I have recently started documenting and digging further into my family history (10 convicts and counting).

Many of my ancestors came from England and so when I read that the Family Records Centre in Islington, north London was holding a free family history talk, I took the opportunity to go along to it.

After encountering the modern day Dick Turpin (in the form of Westminster parking inspectors), I found my way into the centre. – Tip 1: if you are going, either go by public transport or be prepared to pay £6.50 to park in the NCP parking centre near Bowling Green Alley.

So what does the centre hold? Basically, the ground floor contains shelves and shelves of big books listing births, deaths and marriages that have been registered in England and Wales from 1837. And loads of people pouring over them.

And the first floor contains things like census records, held either in microfilm, microfiche or on computers. And loads of people peering into them.

Its a place where time has been documented yet also stands still. You can lose yourself for hours among all the records. Tip 2: before you go there, have a bit of an idea of what you are looking for and take some basic information with you. Great grandmother’s possible birth years, the names of the people who once lived in your house 100 years ago, whatever. This helps you to make the most of your visit, in my view.

I didn’t manage to find any specific records to help fill in the gaps in my family history, but I did eliminate some possibilities. I now know that poor Emily May, whose husband James Wall died when she was only 25 years old, didn’t die in the ten years that followed his death in 1904.

So I guess she got remarried – sigh, time to go back to the Family Records Centre again, when I have more information.