29    Nov 20100 comments

User Story: Meet Jean Collen – A Lover of History, Family and a Dog Called Bonnie

I first met Jean Collen when she contacted MyHeritage.com support for some help with her trees.

It didn't take long to realise that Jean had a great passion for family history research and had worked out how to get the most out of her MyHeritage.com account! It also didn't take long for Jean to respond when I asked her if she'd be keen to share her story with our readers.

Below are Jean's open and honest answers to some questions I asked her about her life, family and why she uses MyHeritage.com. I hope you enjoy them.

Hi Jean. Can you tell us a little about yourself?

I am a semi-retired classical musician, teacher and writer, living in Johannesburg, South Africa. I am married with two married grown-up children  and two grandsons.

When and where were you born?

I was born in Glasgow, Scotland in the nineteen-forties.

What is your greatest joy in life?

My family, my dog and music.

What is your greatest fear?

I fear that I might develop Alzheimer's disease.

Which living person do you most admire?

I admire the baritone, Thomas Hampson. Not only does he have a beautiful voice but he is a supremely gifted musician.

How did your family come to live where you live?

My husband was born in South Africa. I came to South Africa from Scotland with my parents when I was about five years of age, but we travelled between Britain and South  Africa on the Union-Castle liners a number of times.

How would you describe your connection to your family history?

I have been researching my birth family from Scotland, my husband's Collen family which originated in England but established itself in South Africa after William Thomas Collen (1802-1883) came to the country as an 1820 settler, and the Booth-Eastwood families from England, the ancestors of my beloved friends and singing teachers, Leslie Webster Booth and his third wife, Irene Frances Eastwood, known in the theatre as Webster Booth and Anne Ziegler, famous British singing duettists, who were like second parents to me and remained life-long friends until their deaths..

What trait(s) do you see in both in your family and in yourself?

Honesty, conscientiousness and determination.

What world events had the most impact on you while you were growing up? Did any of them personally affect your family?

The Suez Crisis (1956). My parents were planning to return to the UK by ship at that time. For some reason my father thought there might be some threat to the shipping lanes because of the crisis, so he cancelled the trip and we went to Cape Town on holiday instead and remained in the country. Who knows what might have happened had we returned to the UK at that time?

Are there any family heirlooms, photos, recipes, or other keepsakes that have been passed down in your family?

My mother was an excellent Scottish cook, renowned for her excellent shortbread, gingerbread, brawn and other dishes. The recipes were passed   down from her mother and grandmother. When I got married in 1970, she gave me her hand-written recipe book containing all these traditional recipes and they form the basis of my cooking today.

Of all the things you learned from your parents, which do you feel was the most valuable?

Being truthful, conscientious and always finishing what I set out to do.

How did you get started on your family tree?

As one gets older and parents die, there seems to be a desire to know more about one's ancestors. It was easier to do family research with the aid  of genealogical sites on the Internet, so I started the three trees using My Heritage. It was exciting to discover living relatives through this means. I am now in contact with members of my own family on both sides, my husband's Collen family, and members of the Booth and Eastwood families. All these contacts have been able to add extra information about their family trees.

How did you discover MyHeritage.com? Tell us a little about what you use MyHeritage.com for and why. What do you like about MyHeritage.com?

I was looking for a free family tree programme and discovered My Heritage.com which offered an excellent programme and a site where I could place the family trees online. I have my three family trees posted there and particularly like the suggested hints of people with other trees who are researching the same ancestors as me.

Search for your ancestors:

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