User Story: Gemma Turner Rediscovers Local Family Roots

A photograph of some of the ancestors Gemma has found on her search

While many family history enthusiasts don’t get started until late in their careers, Gemma Turner’s research began right at the beginning. A student in the UK, Gemma began piecing her tree together at age 20, and has now been at it for several months.

“I was first drawn to genealogy on a three week break from university,” she said. “I had just finished my first set of honours examinations and was looking for something different to sink my teeth into, and I wasn’t having much luck with a 1000-piece jigsaw!”

She began by asking her mother about the idea, who then came back with a series of letters from a deceased aunt – who had herself been corresponding about family history research with a distant relative. “This gave me a starting point,” said Gemma. “I entered everything I knew into the online tree, and from then on I was hooked!”

Though still just in the early stages, Gemma’s research has already led to some interesting findings. “I discovered that my maternal great grandfather died in Ardrossan following an injury with a wagon,” she said. “The incident happened at night in 1888, and at this time there were no transport links between Ardrossan and Glasgow. Therefore, there was no way for him to receive the urgent medical treatment that he needed, and unfortunately he died at 4am the next day. As a result, measures were put in place so that this would not happen in future – which was nice to hear.”

Gemma’s also seen hints that she may have royal connections back in the 16th century. “Obviously this information is not yet confirmed,” she said, “but it’s an interesting conversation topic nonetheless!”

But more than anything Gemma’s research has revealed how her family hasn’t moved much over the years. A lot of people like to imagine far-flung origins, but according to Gemma having local roots has benefits of its own. “I’ve been able to visit little nearby villages and towns, many of which I had visited before, but which now seem much more significant knowing they were the birth or marriage places of my ancestors. I’ve been able to find many of their graves without having to travel too far.”

Besides the findings, all this research has brought Gemma’s family much closer together. “I’ve been in contact with relatives to gather information, some of whom I had never previously met,” she said. “So in that sense it has been somewhat of a bonding exercise.” has been a useful tool in all this research. “It really was instrumental in the production of my family tree,” Gemma said, “as it provided me with a clear starting point for what seemed such a mammoth task. Had there not been a facility that allowed me to input the little snippets of information I already knew, and build upon it whenever I liked, I expect I would have made do with that 1000-piece jigsaw!”

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