Mike Heywood's life has taken him from the rainy isles of Britain to the sunny coast of California. He became interested in genealogy in the early 1970s, and has since discovered some very interesting tales about his ancestral past and brought members of his family together in the present. Now, using MyHeritage.com alongside more traditional genealogical tools, Mike is beginning to introduce genealogy to the next generation of his family.
I was born in England, but I've spent most of my life in the United States. I live in California, where my wife and I have been in the same home in Huntington Beach for 35 years. Our two daughters grew up here, and they're now married and raising their own children in the town. Both my sisters lived and raised families in California also. Each had six children, who have subsequently spread out around the United States.
We can thank my oldest sister Maureen for our being here. She was a 'war bride', and married a Yank from the US Air Force in 1946. They moved out to Columbus, Ohio, two years later. In 1950, on a trip home to London to visit us, Maureen broached the idea of the whole family coming to America. It took until 1952, but eventually my siblings, my parents, and I left my grandmother Elizabeth's home in Finchley and, after a train ride to Southampton, boarded the MV Georgic to New York.
To begin with we stayed in Ohio, where Maureen lived. The winters were brutal there, even compared to those in London, and by late 1953 the whole family decided that California would be a better place to live. We acquired trailers, and took the famous Route 66 to the Golden State, where I've been ever since.
I first became interested in researching my family history in 1970, when I was 26 years old. Up until that point I'd always been too busy with college, work, and raising a family to spend time thinking about my roots. My wife, an American, had a well-researched family tree tracing back to before the Revolutionary War. I really enjoyed hearing about her family history, and began to wonder how far I could trace back my own heritage.
I tried quizzing my parents and my older siblings about names, dates, and birth places, but they were never very helpful. They said they were not terribly interested in "reliving a challenging past of multiple world wars and the Great Depression." In the end I wrote off to Somerset House to obtain original certificates for births and marriages, and began to trace my past from there. It was a slow and laborious process, but I gradually started to flesh out the Heywood, Sumner and Jones-Wood family trees.
Alongside traditional genealogy tools, the MyHeritage site has served as a wonderful vehicle to share the family's history with my relatives. I have so many nephews and nieces who, in the process of building their own families, have moved around the country. My siblings' respective children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren live many thousands of miles apart, right across the United States, and the MyHeritage site has proven a great way to give our various descendants a view of how the family fits together. And my cousins in England and even up in Canada have used the site. Probably one of the best outcomes of my family research has been this opportunity to expose my children, grandchildren and many nieces and nephews to their ancestors. These days a lot of children are aware of DNA and the human genome, but they're not always aware of their own direct heritage.
One interesting story I found during my research was that a distant Sumner ancestor (my mother's side of the family) is related to Banastre Tarleton, the notorious commander of the British Light Horse Cavalry. This was surprising because we already knew that my wife's distant relative, Henry Guthrie, was wounded and captured by Tarleton's unit in the Revolutionary War. It's fascinating to imagine that my wife's ancestors may have faced my own in an angry confrontation over two centuries ago.
Nowadays I'm trying to introduce the next generation of my family to genealogy. Whenever I have the opportunity to speak with my children, grandchildren, nieces or nephews, I look for the opportunity to interject comments about their own family history - who they look like, for example. Then I use the 'invitation' option on the site to expose them to MyHeritage.com. I encourage them to add in their own family connections, and am able to use the site as a reminder for their birthdays and anniversaries. It's been a wonderful way to cement family ties, and hopefully this will continue through succeeding generations into the future.
Mike Heywood's family site can be found here: http://www.myheritage.com/site-55031322/heywood