Kidlington Journalists
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Sue Honoré


Who Were My Ancestors?


My name is Sue Honoré. My father was born in Spain, grew up in England, lived in the US, then returned to England, working for extended periods all over the world. I inherited the itinerant genes and have also had an international career in business. I acquired a degree in biology, studying squirrels for a long time (helps with understanding humans at work!) and also have a Masters Degree in Networked Learning and a qualification in Local History from the University of Oxford. I don’t fit into one academic box. I enjoy photography, swimming, looking after two over-intelligent Golden Retrievers and gardening, but apart from the day job, much of my time is now spent as part of the Oxfordshire Family History Society Executive Committee, editing the journal, consulting on family research and running the DNA and Oxfordshire surname research projects.

Family History — Finding Out

Where do you begin? Is it easy?

So is researching my family history as easy and exciting as it appears on Who Do You Think You Are? Well, yes and no. Behind the scenes there are researchers who spend weeks and sometimes months digging out information that is presented on screen within a few seconds. One thing that people do find is that it does turn out to be just as exciting as on TV and completely addictive.

The best place to start is to draw up a rough family tree of your parents, grandparents and beyond writing down names, dates and places of birth, marriage and death. Talk to family members and use photographs to trigger memories. The next step is to start searching online and paper records back in time, carefully and logically, confirming your family information and expanding it. Document everything you find, even the items ‘not found’ or ‘not sure this is right’ with appropriate comments.

Burial of Edward Aris at Kidlington in 1774.
Image copyright Oxfordshire Family History Society.

Be open about spelling

Keep watch for similar names.

Say your surname is Ayres and the family comes from Kidlington. You may be able to trace your ancestry back to Thomas Aires born about 1600 who has children in Kidlington in the early 17th century. Was he in turn the son of Mathew Ayres who married Annis Hall in Yarnton in 1582 and had a son Thomas baptised in Yarnton in 1591 when Elizabeth I was on the throne? Can you imagine Kidlington and Yarnton in those days?

A common mistake is to stick to one spelling. Just in Kidlington the surname is documented as Ayres, Aris, Ayers, Ayris, Aires, Airs, Airis and Harris.

Family fortunes come and go. Were you related to John Aires, a blacksmith of Kidlington, who in 1841 was imprisoned for receiving and using one hundredweight of stolen coal or Harriet Ayres who stole some boots? Or maybe you descend from a richer ancestor Edward, a blacksmith, who died in 1774 and left a will?

William Ayres, baptised in Kidlington on 27 October 1805, one of 10 children of Edward and Elizabeth, married Hannah Tims (another well-known Oxfordshire surname). William was an agricultural labourer and the family moved around the Gosford/Kidlington/Summertown areas as he found work. Hannah died in 1854 in Kidlington and somehow William ended up in the workhouse in Kingston upon Thames by 1881 – he finally died there in 1894 having lived at least 15 years in a London workhouse.

Look for handwritten notes on
the back of old family photographs.
Photo with thanks to Pixabay.

Help is at hand

Public Libraries & Local Meetings

The Oxfordshire Family History Society can help you with your Oxfordshire and worldwide family history. There are regular advisor sessions at several public libraries and at the Oxfordshire History Centre in Cowley. Click here for details.

In 2018 the Society’s Family History Fair is held on 6th October 2018 at The Marlborough School, Woodstock OX20 1LP. Entry is free and many vendors sell a variety of goods and offer help. There is a whole bank of family history, DNA and will/testament advisors and experts to giving free advice. For further details click here.

As an OFHS member you can attend talks at Exeter Hall in Kidlington, get a fantastic journal with people’s own family history stories and hints & tips and share your research interests with others. You will also help contribute to funding research and transcription of documents for the future.

So if you’d like to find out who your ancestors were and where you come from, then do get in touch with OFHS. Email:

Part of the hall of exhibitors at OFHS.
Family History Fair at Woodstock.

Sue Honoré

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