The Secrets in My Family Tree

I first started looking at my family tree about 10 years ago. I joined Ancestry and quickly became obsessed about trying to find out how far back I could trace my ancestors. Then life happened, I got married and children came along, and I never did much more with it apart from the odd look at it when we wanted to trace a particular person.

When a great aunt of mine died a couple of years ago (aged 100!) my Mum went through all of her belongings and found some photos. We’ve recently been adding these people back into the tree and it’s re-fuelled my interest in my ancestors. I’m fascinated about the stories behind these people – all now dead but who were actually related to me. Suicide, War, assault and emigration it’s all here! Here’s some of the interesting stuff that I’ve discovered so far.

  1. Emily Stockwell is one of the oldest people we’ve found on the family tree that we have a photo for.  She was my great, great grandmother on my mother’s side. Born in 1850 in Kensington, Emily was the second wife to Thomas Viney. They married when she was 30 which must have been considered “old” in those days, but they still went on to have 7 children together (the last one when she was 42!) and she had to cope with 3 step children from Thomas’s previous marriage as well. Before she had children, Emily was a teacher. They lived in west London before moving out to Romford in Essex.  She lived until she was 56.

2. Emily’s second son was Richard Henry Viney. Born in 1882, Richard was my great grandfather. Richard worked as a clerk on Great Eastern Railways until in 1914 aged 32, he went into the military for the First World War. He was a sergeant in the war and won a victory medal and British war medal. Richard had two children before the war and two children born after the war. He lived to be 88.

3. Emily and Thomas’s third son, Ernest Viney was born 1888 when Emily was 38. He was recruited into the First World War in 1913 aged 25. He married Millicent in 1919 aged 31 and together they emigrated to Sydney, Australia in 1930. I guess they wanted to escape all the memories of war and start a new life. He lived to be 89.

4. Emily’s youngest son was born when she was 42 and was called Charles William Viney. He wasn’t as lucky as his brother. He was killed in action at Ypres in Belgium on 2nd May 1915 aged just 23.

5. On another branch of my family tree, William George Collins, my great, great grandfather we recently discovered committed suicide.  Apparently “Bill” became depressed over gambling debts and gassed himself aged just 51.  He died from carbon dioxide poisoning and was considered unsound of mind. He left behind a wife and one son.

Just like my Mum’s side of the family, my Dad’s side all come from the East End of London, specifically Bethnal Green. For as far back as I could trace (1700s) everyone was born and bred and died in Bethnal Green.

6.  My great, great grandfather on my Dad’s side was John Wager. He was a house demolisher and bricklayer. Born in 1860 John was aged 38 in 1898 when he was imprisoned for assault against his wife Bridget, a shopkeeper.  There’s a record to show that on the 4th June 1898 Bridget and her 5 children were moved as part of the poor law removal settlement records. The violence must have been bad for the law to intervene in those days.

7. Closer to home, I have more mysteries surrounding my more immediate family. My Nan and Grandad, on my Dad’s side are pictured below. We could never find any photos of them from when they were young and my Nan always said they never had any wedding photos taken, so I was delighted to find these photos recently. Nan fell out with her own mum when she was young and we never found out the reason why. She was raised by her aunt Alice. My Grandad fought as a rear Gunner in the Second World War. He never liked to talk about it but he alluded to something happening which was shameful (to him). I’ve searched, but can find no trace of his war records so far. I’d love to know what happened to him and whatever the issue, I know that we, of this generation could never cast judgement about him or anyone else who had to go through the horrors of war.

8. My Nan and Grandad on my Mum’s side, were also involved in the War. Nan was in the WRAF (Women’s Royal Air Force) and despite the horrors of what she must have had to go through, I have strong memories of her telling me that actually, it was an exciting time for women. They were given responsibility beyond what they’d ever encountered before and the dances and celebrations when her pilots all flew home safe. Grandad was a wireless operator for the RAF.


This is just a snippet from my expanding family tree.  I hope you found it as interesting as I’ve had in researching! I can’t quite believe that all of these people in these photos here are all related to me! I’m ploughing on with it and hoping to discover more especially relating to the more immediate members of my family.


28 thoughts on “The Secrets in My Family Tree

  1. Amazing what you can discover in a family tree. I know my dad did some digging around our family tree recently but it’s something I’m yet to do personally but this has inspired me to go forth and research! Thanks for linking up to #coolmumclub with this xx

    1. It’s so addictive Talya, once you get started you will want to keep finding out more! Let me know how you get on. Xx

  2. It’s so interesting looking into your background and finding out more about your heritage. I did some research for a school project years ago, but I’d love to look into it again as an adult and find out more about where I come from. #coolmumclub

    1. You’re right, it’s interesting and weird thinking that you’re actually related to these people!! Good luck. X

    1. You should give it a go Sarah, it’s amazing the stuff you can find out. Also very bizarre thinking that you’re related to all these people! Hah! How funny would that be! X

    1. I know, we were lucky to have all these photos, they really bring the people and their stories to life don’t they?!

  3. I find family trees so interesting. We’ve got ours back from 3 grandparents – most are fairly boring and haven’t left the area the family are now in, 1 can’t go back further than my Grandad’s great great grandmother because she was a gypsy and they kept no records. The one we don’t know is my other grandad’s because he was an orphan.

    I love reading about families and genealogy have also been using ancestry for mine. Mums side is relatively easy dads is a nightmare! But there are always hidden stories that make you stop and take a minute aren’t there? Keep digging! Can’t wait for a follow up!

  5. I love that you have included all these lovely pictures and I was fascinated reading a bit about each of their lives. I also find it amazing but also a bit sad when I see photos of my ancestors and realise that I share the same genes and yet I know so little about them. I’d love to be able to ask them all sorts of questions. My grandfather also had a tough time in the war, war is just so awful and the personal, emotional consequences can ripple down through the generations. #coolmumclub

    1. Thank you Liberty. I know just what you mean, it’s so bizarre thinking you’re related to these people but won’t ever get to know too much about them. Sorry to hear about your grandfather. It’s staggering to think that most people had grandparents and great grandparents who were part of both World Wars. X

  6. This sounds really interesting, I hope you manage to find out more about your nan and grandad.
    Thanks so much for linking up at #KCACOLS. Hope you come back again next time

  7. I also have been doing an ancestry search on and off for years. It gets expensive but I did do a DNA test and found that the secrets my family still try to keep is insane. Insane because they are so small. Like telling me my whole life that I’m part Native American. Not according to the DNA test. Both myself and my mom did it and they both came back with not Native American. However, we did find other fascinating things in our family tree. I love reading about the family histories. Fascinating! #CoolMumClub

    1. It is fascinating and I agree can get expensive. I tend to pay for one month and then blitz it!!

  8. I started my family tree a couple of years ago but then had some shattering discoveries that basically made it null and void. I want to start again but I don’t know how #kcacols

    1. You could easily start again. I started my tree using the definite facts that I knew about parents and grandparents and then relied on the “hints” that Ancestry give you. Good luck!

    1. Oh this is interesting. I wonder why you both thought this. Was it stories handed down from generations?

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