Posted by Kristen Hyde on October 7, 2016 in AncestryDNA, United Kingdom

Kristen Hyde, UK Social Media and Content Manager for Ancestry.co.uk explains her motivation for taking the AncestryDNA test.

My mum began researching our family tree in the mid-90s when I was in primary school, and spent the better part of the next 10 years elbows deep in our family’s history.

Old Family Photos On Wooden Table

It all kicked off around 1997, the year of my 10th birthday. In the decade that followed, my mum slowly but surely began unpicking the layers of our family tree. Space was freed up on our clunky family PC to make room for the Family Tree Maker software, and all her spare time was dedicated to visiting our local Family History Library and the council archives for the area where her mother (my Nan) and her family had lived. It’s only now, knowing my away around Ancestry.co.uk, that I recognise how much passion and physical leg work my mum put into her research in the 10 years she dedicated to it.

At the time though, my full-blown teenager-self didn’t appreciate the massive undertaking my mum was going through. As she hunched over faded photos trying to identify who was who, I was hunched over Cosmopolitan magazine trying to identify whether Freddie Prinze Jnr or Joshua Jackson was more likely to be my celebrity boyfriend.

In 2005, the year of my 18th birthday, my aunt called to tell my mother that my Nan had passed away. I very vividly remember that morning and the fallout of that phone call; my mother’s mourning as she cried on the couch after she hung up the phone. Even as an ‘almost adult’, nothing quite prepares a child for the moment they have to comfort their parents through that kind of sadness. It made me fearful of the day that I too would answer a similar phone call.

After the funeral, my mum and her siblings began the slow process of packing up and distributing their mother’s belongings. With both my Nan and Pop now gone, my mum’s research seemed so much more valuable and worthwhile.

In the years that followed, my puppy love for Freddie Prinze Jnr was replaced with a real love for reading, writing, and cultural history. And whether it was destiny, coincidence, or all those years of hearing my mum talk about her research at the dinner table, I took a job in family history, working for the marketing team in Ancestry’s London office.

It didn’t take long until I started to understand what had engrossed my mum for the better part of a decade; the people who had come before us, and the lives they had lived in a very different world to the tech-reliant life I am familiar with. As a life-long diary keeper and a lover of old books, I became fascinated by the records themselves; how menial documentation can be preserved in such a way to not only help us trace our family history, but our humanity. I poured over my mum’s research; referring back to her trees and the records and feeling continually tickled by the similarities between my ancestors and the members of my current family.

But what I loved the most was that the further into my past I looked, the closer I felt to my mum. I was really proud of the research she’d done, and that what was a private passion almost 20 years ago was now something we could share and re-live together.

Taking the AncestryDNA kit was the next extension of the journey my mum had started for our family; the future coming together with the past. Where she had cemented her research in the record books, I could help reinforce it through science and offer a new lens to what she’d discovered.

After receiving my results, I had both my mum and dad tested. Over a Skype call one morning – my parents on the patio of our home in Australia while I lounged in some (unexpected) English sunshine – I revealed their results. Together, we read over the ethnicity estimates, tracing the different nationalities back to certain ancestors, talking through who they were, and the role they’d played in our family’s story. Even through the computer screen and across my parents’ dodgy wifi signal, I could sense my mum’s enthusiasm; the same enthusiasm I’d seen across the dining table all those years ago.

Our interest in where we come from can pique for lots of different reasons. 20 years ago, my mum began researching our family history, an activity made all the more valuable when her mother died. 20 years later, AncestryDNA reinforced how much I value my own.

Kristen Hyde

Kristen is Ancestry's Social Media Manager for the United Kingdom.

12 Comments

  1. Sheri

    Kristen, I enjoyed reading this article. It reminded me of how my own father, now deceased, used to tell me stories of people and places related to our family history. Although he did not research family history at that time, he loved telling me those stories and that was the start of my search for our beginnings. Twenty years ago it was a matter of traveling to different areas and doing research, writing letters to various historical agencies and waiting for a reply, and being able to find a few generations to add to the family history log. Now, with the help of Ancestry, I have been able to expand our history greatly.

  2. Barbara Waldemar

    I was hit early with an over whelming sense of what, why, where and drove everyone crazy with it. I am now a young 64 but my sister is all that is left of a very large family.
    Unlike you my Mother died at 61 years and was so proud of what she did know that barely crossed the so called Pond by 2 people. I have gone on to add all my questions answers from so long ago and have been with FTM then Ancestry for over 25+ years. I am 7 years older than my sister as we have already lost my brother at age 53 she is now 58.
    I guess what I am saying that before you know it your Mum may be gone and to be sure you have done as much as possible even though you think you have. I have even began attempting to record eye and hair color which ranges the entire rainbow of those colors in my family. There is so much gone and I thought I had covered my bases…
    Cheers and Best of Luck, Barbara Anne Waldemar

  3. MERILEE

    Dear Kristen,
    I really enjoyed your article. As a first generation American, my father’s side of the family were all from England. Most of the aunts, uncles, and grandparents were all deceased by the time I was born. There was no historical perspective or memorabilia except 8 pieces of paper my step-grandmother saved and were willed to me when she died. I started genealogy at that time and on my Dad’s 80th birthday presented him with his family history. He was overwhelmed. I had found things he never knew about and I finally solved a long mystery as to what happened to several of his aunts who migrated to New Zealand in the 1930’s.
    We just have to keep the dialogue going in genealogy and encourage people to take an interest in their history. It tells a lot about who we are and how we came to be the kind of people we are today.

  4. Linka Rayburn

    Enjoyed your post. My Aunt did loads of research & my Mother later followed her lead. This was back in the 60’s & 70’s with no internet. All of our family was bored stiff with their enthusiasm & stories. Then they found a link to Pocahontas & we all perked up. When my Mother died in 1999 I inherited her work along with my Aunt’s research & my Father’s history also. I have now been doing work on all for the last 10 years and the thrills in our history just keep coming. Not related to Pochahontas, but related to the neighbor of Bowlings who named their own children after her great grandchildren. Most surprising I found my Father’s ancestor who landed at Jamestown on the Susan Constant with John Smith. The wills of Ancesters who gifted slaves to their children but kept those families together. Found many other stories by following my Aunt & Mother’s early work. A very rewarding hobby. Should be mandatory in schools as it really tells world history in a personal way.

  5. teri

    Yes I did much research for several years our ancestors renounced the thrown to King III and made their allegieance with the USA in VA, and were pioneers. In 1439 the first Princess of Scottland was Princess Euphemia my grandmother name sake. Her faminly arrive in NY from West Lothian, Scottland in 1895 abt. It gets very intersting be sure and print the documents I did not do much of that so I kinda regret that. I’m really glad your Mum was able the learm a bit of her ancestry

  6. David Shepardson

    Upon receiving the results of my DNA I was surprised to find no connection to French and German, which I have always been told is on my mothers side. Was my DNA run only on my fathers side?

  7. tina rickward

    iv just done a ancestrydna test im just waiting on the results im tracing about my family my dad’s side has my father died when i was 11 yrs old and im looking forward to getting my results to see where my maiden name of benger comes from rickward is my married name i cant wait to find out about my family has both my parents are dead n all my grandparents have died to so iv only my dna to help me find out more on my family x

  8. Lesley Berry

    I have always been interested in family history but did not get “stuck in” until I retired about six years ago. I have tried to file away in my mind things my maternal grandparents told me-and also what my parents shared. But oh how I wish I had asked more questions. My grandmother used to talk about how the women chained themselves to the railings and how she saw Queen Victoria in her carriage- a little old lady dressed in black. That must have been her Diamond Jubilee! My brother has reminded me Grandma also remembered Gladstone. I can’t remember her talking about that- but there were lots of family stories that came out and I have found many to be true. My grandfather was a great researcher- how he would have loved all this. I have 50 years of his diaries ( including the War years 1939-45) plus loads of photographs. This has meant I have enjoyed being a detective and been able to match people to dates and places.
    Through a family bible I have also traced the family of my grandmother’s uncle who emigrated to America in the 1880s. The only information was that he had died in Chicago in 1896. By guess work I managed to trace his grandson and family in Ohio- they were surprised to discover they had family in England and at first thought it might be a scam! However, the fact that no request money was involved reassured them. Now we have met up and it’s as if we have always known each other. Wonderful.
    I’m sure it won’t happen, but I would love to know the identity of my Dad’s father. His mum must have had a “celebration” with his father at the end of WW1- his middle name was Victor. The only clue I have is that “he was probably a Royal Marine.” Don’t think that even this DNA test will help but I live in hopes that one day……..
    And I also hope that one day my daughter will be interested enough to take up the baton as you have done, Kristen.

  9. Virginia

    I just had my DNA done and sent a copy to all 3 sisters. My one sister was quite upset that it didn’t show more German and my grand dad and his dad were all German as far as we know. I explained to her that just because they lived in and came from Germany, it doesn’t mean they had German in their blood from way back…. My grandmother would have been quite upset to see any Russian – way back in her day. I am happy with my results. Thanks for your article.

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