Study Background

The Swalwell sisters in the days of their attic explorations

The Swalwell One-Name Study is the culmination of a journey which can best be described as one of discovery but not of progress.

The very first steps on the journey were made when I was a young child growing up in Loftus, North Yorkshire. The farmhouse where I lived had an enormous attic that was a fascinating, if a little scary, place containing a miscellanea of objects, old photos, and lots of old correspondence. Digging through this treasure trove became a bad weather pastime for my sister & myself.

We would bring our selected treasures downstairs where Gran & Grandad would explain the objects discovered and regale us with stories of the people involved. Some of the stories were a real puzzle to a young mind, e.g., the local family who had twenty-one children twice over; the woman who was a Miss, a Mrs and a Mum all in one day; the guy whose name was on the War Memorial but could be seen sweeping the same Memorial in readiness for the Remembrance Sunday service. My curiosity was piqued – who were these people and how were they connected to us?

I finally embarked upon the actual journey when my parents sold the family farm and I rescued much, but not all, of the precious contents of the attic from the bonfire that Dad had made. This was when my journey into my family history began but it was not long before that journey along my ancestral line came to a full stop. My earliest known ancestor is William Swalwell who appears in the records of Great Ayton, North Yorkshire in 1761 when he married. So, my family history journey has taken me the small distance of about 15 miles from my childhood home to that of my 5x Great Grandfather.

It was at this point that I encountered the Guild at the “Who Do You Think You Are Show” and realised that my random collection of data regarding anyone with the Swalwell name had a title! Unbeknown to me, I had a been doing a One-Name Study. So, I joined the Guild and registered the Swalwell surname study thinking that at least it would be a way of advertising my interest in the surname, joining a club of like-minded “extreme” genealogists and at best it might lead me to a breakthrough in my brick wall.

I must admit, though, that I am still waiting to make that breakthrough in my personal family tree so it could be concluded that little or no progress has been made. My perspective on how to define progress has however changed fundamentally – it is no longer about simply defining my ancestors. The more holistic and integrated research approach of a one-name study has deepened my understanding of the Swalwell surname beyond all measure but more than that it has deepened my understanding and love of history in all its guises.

Further, five years on from encountering the Guild of One-Name Studies at the Who Do You Think You Are Show I will be presenting a talk on the Swalwells at this year’s event, i.e. 2017. The title of the talk is called “In pursuit of Lots! An example of how Christian names can be used to build the family tree.”

Therefore, upon reflection even though I am still facing a brick wall I do believe that significant progress has been made.