Back to your roots

20 June 2018

By Nick Bishop

David, who uses services at DASHDavid Thompson uses DASH (Disabled Action Self Help group) — our activity and skills group in Blackwater, on the border between Hampshire, Surrey and Berkshire. 

Through his keen interest in family history, he helps others find out more about their families. It all started after he tried to find more about his own father.

‘I knew very little about him but I knew he was in the armed forces from the 1950s.

‘I traced my father back to his time in Kuwait in the Special Forces and found out about the medals he gained in his career.

‘I found he was awarded two medals — the General Service Medal and Long Service Medal — that he was never issued.

‘From there I started researching the history of the Thompson family.’

Army pals

David lives in North Camp in Farnborough. Not far from Aldershot, unsurprisingly there are strong links with the forces.

‘I still go along to social events with a group of ex-army guys.

‘I know a couple of the officers from when I was researching my dad.

‘They all know my dad’s story and how he later lost his leg in the London bombings of the 1980s, receiving a medal from the police force.’

Searching far and wide

An example of David's workDavid, now 65, has been coming along to DASH since 2011, after he also needed a leg amputation.

The service runs every weekday in a local leisure centre, offering activities, lunches, trips out, and the chance to learn new skills. 

He has done family history work for several customers and staff, tracing some people’s ancestors back as far as 1100. 

‘I do quite a lot of my research online. I use the computers at DASH when I come here, twice a week, on Tuesday and Thursday.

‘I want to use some of the money I get to fundraise for DASH too.’

Through his website and Facebook page, he attracts interest from outside the UK. 

‘At the moment I’m doing a family tree for a guy in Croatia. And I’ve just done something for him on the history of his family name.’

An unexpected find

When DASH manager Sauce Jennings asked David to find out about her dad’s side of the family, his discoveries brought some fantastic results.

‘Sauce told me her dad had a brother. So I tracked down details of her uncle and his family, who were in Australia.

‘One of his relatives came over to visit Sauce and her son last year. It brought a joy to the family. 

‘Usually, for me, I am in touch via email with people I find. So when I met this guy in person when he came into the centre we use at DASH, I was over the moon.’

Sauce added:

‘When I asked David to trace my family, I knew it had been done before but no one had found any living relations.

‘The information I gave David was very limited but I was really delighted that he was able to trace back, and I am now in constant touch with my second cousin.

‘I was also a bit apprehensive as we were inviting a complete stranger to visit.

‘As it turned out the family likeness is uncanny, and we were able to match photographs  and known family stories so were able verify everything.

‘Well done, David! And thank you!’

What’s in a name?

A framed certificate that Nick Bishop received from DavidFamily names are of great interest to David, and he now produces specially designed ‘certificates’ detailing the origins of people’s surnames.

Typed out in an elegant, calligraphic font, the framed certificates show the history behind a surname, its roots and its earliest recorded usages. They also feature a coat of arms for the family name. 

David also started producing certificates of people’s first names, including the name’s origin and a short personal profile.

Ever keen to help, he tells me he will do some research into my name too. I soon receive two elegant certificates: one for my first name, Nicholas, and another for my surname, Bishop. 

In the latter certificate, David reveals that some people received this surname after being elected ‘boy bishop’ for a day only, on 6 December — St Nicholas’ Day.

Continuing the quest

Today, David likes to get out and about where possible. Given the chance he’ll often travel with his wife to Sussex, where his own family hails from.

David is understandably keen to continue his family history work.

‘I really enjoy it. I’ve got some exciting projects coming up for a few different people. It’s great to discover things we thought we’d never find out.’

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