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How I became hooked on family history

I became 'hooked' on genealogy more than twenty years ago when a cousin of mine, Gwen Eastment, asked me to help her with her own study of the name LOVELOCK. I had recently discovered the Internet and thought I just might be able to help her at the time, as she did not have access. And this I certainly did. She was amazed at how easy it was to make apparently instant contact with dozens of people all over the world who were also interested in researching that particular name. My cousin was used to having to wait months for letters to be answered. This was something pretty amazing - certainly for someone who had spent the best part of her twenty years researching by 'snail mail'.

Cousin Gwen was able to tell me a lot about my grandfather, Arthur Sterry, who was an actor and Australian film director in the early 1900s. At the time I knew very little about my grandfather as he died before I was born. Gwen not only knew him very well but had actually played a small role as a child in one of Arthur's stage productions that toured country areas of New South Wales in the 1920s. He was a fascinating man and I loved hearing more about him.

Now somewhere between helping my cousin and my enthusiasm to explore this new internet thingo, I somehow managed to get myself addicted to researching my own surname of STERRY - as well!! And the final straw was of course learning I could set up my own STERRY web page. I could not only share all my research but also allow others with a similar interest to readily find and contact me - which indeed they did in droves! I was amazed how many people were out there with a similar interest just waiting to be discovered! I was having a thoroughly excellent time. I was getting over 100 'hits' a week on my web site. This was pretty heady stuff! MY STERRY web site of course grew 'like topsy' and was soon thousands of pages of information related to the name STERRY.

So it was that I made contact with Cecily Sterry, then living near Reading in England, who had also been researching her STERRY ancestors for many years. Cecily was to become my 'genealogical guru' and we corresponded very regularly for the next ten years. Cecily taught me the importance of checking original sources and the rigorous construction of family trees. Cecily then put me in contact with another cousin, Art Sterry, from Florida USA. Together we formed quite a team.

I made a few landmark discoveries along the way that helped enormously with my research. First, I found the Mormons. Not their site. They didn't have one then. But their wonderful Family History Centres! And I was so lucky to have one only ten minutes drive from home. And I live on the rural outskirts of Sydney in the foothills of the Blue Mountains ! Those centres are ubiquitous! Amazing resources. I quickly exhausted the IGI and moved onto ordering all their fantastic films of parish registers - right back to the early sixteenth century! - as well as other original documents that are of course vital for family history research. Next I found local Family History Societies, both here in Australia and of course also back in Suffolk and Norfolk where my ancestors came from. Then I found SAG - the Society of Australian Genealogists located in Sydney. I have always loved the smell of ancient books and they had plenty in abundance. Another invaluable resource. I was now in contact with an ever extending network of extremely knowledgeable and very helpful people and a huge amount of genealogical resources.

Somewhere along the way I discovered GOONS and suddenly realised that in fact I had already embarked on a One-Name Study without even realising it. And GOONS certainly overcame any hesitation I had at the time. I was in!

In 2001 I finally made it back to England to visit all those places that had now become familiar through my research - to experience the heady moment of touching the baptismal font where my g.g.grandfather had been baptised in the tiny little village of Blo Norton in Norfolk. I visited distant STERRY relatives whom I had got to know so well through email and who turned out to be just as delightful and interesting in person. I went to county Record Offices, the PRO and SOG in London. I was able to examine ancient records on their original parchment. Incredible! It was a positive feast!

Sadly Gwen and Cecily and Art are no longer with us. But their legacy remains.