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.
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.