Family roots bring blast from the past

Researching your family history has become a popular past-time fuelled by shows like BBC’s Who Do You Think You Are?, where celebrities endeavour to trace their family trees. But what could you uncover by delving into your family’s past?

Many people made some sensational discoveries about their ancestors. Sharon Queen, who lives in Lincoln with her family, is no exception. She has been exploring her family history for several years, and has been astonished at what she has found.

Queen unearthed some amazing links to her family’s past. Among her discoveries are reports that a family member was hung for stealing sheep in the 1870’s, and relatives on her husband’s side lost their lives on the HMS Titanic.

She said: “We didn’t know anything about that until my youngest son, Thomas, was asked to do a school project. He asked ‘nanny Queen’ if she had any stories, and she suddenly said ‘well, yes actually your great aunty and uncle were on the Titanic’.”

Queen is most impressed by her link to Russian aristocracy. She says that it was her brother who had begun researching their family history because he wanted a plaque to put on the wall. They then learnt the story of their grandparents who moved to Lincoln in 1939.

Queen found her grandparents had been in service in the palace of Tsar Nicholas II, until the time of the Bolshevik revolution in 1917, when they came to England.

“My grandfather lived and worked in the palace at St. Petersburg as a tailor to Tsar Nicholas II, and when the Russian Bolshevik uprising started, they had to flee to Tilbury docks.”

She has since discovered that her family name was originally Ravanovich — it was changed to Phillips on her grandfather’s arrival in England.

“When they landed there were so many of them with all these long names and my grandfather was Philip Ravanovich, they just said Mr Phillips.”

Queen suggested that this must have happened to so many people, and that potentially there are hundreds of families in England with similar mysterious histories.

She urges anyone with an interest in learning about their family tree to give it a go: “You never know what you’re going to find!”

For anyone interested in researching their own family history, the Lincolnshire Archives offer extensive resources, where it is free to browse.

James Stevenson, who works with the archive said: “The staff here are used to dealing with beginners in researching their family history. So as long as they’ve got a bit of basic information that’s all you need to get going.”

You can also access exhibitions and learning resources online at Lincs to the Past.

Photo: Kelly Moore for The Lincolnite