I loved this week’s episode of Who Do You Think You Are, but then I adore Sir Ian McKellen. The programme was a delightful mix of his enthusiasm and joy, and genuinely interesting stories of his ancestors. But, from a storytelling perspective, I particularly enjoyed the way they ‘bookended’ the episode with him talking about being the last of his line. I found it particularly poignant - perhaps because I too am the last of a line.
I have no children and no siblings, and I am the only grandchild on both sides. I don’t think that this changes my motivation for research, or indeed my methods. However, it has meant that there are fewer people to whom I can direct questions. When my maternal grandmother died, my mother and I struggled to identify people in some of the photographs we found – and we have precious few people we can ask for help.
It does, however, raise the question of what to do with my research. I have no obvious heir. It was for this reason that, last year, I made the decision to split my tree. I only research my maternal line anyway, but that has now split into two – one for each grandparent. This way, each is relevant to some of my second cousins and their children. It is a non-trivial task, but is giving me a great opportunity to review my old research and pull out some interesting questions and ideas.
Sometimes, it can feel a little bit sad when you don’t have many relatives to share the excitement of a discovery with, but it is nowhere near as sad as realising that you missed the chance to ask for information when your relatives were still alive. It might so sound clichéd but get as much information from relatives when you can. Ask the questions and write it all down. It might not all be useful (or accurate) but you just never know what you might find out.