This is the story of how I began researching my family tree. It was completely unplanned and may have never happened if it hadn't been for the biscuits.
It was autumn 1997 and my job sometimes took me to Islington. I was struggling to find somewhere peaceful to spend lunch hours. Someone recommended the refreshment area at the nearby Family Records Centre. It was blissfully quiet. You could bring your own sandwiches and happily sit there undisturbed with a novel for an hour. They had vending machines with drinks and snacks. My favourites were the little packs of shortbread biscuits.
I had an idea of what went on in the building but I'd never thought about doing research myself. Until the day when it was unusually crowded and I had to share my lunchtime table for the first time. My companions started enthusiastically comparing family trees. Then to my horror they asked me how my research was going. I couldn't bring myself to admit that I'd only gone in there that day because I'd fancied some biscuits with my lunch. So I said that I was new and perhaps they'd be kind enough to explain where to start.
It all happened so quickly. My handbag was stashed away in a locker. I was whisked out onto the research floor with a pencil fixed round my neck and a notebook in my pocket. I was shown shelves of books containing Birth Indexes with the suggestion that I look for my maternal grandfather. I knew that he was born in 1896 in Shoreditch so he wasn't too difficult to find.
I've never forgotten the excitement I felt when I found that entry for Samuel Sidney Fisher. From that moment on I was hooked and a research journey began which is still going on 24 years later. These days it's thankfully quicker and easier. I certainly don't miss lifting those heavy indexes, although they were great for toning up my arm muscles! I do miss the companionship of the many researchers I met over the years at the FRC, and I've never forgotten the kindness of all the people who helped me when I was starting out. However I have to admit a preference for researching from the comfort of home where I can wear my comfy slippers and there is a wider selection of biscuits!
Mrs Margaret Turner
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