By David Kavanagh | posted on August 22, 2019
PRINCESS Diana, King Henry VIII, actor Chris Pratt and even the Viking King Rollo – it turns out Albany is home to distant relatives of a host of famous figures past and present.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints’ Family History Centre has for decades been helping people navigate their family trees.
At the end of this month the church will throw an open day to show others how it’s done.
Family history consultants Christine Paisley and Helen Cope spoke with the Weekender about some of their greatest successes so far.
“It can be really overwhelming, it can be mind blowing,” Ms Paisley said.
“A lot of people don’t know where they belong and yet when you start family history and you’ve done a little bit of research, you find stories, you find photographs, and you can relate to people in your past.
“They don’t become so much names as they become part of your life story.”
The team at the Family History Centre convenes at the Church every Tuesday and Thursday from 10am and utilises websites like Ancestry, Find My Past and My Heritage.
Ms Cope said their combined efforts with the Albany Regional Family History Society had traced familial lineages as far back as to the times of Richard the Lionheart in the 12th century.
“It gives you some sort of background, a lot of families are fractured these days,” she said.
“Doing family history is really important for self-esteem and has a lot of psychological benefits.”
Ms Cope added that a number of “ordinary people” they had worked with had followed their tree all the way “back to royalty”.
“She’s one of them,” she said of Ms Paisley.
“I make sure to bow down each time I see her.”
Recent investigations into Ms Paisley’s tree have found her to be a distant relation of the late Princess Diana, King Henry VIII, author of Little Women Louisa May Alcott and even Chris Pratt from Guardians of the Galaxy fame.
“I mean you might be 16th cousins but when I told my 14-year-old grandson [about our shared lineage] he was just so blown away. I laminated the tree for him so he could see where he fit in,” she said.
She added their work had also helped people discover relatives that were still living and said one lady told the group she was a child from Fairbridge, a Farm School in Pinjarra migrant children from England were sent to in the early 20th century.
“She said she was a child from a big family and was told she was going for a holiday in Australia, but of course she never went home,” Ms Paisley said.
“We got into the phone books in England and we found out her cousins had lost their husbands and we went through the marriages and deaths.
“There were three phone numbers and she phoned them and came back and said she found her cousins. Honestly, I felt like I could cry.”
The group’s open day will take place from 10am to 3pm on Saturday, August 31 at 81 Seymour Street in Mira Mar.
Those attending are encouraged to bring with them any information that could aid their search, such as dates and places of birth.