William, born about 1840, I had recorded a number of other people who shared what I had believed to be a very rare surname. It became much more common, when on arriving at the house of my newly-found fellow family historian, Derrick introduced me to his wife and four more little Swinfields who were aged 7 to 17. My known living population of those who shared my surname had tripled in one morning! 

Derrick then produced a roll of wallpaper on which he had recorded the ramifications of the Swinfields that he had found to date. My relatives were there too. Imagine my surprise when we proved to be 4th cousins. My interest in genealogy was born. 


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