Occasionally, out of nowhere I get an email from someone researching family history. Yesterday I had one from a previously unknown third cousin. We share great-great-grandparents.
As interesting as the topic itself are the reasons why people start looking into their origins. For me it was around the time of my mother's death.
Years before, she had compiled a family tree from information gleaned from her own parents and in-laws. At that time further research would have involved a lot of leg-work, travel to record offices, and parish churches across Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire. As she had had no car since divorcing my father, and we three 'kids' were spread out across England, she didn't follow this up. I'd been fascinated with the idea that a name with a bald date of death represented a person, who might, just possibly be someone like me. Rather unlikely, as I spent much of my youth trying to be as unlike anyone else in the family as possible. The fact that some of them lived in a picturesque and rugged part of Derbyshire added to the enchantment. Some of these guys seemd to head for the highest point and settle there.
In the weeks before she died, my mum helped me to identify a few people whose photographs were lying loose in an old black box. Her death eventually gave me the impetus to start looking into the family myself.
In 1995 this still involved a certain amount of poring over microfiche readers in Nottingham and Matlock County Record Offices, though internet newsgroups were springing up, and made the process much speedier - you could usually find someone with some of the information you were looking for.
For three or four years I was totally obsessed with this, following leads, wandering around Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire taking photographs of gravestones, chapels and farms, writing half fictionalised stories about my ancestors.
Since then I have let it lapse, but each time someone emails me , they rekindle my interest. Now I just need to make sure that particular file is in order, and start to expand it a little more.