Kirsty Gray

Kirsty Gray with West Country Ancestors bookA widely acclaimed lecturer based in the UK, offering over fifty lecture titles, bespoke workshops, training and consultancy, Kirsty wows audiences with her energetic, infectious personality. With a diverse knowledge base from one-name and one-place study methodology and society management, to migration and specific record sources plus a whole host in between, Kirsty is renowned for her humorous, quick-witted and young approach to family and local history lectures.

Involved in the fields of family and local history for the best part of two decades, Kirsty has recently been awarded Superstar Genealogist (Gold Medallist in the Rockstar Genealogist Awards) in the UK/Ireland in her first year of nomination. Previously splitting her time between her two passions – developing students’ desire to learn about mathematics and inspiring people to trace their roots – she is now able to focus her attention more on case work and family history research, having given up her career as a teacher to ‘follow her dream’. Setting up her own Heir Hunting and research company – Family Wise Limited – in 2013, Kirsty and her research team ‘find people’, past and present.

With half her ancestors hailing from the West Country counties, a one-name and two one-place studies in Devon, Kirsty was approached by Pen and Sword to author Tracing Your West Country Ancestors which was published in 2013. Her second title in the same series – Tracing Your Industrial Ancestors – is due to be published in 2014.

In 2011, her dynamism saw her appointment to the post of Director of English Studies with The National Institute for Genealogical Studies. Many courses have been updated and numerous new authors have been commissioned to supplement The Institute’s online course provision under Kirsty’s leadership.

Her involvement with the Guild of One-Name Studies began in the early 2000s, when she registered her Sillifant surname study. Serving as Secretary from 2004 until 2010, she has just completed her fourth term as Chairman. Co-founding the new Society for One-Place Studies which launched in September 2013, the online global community developed rapidly to over sixty in less than a month, under Kirsty’s chairmanship, with innovative approaches to the benefits provided for members.

Go In-Depth With Kirsty:

What is your favorite repository?
There is only one possible answer to this question – Devon Heritage Centre, Exeter, Devon, England. With half my ancestors hailing from the county, many hours have been spent in this repository over the decades, from the original small office above Exeter Central Library to the new modern building on the outskirts of the city. The staff here are second to none with few changes to the personnel since I began researching in the 1990s.

What is your craziest ancestor story?
I have one ancestor born in 1873 called Whitby William George Baynham. Unsurprisingly, he was born in Whitby, Yorkshire. You’d think he’d be pretty easy to trace through the censuses and BMD records…. but not if he decided to change his name completely. For some unaccountable reason, Whitby became John Ford. He married as John Ford in Bedford in 1900 and died in 1945, also as John Ford. All his children were registered with Ford as their surname. But why? How?!

What is one tip you would give a newbie genealogist?
‘Organising is what you do before you do something, so that when you do it, it is not all mixed up’ (A.A. Milne). If I could turn back time to change the way I made notes about my family history research from the outset, I sure would. So my one tip to newbie genealogist is ‘Get organised’. Keep a record of everything you search for, whether you are successful or not, and cite your sources.

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