It's day two of Start Your Family Tree Week and we know a lot of you are already seeing some great progress on your family trees! It really is a magical thing to see things start to take root. Once you put your name in the family tree builder it seems to start growing almost on its own, and names and faces you never even knew about start appearing and soon become familiar blossoms

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Who was your great great great great grandfather? Maybe he was a man of the gentry, holding lavish parties from his extravagant house in London's West End. Maybe he was an urchin gazing in through the windows from the dark streets outside. Joanne Murphy had no idea that she would find a runaway slave turned Waterloo hero in her family tree, yet, all of a sudden, she had a man named George Rose walk into her life.

George escaped his life as a slave in Jamaica and set sail to England. Once in London he joined the British Army and, having served in Germany, the Netherlands, the battles of Quatre Bras and Waterloo, he was promoted to Corporal before becoming a Sergeant in 1831. He was the highest-ranking black soldier in a British regiment.

George escaped his life as a slave in Jamaica... He became the highest-ranking black soldier in a British regiment

June Terrington discovered that she had more than one family through her research. Confined to a wheelchair since a teenager and living with a husband who spent long periods of time out drinking, June found refuge in the online records and family history forums.

Soon she was able to connect not only with her own family's stories from the past, but complete strangers she'd spoken to online were going out of their way to help her with her research, offering to take photos of her family's farms and tracing extra pieces of research to add to her tree. She ended up making contact with relatives in Australia, New Zealand, America and Canada, even meeting one of her cousins for the first time, not to mention the wealth of friends that had helped her along the way.

Complete strangers she'd spoken to online were going out of their way to help her with her research

Maybe the most exciting developments in family research over the last year is the release of the 1939 Register. Now it's possible to trace friends and relatives who you may have known in real life, such as Christine Stephenson, who was finally able to enhance the memories she had of the street where she lived as a child. Though she had always remembered moments and faces, she now had real facts to remember them by, and they became all the more vibrant in her recollection.

Search the 1939 Register

It's easy to forget that names on paper were once living, breathing people who lived through this strange world with the same hopes, fears and loves as we do today. What better way can there be to start the New Year than to turn around and discover the whole family of people standing behind you, who shaped and changed the very person you turned out to be today?

If you listen very carefully, you may even hear them cheering you on.

Who have you found in our records? Email us at testimonials@findmypast.com