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Sunday, May 2, 2010

Interview with Genealogist Stephen Thomas


It is with great excitement that we introduce you to Stephen Thomas an accomplished genealogist from Great Britain and a Specialist with Genealogy Freelancers.

Mr. Thomas has had an illustrious career in the field of genealogy spanning over two decades. He was trained at the Institute of Heraldic and Genealogical Studies in Canterbury, England and was until recently the Managing Director and Head of Research at a leading Genealogical research company there. He has researched for and presented “Blood Ties” for BBC2 and the documentary “The Lost Royals” for Granada TV. He has also appeared in an expert capacity on several programs for British radio and television and writes articles for Family History publications including several important articles on tracing overseas relatives for Your Family Tree. Mr. Thomas also has a regular monthly column in Practical Family History and writes for Family History Monthly as well.

In addition to his busy public career Mr. Thomas finds the time and energy to research for clients. He specializes in finding families from Great Britain and their place of origin. He also locates living relatives in Great Britain and abroad.

We have been very pleased to call Mr. Thomas a member of Genealogy Freelancers since our inception back in 2008. He has taken on cases for our seekers, bringing his expertise and enthusiasm to each project. We believe those who work with him on any project are fortunate to benefit from his vast experience and that they can entrust their family history to the most capable hands.

Stephen Thomas, personal communication with permission to publish, May 1st 2010

GF: When and why did you become interested in genealogy?

ST: I read Literature at University and became interested in the Victorian period and my own Victorian ancestors.

GF: You estimate having investigated approximately 5000 family trees in your long career. Do you remember the first and how the experience helped you in all those that followed?

ST: No I cannot remember the first. I was given 5 or 6 new cases at a time to analyze and schedule for research. It was quite a hot house environment.

GF: Are there any that stand out more in your memory and why?

ST: I suppose the celebrity cases and especially those that resulted in a family being re-united.

GF: Tell us a bit about the BBC production of Blood Ties and your role as researcher and resident genealogist on the project.

ST: Blood ties worked on the premise that even the humblest man in the street could be related to the notorious or the famous. I provided the cases from my workload and explained the connection on screen to the descendant. I travelled with the person to the scenes of important events in their lives.

GF: How did you prepare? What were some of the challenges?

ST: Much of the work was already done but sometimes the client proved reluctant to appear. It took a fair amount of coaxing and reassurance.

GF: What did you take away with you from the experience?

ST: It was great fun working with TV production companies, but they don’t really understand that for every glamorous ancestor we have several hundred mainly ordinary ones!

GF: You were also involved in the Granada TV production of the documentary "Lost Royals". This is a really exciting and unusual look at the royal lineage. Tell us a bit about the project and your role as researcher.

ST: Lost Royals emphasized the fact that many of our Royals took full advantage of their status to father a great many illegitimate children whose descendants are living very ordinary lives amongst us. I traced the lines to the present day and found them living as dentists, ambulance drivers and one was an Australian politician.

GF: How did you prepare and were you given access to documents that are not typically made public?

ST: I used public records and that became part of the challenge for me.

GF: Did you find that research was more or less difficult than for the average citizen of non-royal lineage?

ST: It was pretty much like any other case once the line was established.

GF: What was your most rewarding case in the project and why?

ST: I liked the Liverpudlian ambulance driver descended from William the Conqueror. Such a modest and pleasant man who certainly had not inherited the belligerence of his Royal ancestor.

GF: Again, what did you take away with you from this experience?

ST: We are all the same, all human and really a Royal title means very little except pure accident of birth.

GF: Have you investigated your own family history? Were there any surprises and/or mysteries yet to be solved?

ST: I thought there was little there of interest until recently I found a great uncle who had the largest collection of books and conjuring and was an expert on tricks and illusions. He knew Houdini and performed an act at society functions. This really pleased me. I would rather have him in my family than any King or Queen!

GF: What are your future plans?

ST: I would like to bring family history up to date by finding modern sources such as government and business data and getting them out in the open. There is a real danger that data protection will overwhelm the right to know and prevent us from knowing about the lives of our own grandparents.

Thank you Mr. Thomas for sharing a bit of who you are.

Photo shows Stephen Thomas (in the blue shirt) as a guest on the Gloria Hunniford Show.