Kent family history group helps you find out who you are
PUBLISHED: 06:00 27 September 2013
It's not about the destination, it's about the journey.
That is the mantra of David Cufley, who has spent the past three decades researching his ancestors –tracing them across the globe and meeting groups of Cufleys in Australia and America.
He is the president of the North West Kent Family History Society, which has 1,500 members spread across three branches. Tracking his family has become a passion for David, of Swanley, who says the first question everyone asks about his hobby is the wrong one.
“They always ask how far I’ve gone back,” explains David. “But it’s not about how far back you get.
“You need to learn about the different locations over time and the occupations. You’re constantly asking why is that person in that place?
“Moving around for jobs is common looking back and in Woolwich it turns up a lot because of the Royal Arsenal.
“In 1915 there were 195 women working there, but by 1917 there were 25,000. All these people were now living in Woolwich because of the war effort.”
Members of the society have access to their own library and resource centre in Joydens Wood every Wednesday.
Although the literature available there can prove a big help, David explains that technology now means the days of painstakingly sifting through archives at Kew, which houses the National Archives, could soon be gone.
Budding genealogists can find family information with ease online at any time, although it’s not quite as easy as shows such as the BBC’s Who Do You Think You Are? would have you believe.
David said: “The problem with programmes like that is they make it too easy. We spend hours and hours sorting information out, rather than wandering into a room to find a book all marked out for you.
“We are lucky these days because you can now get a lot of documents online for a small fee. The National Archive has a lot for less than it would be for a train fair to Kew. Though, it does give you a good feeling to see and touch the signature, or mark, an ancestor made 200 years ago.”
Spending the majority of his time researching his own surname, which would seem to stem from a village north of London, David’s family research has taken him to the other side of the world.
Visiting groups of Cufleys in Maryland, USA and Victoria, Australia, he is testament that unravelling your family tree can sometimes offer the chance to meet family you never knew existed.
He said: “We all have ancestors and some are interesting because they’re murderers or criminals, totally different to us.
“I have Australian relatives that are really proud because they were part of the first batch of transported criminals.”
His group offers help to trace distant relatives at regular drop-in sessions across Bexley, Bromley and north Kent. Society members on hand have a wealth of knowledge, that they’re happy to delve into to.
David added: “Our drop-in sessions are for members of the public to get some advice.
“If the person doesn’t know the answer to a problem, I’m sure our members have a solution, or at least know someone who does.”
Membership to the group costs just £10 a year, and includes around 30 lectures each year, as well as access to the resource centre.
The next meeting of the Dartford branch is on October 5 at Dartford Technical College, and will include an auction to mark the branch’s 25th anniversary.
To find out more about upcoming meetings, or drop in sessions, visit nwkfhs.org.uk.