Ann and her colleague Christine Russell run The Spring’s ancestry service. They have helped families in Havant and beyond find out more about their history – and even reunited long-lost siblings.
Both have had moments of joy and sadness in their work, much of which reunites families.
“My research has involved tracing living family members as well as ancestors,” said Ann. “This included a half-brother which my client did not know existed and who was sent abroad as a child migrant.”
The Spring researchers can access a range of resources from genealogy websites to records of births, marriages and deaths for Havant and the surrounding area going back as far as 1635.
But their knowledge and expertise opens up new avenues of discovery.
“I found the half-brother on a 1950s passenger list and traced him through an agency which puts family members in touch with each other,” said Ann.
Write your family history
Christine said: “There have been tears of joy and sadness many times in my research.”
She warned about the dangers of making too many assumptions: “The challenges are to find and work with well documented facts. Family stories and myths are frequently wrong. People’s memories are often clouded.”
Christine managed to find the birth family of a man who had only just discovered he was adopted and got to the bottom of a grisly ship wreck where survivors ate a fellow crew member.
But Ann Griffiths has a word of warning for anyone hoping to piece together their family history using more modern techniques.
“You need to think twice before having a DNA test, as you may find you are not who you thought you were,” Ann said. “I know of one person who found that a close family friend was really his father. It was a huge shock and very difficult to come to terms with.”
As well as free access to two genealogy websites and the registers, The Spring also has census returns for Havant from 1841 and maps of the area from as early as 1875.
Don’t forget to book first
Ann added: “Some people just want help for one morning, but I have one lady who has been coming in for over a year. She is writing her family history up in detail for her grandchildren.”
To book a free appointment to access the websites and work with one of our experts, please contact Faith Davies, Participation Officer at email@example.com or call 023 9247 2700.
You can access printed materials in the Research Room during our museum opening hours, which are from 10am-5pm Monday to Friday and 10am to 4pm on Saturdays.