MORE and more of us are delving into our family history as genealogy becomes one of our favourite pastimes.
The hit BBC show Who Do You Think You Are? has inspired a new generation of family historians and staff at the local studies library in Paisley have now revealed an upturn in visitors hoping to flesh out their family tree.
Paisley Daily Express reporter JEFF HOLMES decided to follow suit by joining the ranks of those raking up the past.
And he soon discovered an amazing family secret.
IT was a fascinating journey of discovery when I decided to branch out and learn more about my family tree.
Believing that my gang were all from Glasgow, it was a shock to discover that one half of the family actually hailed from Paisley, while the other side were from – dare I admit it – Greenock!
It was a shock to the system but, once I had got over it, I headed up to the library in Paisley’s High Street, where I hooked up with Local Studies Librarian David Weir.
He confirmed: “People are spending more and more time on this subject. I suppose the internet has helped, although there’s nothing to beat wading through old volumes and coming up with interesting info.
“We have lots of information in the library and the public are more than welcome to come along and check out their family’s past.
“Since Who Do You Think You Are? started, there has definitely been more interest in genealogy.
“It’s great to see the look on people’s faces when they discover that little nugget of information.”
There was certainly a surprise in store for me when I visited the impressive building, adjacent to Paisley Central Library, and searched through the Paisley Poor Law Records from 1839 to 1930.
I later discovered that half of my mother’s family had moved over to Paisley from Ireland in the early 1800s and settled in Hospital Lane, which used to sit close to the Abbey in the old Smithills District of the town, but that was it.
It was well outwith living memory and I had hit a brick wall in my quest for further information. Then I ventured into the Paisley Library.
A quick shifty through the index for the Poor Records showed that my great-great-grandmother had made an application for financial assistance in December 1866.
I was soon leafing through this huge, dusty old ledger.
It showed that Rachel McAulay Moore, aged 28, had applied for poor relief after her husband, Alexander, had lost three fingers in a foundry accident.
The family were awarded six weekly payments of four shillings in a bid to help them escape their status of partial destitution.
It made for sad reading, not just because of the accident, which was horrific in itself, but to think that my family had been so poorly off and had been described as partly destitute.
Due to the nature of the subject, sad tales are regularly uncovered and many genealogists have, at the time, wished they had left well alone.
But these tales tell the story of our forefathers and help paint a full picture of what life was like for them in bygone days.
It’s not always doom and gloom, of course.
Numerous tales of triumph have been unearthed and many families have been left feeling all the richer for their new-found knowledge.
For years, my mother had been under the impression that her granny Kay’s family had hailed from Liverpool – her strong Scouse accent being the reason for this.
However, after a few sessions of digging deep, I discovered she had, in fact, been born in the East End of Glasgow and that the family had moved south when she was just two years old as her father chased work.
She moved back again in her late teens and married Charles Cannings, a Bath-born gent who had moved to London as a young boy before heading north to Glasgow.
That information did prove difficult to track down but the benefits are enormous when such a nugget is unearthed.
Throughout her life, my mother knew her dad as William Moore.
However, she was shocked to learn that he had, in fact, been born David McNab.
We found this out by chance but then discovered that he had enjoyed a happy childhood in Glen Street, Paisley, and later moved to Moncrieff Street.
The family tree is now sprouting new leaves all over the place, with the blanks slowly being filled in.
I’m currently back to the mid-1600s, although information is starting to become scarce.
It seems the subject of genealogy is infectious – and not just with people like myself.
On a recent episode of Who Do You Think You Are?, celebrity chef Ainsley Harriot tracked down his family to Jamaica and headed over to the West Indies in an attempt to piece together bits of the jigsaw that just didn’t fit.
As the programme evolved, he learned that family members had once been owned by white slave traders.
And then came the bombshell news that his own great-great-grandfather had been one such white slave owner.
It’s highly unlikely that you’ll unearth a true horror story when you start to dig up your family’s past.
It can be a lot of fun, as well as extremely rewarding.
For further information on researching your family tree, call in at the local studies library and speak to a friendly member of staff, who will be delighted to help. You can also log on to www.scotlandspeople.com, where you can access over 50 million records covering the whole of Scotland. These include statutory registers of birth, marriage and death certificates, old parish registers, census records and wills and testaments.