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Family tree, family history, tracing your roots, or whatever you call it has to be the favourite hobby of retired folks. There are even television shows and print magazines dedicated to it.

Want to explore my trees? Sure!

At over 7.5GB, they are too big to post here on my website but you can see them for free on Ancestry. Send me an email and I’ll give you access.

How Did I Get Hooked?

In December, 1999 my paternal first cousin once removed, Ian Petherick, privately published Teesdale Heritage - A Family History of The Harrisons.

Ian lives in England and we share Swainston Harrison (1860-1925) and his wife Lily Painter Pritchett (1867-1936) as our common ancestors. Swainston and Lily were my great grandparents and Ian's grandparents.

Ian's remarkable work spanned almost three centuries and more than fills a two inch binder.

It contains accounts of the everyday lives of one line of my ancestors as they lived long ago and far away from here.

His work started me down this path with no end - researching the rest of my family tree.

Research Challenges

OK, we all have parents, grandparents and so on, how hard can it be to find out about them?

There are two problems. First is the lack of record keeping in any form, not just computerized or on-line. In 1841 the first census was done in England (where most of my roots are) which recorded just peoples’ names. Earlier records are usually held in individual parish churches and many have not survived and are seldom computerized. How do you tell which Robert Fox (for example) is your ancestor?

The second problem is sheer volume. Every generation you go back has twice the number of direct ancestors. You have 2 parents, 4 grandparents, 8 great grandparents and so on. In 30 generations (born around the year 1000) that’s 1,073,741,824 direct ancestors. And most families had multiple children (your aunts, uncles and cousins) so that is a lot of records to try and find!

And although they weren’t supposed to, many census respondents simply lied to the census taker. Lies like claiming to be married when they weren’t. Or were married more than once at the same time. Or the women (in particular) claiming to be 5 or even 10 years younger than they really were.

Family secrets were perpetuated out of embarrassment or fear.

Is It Ever Easy?

It is sometimes. Royalty, Nobility and Peers are easy because they have all been keeping meticulous records for many centuries. Taking over the title meant you had to prove and document your lineage. Those records are still easily available.

Royalty? Really?

You bet. Probably your tree too if you go back far enough. The historian Ian Mortimer calculated in his book The Perfect King, The Life of Edward III (born 1327, died 1377) that at least 80% of the living English population is descended from him.

How Accurate Is It?

As accurate as I can make it. There are some 10,000 people and 50,000 individual facts and 1,400 sources so I have no doubt there are lots of errors scattered throughout my work so corrections are welcomed.

What About

Ancestry is a commercial (for profit) corporation housing some 20 billion historical records totalling 10 petabytes of data. That’s a lot so I subscribe.

They have some records for almost everyone’s ancestors, they are only one source of information.

Sometimes the only way to find the facts is to go to the parish church records directly.

Our Ancestors

So, who were our ancestors? Mostly they were ordinary folks like most of us today. Many of the jobs or trades they performed no longer exist - there are no feodaries, alchemists or silk crape makers today.

Others had jobs we still see today: farmers, carpenters, and merchants. There weren't many black sheep. A few had troubles such as unwed motherhood, bigamy, financial disaster or an excessive fondness for alcohol but happily, I found no axe murders or the like. So far.

My roots are in England and Scotland although the farther back I go, the more European countries are involved. Tess’ roots are in the Philippines.

Sometimes I have been lucky. For example, I am descended from someone named Alabaster and that is a unique name.

That is, all people with the last name are members of the same family. There are thousands of Alabasters around the world, all related to me.

Tess’ family tree is very challenging because very few records in the Philippines are available on-line. I think her last name may be unique too, although there are two spellings: Nartatez and Nartates. Eventually I hope to tie them all together.

In particular, I still am looking for proof of the relationship between Tess’ great grandfather Candido Nartatez born 1841 in Santa(?) and Antonio Nartatez born 1841 in Narvacan and Pedro Nartatez born 1845 in Santa. Help!

Any Interesting Ancestors?

Lots! - click an icon below to read about a few of them.

Although they are very distantly related to me, I didn’t include the stories of actress Courteney Cox and 1st US President George Washington.

My paternal 4x gt grandfather wasn’t a golfer but he owned the St. Andrews golf course in Scotland!

My paternal 2nd cousin was a crew member and went down on the Titanic!


Recognizing my family members in the military who made the ultimate sacrifice for King or Queen and Country.

A real pirate! Sort of. Read about my maternal 11x gt grand-uncle Thomas Alabaster here. Arrr!

A few of the Royals way back in my paternal tree. With a different birth order, I could have been Sir Gregory. I like the sound of that!

One of my paternal 28x gt grandmothers was a Saint. Literally! And a few other family members too.

Golf Titanic Pirate Royals Saints