Guide to tracing ancestors

Ian Maxwell with copies of his book. INPT10-015
Ian Maxwell with copies of his book. INPT10-015

If your surname is Nixon, Dixon, Anderson, Beattie or Graham then the chances are your ancestors were driven out of England in the reign of James 1 for misdemeanours such as cattle rustling.

This is just one of the fascinating facts unearthed by Bleary man Dr Ian Maxwell - whose surname also joins 
the illustrious list above - during the research for his latest book.

‘Tracing Your Scottish Ancestors’ is Ian’s second edition of the book, updated to include new information, and reflects a growing interest among the public in tracing their ancestry.

Said Ian, “I think TV series such as ‘Who do you think you are?’, which had even 
Jeremy Paxman reduced to tears, and the growth of Ulster Scots has contributed to this interest.”

The book looks at the history of the Scottish people and their everyday life, starting around the 1600s, and provides guidance on records and how to use them to trace family history.

Ian’s interest in history dates back to his student days when he did a PhD in Irish History.

He also worked for the Public Records Office in Belfast for a number of years, where he became fascinated by the everyday life of ordinary people in days gone by.

He said, “It used to be Americans, Canadians and Australians who came in looking to trace their family history but as time went on, more and more people from Northern Ireland were researching their family trees.”

Ian, a civil servant, who writes in his spare time, 
is passionate about genealogy, which he says “brings history to life in such a wonderful way”.

Just two years ago he went to Normandy with his wife Valerie and sons Scott and Callum, then aged 12 and eight, and visited the grave of his grandmother’s uncle, Geordie Ryan, originally from Laurelvale, who died in the First World War.

He said, “Initially, the boys were not interested in going but when we got there they were really moved and now 
they take an interest in anything to do with the war.”

Ian also writes for family history magazines and gives talks. And it was during some research for an article on the Northern Irish Fusiliers that he discovered his great-grandfather Harry had been wounded in the Boer War, and 
not the First World War as he had always believed.

He has written two other books for the same publisher (Pen and Sword Books) - ‘Tracing Your Northern Irish Ancestors’ and ‘Tracing Your 
Irish Ancestors’, as well as a history book, ‘Everyday Life in 19th Century Ireland’.