Digging up the Dead & Annoying the Living

“You must spend a lot of your time walking around old graveyards…”

..asked a slightly bemused relative. “Not as much as I would like to…” I replied, confirming for once and for all to everyone assembled that I had finally gone off my head. I had caught the normally fatal bug of ‘Doing the family tree’.

JR at the National Archives

Actually nowadays I am more likely to be in front of a computer screen somewhere. Indeed there have been so many changes over the last forty years since I first started, that it is difficult to remember what it was actually like in those pre-computer days; when censuses were microfilms without an index and record offices were crusty dingy places. One developed strong arm muscles through the continual heaving of the metal-clad BMD indexes around at St Catherine’s House in The Strand. Although rather strangely I still prefer the atmosphere of a good archive and the feel of old paper that our ancestors once wrote on centuries ago, the arrival of the Internet has made life so much more convenient for genealogists. This has made the interest in everyone’s ancestors much more accessible and thus more popular, which is a good thing for all of us. Thank heavens for technology I say, you won’t find me pining that much for the good old days.

So what started you off into this fascinating little hobby? With myself it was part of a family tree scribbled out on a piece of paper that was alleged to be my branch of the family (it wasn’t of course, but you had already guessed that). One thing led to another and over 40 years later I am still very grateful to the cousin who gave me that first scrap of paper. I am also thankful of the enduring friendships that I have made through this crazy hobby and remain astounded at the help freely given by strangers at their own cost, who often have little direct interest in the subject being researched themselves, other than that of helping a fellow researcher.

Many years ago I began to wonder what I could do with the results of all my efforts. At that time the best that could be done was to privately publish a book. Apart from the expense, my feelings were that in all probability it never get read by anyone anyway. With the help of distant cousin Bernie, we tentatively put information on the Internet during 2001. What you are now looking at is several versions of the website down the line and a little bit of it’s story can be seen on the website history page. The response to the website has exceeded my wildest expectations – thank you all very much!

The great advantage of being on the Internet is the ease of contacting people from all around the globe; with the ability to share any new fact, photograph or other amendment easily, so that the website can be changed literally within seconds. As you would expect given what can be a very sensitive subject, this website conforms to a sensible set of policies which includes not listing the details of any living person without their express consent. However, I do strongly advise everyone to be sceptical about what you see on any Internet site (including this one) as it is so easy to see the same myths and errors being proliferated again and again. I can personally vouch for any information on this website to be as accurate as possible (except where stated otherwise), but hey, we are all human and genealogy is far from a fixed science.

I have often been asked why I don’t start a ‘One Name Study’ (ONS) for the Reffell surname. Although in effect I do carry out many of the tasks that are required for a ONS, such as collecting all instances of the name found, the simple answer is that I would find it too limiting and restrictive. My interest is in the complete extended family, regardless of the actual surname is involved. This is why I have called this little website ‘The Reffell Family History’. All relations and friends are welcome here!

Well that it is it for now, I hope you enjoy looking around the Reffell Family History website, but you must excuse me now for I feel the need to go and have a walk around an old graveyard…

Good researching – John