When Jane Overthrow began researching her family history, she believed that she was descended from an illegitimate child of Charles II and also from a former Lord Mayor of London. In fact, neither of those legends were true, meaning that Jane’s quest did indeed lead her to question who she was. Having the unusual maiden name of Quarrington, Jane began her research before the days of computerised records in dusty record offices and at Somerset House. Although she never found any aristocratic connections, there were a number of surprises and discoveries in her family history that sparked her interest to dig deeper into the subject. Since then, although continuing to pursue it only as a hobby, she has worked on other family trees including that of the Kennaway family in Sidmouth.

Jane talked about the many online sources that are now available and showed techniques for keeping family records in order. Whilst there are various styles of family tree, Jane made the point that the most interesting and useful are those that go further than recording just names and dates. She encouraged everyone to write down their own autobiography so that future generations can “dress” the family tree with more details about their ancestors’ lives. One word of warning, though: as she discovered herself, oral history can be misleading and the temptation to embellish our own stories must be resisted!