Tracing your family tree is an increasingly popular activity and can provide a great deal of pleasure and interest to people with distant relatives in Australia who are trying to discover why their forebears were originally transported.
With the advent of the internet, finding such information has never been easier, and there are dozens of specialist sites which can give you access to the parish records of small Yorkshire villages, the names and addresses of every member of the crew of Nelson’s Victory and the court appearances of everyone in Dunstable during the 1770s.
In essence, there are two ways of tracing your family tree.
1. A methodical search of all available records to identify a proven lineage to previous family members.
2. Decide who you want to be related to and skip through history till you find you are definitely related to Charles Darwin, Oliver Cromwell, Torquemada or Peter the Hermit.
The second method is far more enjoyable, especially if you have a relatively common name such as Clegg, Cameron or Milliband, though you may be thwarted in your quest if you choose anyone beatified for their virginity or proven celibacy.
In reality, most people are descended from farmhands and are more or less doomed to discover a lineage of unbroken anonymity and mediocrity.