Passionate about history and addicted to family history, Cathie Sherwood, the principal and founder of Ancestor Discovery has been researching her Irish, English and Scottish ancestors for over forty-five years. On her father’s side, she has a Scottish grandfather who was born in India, educated in Scotland, emigrated to Australia and married the daughter of an Irish immigrant, a genealogy scenario shared by many. She also has an English (or Welsh) ancestor who, to this day, continues to be her main brick wall. Her mother’s family are predominantly Irish, from both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland.

Cathie has managed her own consultancy business and worked in universities for over twenty years, as a lecturer in information technology and education, and, for a period of time, as Director of a university-wide research and development centre, retiring as an Associate Professor. Cathie has recently completed the Society of Australian Genealogists’ Certificate in Genealogical Research and is enrolled in the Society’s Diploma in Family Historical Studies. In addition, she holds a Master’s degree in Education (by research), two graduate diplomas in information technology, a Bachelor of Arts degree and a 3 year Diploma in Teaching.

Ancestor Discovery has associate researchers in Europe, the United Kingdom (England, Scotland and Wales), and the Republic of Ireland.  Each of these is fully qualified to undertake the searches required for local archives and repositories.

Why I do family history

I recently read a post by the wonderful (and witty) John Grenham, about why he does genealogy. It got me thinking about the reasons behind my (ahem) addiction to the search for deceased ancestors. When I was about 20 years old, I was planning to head overseas to Europe and the United Kingdom and Ireland (as many young Australians do at this early time in their life – and then they do it all over again towards the end of their life). As my mother had told me about her Irish grandparents and my father about his Scottish father, I thought I would see if I could get a UK or Irish passport. I posted a letter to Ireland (yes, this is what you did in the good old days) requesting the marriage certificate for my great grandparents. When it finally arrived, my mother and the rest of her family were shocked to see that the family name was not O’Neill but Neill!

In my father’s case, there was no record of the birth of my grandfather as he had been born in India in 1863. (I have not found his baptism or birth to this day.) That set me off on the search to find out more so when I travelled to the UK in the 1970s, while living and working there, I searched various archives to no avail but it didn’t matter – there was no going back – I was well and truly hooked.  I took every history course I could in my undergraduate degrees and for years, would do bits and pieces of family history research when I could find time in my life – husband, children and a career were all encompassing!

When I retired, I hit the ground running, taking out subscriptions to Ancestry and later Find My Past and setting up my own family history web site.  I discovered local archives too and the rest they say is history.  Now I regularly travel to the UK and Ireland, visiting archives in London, Edinburgh, Belfast and Dublin, as well as driving around the local areas to familiarise myself with the ancestral homelands. I have subscriptions to all major genealogical web sites as well as numerous others.

I also share what I’ve learnt by volunteering at my local family history society.  Nothing gives me greater pleasure than helping someone break down a brick wall to take them back a generation or two. As the Education Coordinator for the Society, I organise courses, conferences and webinars on a range of family history topics – from DNA to photo conservation and restoration, research planning, ancestor occupations and so on.  I also present courses on a variety of topics, for example:

  • Identification, restoration and preservation of old photographs
  • British India records
  • Planning your family history research
  • Breaking through brick walls
  • Irish research especially the Quakers
  • Interpreting old handwriting
  • Creating family history web sites using WordPress
  • Getting the most out of FamilySearch.