In the autumn of 2004 I received a telephone call from my aunt, my father’s sister. “If I send you a book about ‘genealogy on the internet’ would you see if you can find our family?”
“Um, yes, okay,” I replied and then started wondering what I’d committed myself to doing.
I’d always intended to research the family history at some time but I’d been heavily engaged in my career for many years. I expected it would be something I’d do in the distant future, when I was retired. But, when that phone call came, I was off sick with a shoulder and arm injury which meant that I was unable to drive, practically housebound and frequently awake at night. I needed help even with putting on my coat. But I could use my computer and it seemed that spending time researching the family history would be a good way of keeping boredom at bay. Plus, I could do it whenever I couldn’t sleep.
I knew nothing about the subject and bought several other books. I studied them carefully and soon I was up and away, researching my father’s paternal family, the Jefferys of Wiltshire and his maternal family, the Wyers and Egan-Wyers, originally from Ireland but now all over the world.
I was only sorry that my father was no longer here to benefit from my discoveries because he would have loved them. My long suffering brother John got used to me exclaiming over ‘eureka’ moments as I came across another gem, though he drew the line at me phoning him at 3 am to say “guess who I’ve found”.
I was truly amazed at what I discovered and the contacts which I was able to make through the Genes Reunited site. Not expecting to find so much, I thought I’d be able to remember everything and made the classic mistake of not recording all my sources in detail. So, a few years later, I had to spend months reviewing all my findings, making sure that I had everything correctly sourced and recorded. It was in that process that I found mistakes in other people’s trees which I, as a fledgling family historian in 2004, had taken to be fact. And that is why I am now deeply concerned about practising safe genealogy.
It took a year for the injury to fully heal and then, having been approached by other people, I launched myself on a new career as a family historian. I was surprised to find I could be as passionate about other people’s family history as I was about my own. I think it is important for everyone to know their roots. It helps to explain so much.
I knew that my father had been divorced before he married my mother and that my brother and I had a half sister somewhere. I reasoned that if she wanted to make contact with her father’s family, the only way would be through the Genes Reunited site. And so, in 2004 when I entered the names of my relatives, I also entered her and her mother’s names. In 2008, I had a contact through the website from her son. My half sister had found her family. It was quite an emotional experience for all concerned.
It was not until 2012 that I turned my attention to my mother, Eileen Joyce Emptage and her family. She was an Emptage, born in Canterbury. As a result of my research I found that she was descended from the Emptage family of Thanet. I joined the Isle of Thanet Rootsweb list and the first person to make contact was Joan Leary who, after some research, proved to be a 5th cousin once removed. A few weeks later, my message to the list was spotted by David Emptage and he made contact with me. David is the son of my mother’s uncle, my first cousin once removed.
And so began my discovery of new 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th Emptage cousins and the realisation that we are descended from a fascinating family. The rest, as they say, is history.
Now I’m Susan the Gal, a ‘genealogist at large’, happy to give talks on family history. I’ve made particular study of the art of drawing family trees and charts and enjoy doing them for other people.
Interests and obsessions: encouraging others to research their family history, researching my own family history and making this website interesting for other people descended from the Emptages of Thanet.
Henry Emptage 1763-1845 and Susannah Le Brush 1766-1826
Humphrey Emptage 1796-1845 and Isabel Brett c1795-1833
Alfred Burnet Emptage 1831-1875 and Ann P Hopkins 1833-1882
Henry Thomas Emptage 1858-1896 and Malbry Jane Wilson 1869-1952
Walter Dansy Emptage 1895-1978 and Emily Sophia Wallis c1897-1961
Eileen Joyce Emptage 1921-1969 and John Anthony Jefferys 1922-1998