When I was in my late teens my mother Hilda Rose (pictured right), also known as ‘Cherry’ Leeds (nee Bender), showed me some original notes made by my great grandfather Daniel Leeds (1838-1908) written in beautiful copperplate hand on lined paper. I have always had a passion for history and it was one of only two subjects I did well in for my GCE exams! Holding those notes in my hand lit a passion for family history and all things old that has been with me ever since and, as luck would have it, they took me back into the mid eighteenth century.
WHAT WE DID FIRST
In the early 1970s my cousin Sheila and I decided that, as our surname was not that common, we would write to everyone in the telephone directory telling them of our project asking them to respond with details of their families. If my memory serves me right, we had about a 10% reply rate from just over 187 letters and from that date our card indexes started to grow apace.
Working in London helped a great deal and, between us, we managed to extract all of the relevant entries from the Births, Marriages and Deaths Registers at St.Catherine’s House. This was before the age of personal computers, so everything was taken down in longhand. Since then of course the world wide web has come upon us and much more information can be obtained from the comfort of one’s own home at the click of a button, albeit, not always verified.
From those small beginnings the project has grown and we have been able to:
• find relatives we never knew existed
• link families who never realised they were part of a larger family, and
• keep ourselves gainfully employed for the past 50 or so years.