Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Looking back to the beginning

This week’s throwback Thursday blog post is a little more personal, taking us back to the very beginning of Maxwell Ancestry. Even while we look forward to the future with Scottish Indexes ( launching tomorrow!) it’s nice to look back at where we came from.

Our founder Graham Maxwell’s family are a long-lived bunch, and it was spending time with elderly relatives which first piqued his interest in genealogy. He remembers hours spent doing jigsaws with his great grandmother when he was just a small child. Sadly, his great granny Maxwell died aged 85 when Graham was only four years old. On the other side of the family, however, his Great Aunt Mary lived until she was 104. Her memories provided a vital and fascinating resource when Graham began his family history research in earnest.

Mary Cameron aged 99, taken on 17 Feb 1989

In 1989, Graham and his mum made their first visit to the General Register Office in Edinburgh. Armed with the knowledge they had gained from family stories, their mission was to trace the family through birth, marriage, death and census records. They hoped this way to compile a coherent picture of their family history.

The records system took some getting used to, and the process of research was a good deal more time consuming than it is today. However, their efforts were rewarded - together they successfully traced their family tree before going on to write a family history book as a gift for Graham’s Nana and Pappa. Long before ‘Who Do You Think You Are?’ or, Graham and his mum created an easy-to-read family history chronicle filled with family photos and historic postcards of places and people. Fascinated by the past, Graham has always endeavoured to understand the lives of people’s ancestors beyond mere names and dates. In this first family album he added a piece of linen woven in the mill where his ancestors once lived.                                             

Researching his own family history whetted Graham’s appetite for genealogy. When friends asked him to research their family trees he didn’t hesitate. His time delving into the records came with the growing realisation that he could translate his passion into a career, and he began to take on clients in 1996.

Over time the business grew, most clients hearing of the business through word of mouth. Graham continued to develop his skills and gained further experience as a genealogist, becoming a regular fixture in both the General Register Office (now the ScotlandsPeople centre) and the National Archives.

A lot has changed since these early beginnings – both for the business itself and within the field of genealogy. Maxwell Ancestry was amongst the earliest of ancestral research businesses to harness the power of the internet, allowing people from Manitoba to Melbourne to seek records. His wife Emma joined the business in 2001 and together the pair have helped people with research projects large and small. While we’re looking forward to launching our new site, our focus will remain on helping our clients – so they can have the ‘Who Do You Think You Are?’ experience Graham’s grandparents had all those years ago.

Graham Maxwell aged 20

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