Now...this family thing. When you want to know more about your people who went before you it can be a bit...well...in all honesty it can be startling at best and downright unbelievable at worst.

When I first began, I knew for certain my mother was the only child and that after her mother died and her father re-married she was packed off to boarding school at the tender age of six.

That was all certain and absolute fact. And it was all lies and make believe and nothing of the sort...and the official records prove it was lies beyond any doubt whatsoever. And you'll remember Max and her absolute certainity that her birth father was American Indian and when I tried the Native American records I thought it was a complete dead end and I'd get nowhere whatsoever...and of course I wouldn't, because Max hadn't been told the whole truth.

I haven't the faintest idea why some families lie in their teeth about their origins and some simply fib by omission...but they do and it's left to us to poke about among the records and scratch our heads in puzzlement as we find someone changed their name or was married three times or wasn't quite the person they'd hoped to be.

There is also a huge amount of inverted snobbery among us...the people who've followed on. My friend Harry is good for that...'my people were just coal miners'...and does being a coal miner not quite count then? Would it be 'better' if your people were Doctors or inventors or something rather highbrow and terribly clever...have a bit of a think about being a coal miner. Scrabbling about in the pitch dark underground with the ever present risk of explosions and rock falls and ending up disabled at fifty because your lungs are wrecked with breathing in coal dust since you were fourteen...to provide the fuel for people to keep warm and have hot baths and do their washing and to keep factories and hospitals running and so on. Something to be slightly ashamed or embarrassed about having relatives who were coal miners? I think not.

The boring ag labs...now I'm as guilty as the rest when I mutter about reams of ag labs...but they were the people who tilled and toiled and brought in the harvest which fed the rest of us...they picked fruit and sowed seeds and planted veggies and gathered up stones on stony land and little children scared away the birds who were intent on eating the new seeds and girls milked cows and hoed sugarbeet...those people provided us with food for our tables...from the jug of fresh milk to the side of beef or the ham for Christmas to the bag of potatoes and the head of cabbage...of course they were important.

When you begin to delve into your past you'll find nothing was as it seemed to be...the funny old Auntie who smelled a bit of pee and sat in a corner at family gatherings drinking sweet sherry, might have been somebody important in the government...or on the other hand she could just have been dippy.That nice man you always thought was your Fathers brother could have simply been the next door neighbour who had a dubious history...

My Irish Grandfather changed his name on a regular basis...depending on which form he was filling in at the time...he did once describe himself as a Doctor when he was no more a Doctor than my cat...it doesn't much matter now, after all he's been dead for almost a hundred years, but it is disconcerting to find out he was not quite as he himself imagined himself to be.

Whether we come from humble stock...the ag labs and the cotton weavers and the coal miners or the pork butchers matters little...no matter who your people were...they are your kith and kin with spots and blemishes and secrets and lies...if you find with a startling revelation that you descend from high-born people who owned land and great houses pause before you gloat...they were beholden to their kings and queens and were quite likely to have beaten their servants and spent their days fighting wars in distant lands and impregnating their long-suffering wives countless times until they died of sheer exhaustion.

So, when you embark on finding out who you are, be aware that your people might well have embroidered the truth at best and told outright lies at worst...if your people were simple ag labs or shoe makers or if they cleaned windows for a living...or if they were grand people altogether with fancy titles and vast tracts of land...it doesn't matter in the very slightest...it isn't a competition to find who had the grandest family ever...it is a matter of you finding who your people were...those who came before you...it is a matter of acknowledgeing them and putting their history into yours.

At the real risk of sounding like a Social Worker...it is a journey you undertake which you need to do with your eyes wide open and fully prepared to toss all your pre-conceptions out the window.