This month in the Be Well Blog, we hear from Be Well Quizzer and heritage researcher Sue Featherston about her quest to learn more about her mysterious great-grandmother.
This post is adapted from the article Sue wrote for us in this month’s Bugle. You can read the full article and all the other great content from the March 2021 edition here.
Sue was intially captivated by her great-grandmother’s name, Elvina Sarah Le Boutillier, French, exotic and fascinating? She had to know more.
My quest to learn about Elvina began in the Eighties. Pre-internet, this meant squinting at microfilm in the library photographing gravestones, capturing details, dates and family relationships. Slowly my family history took shape, like a giant jigsaw.
Forty years on, the family tree spans centuries. Elvina’s forebears lived on Sark at the behest of Elizabeth I, defending the island against the French; they were given land as a reward. My 10-times great grandfather Robert Sloley was the first Judge of Sark, where his house can still be found.
Not French, Elvina was ‘Jersiaise’. Not exotic, she was from a farming and sea-faring family. Fascinating she remains. How, and why, did she travel to grimy, Victorian Manchester. How did she meet and marry Joe?
You can now do armchair research 24/7, and it won’t take 40 years! There are free-to-use websites, and organisations like Ancestry and Findmypast which charge subscriptions. Quiz your oldest family members. Don’t put it off. Record family stories; identify photographs; collect BMD certificates; study censuses and parish records. Take a DNA test: mine found two second cousins, and dozens more relatives.
Be prepared – you will find skeletons in the cupboard; there will also be heroes.
Find out who you really are. Go on, you know you want to.