THE AMAZING story of a Tavistock man’s background has illustrated the surprising results of family tree research.

New sessions are offered at Tavistock Library in how to make the most of researching family heritages.

One of the staff taking the sessions is Bridget Collinge who has had an excitng journey finding out the surprising history of her husband Martin’s family.

A family legend claimed Martin’s family was descended from a famous 16th century French noble.

Disappointingly Martin’s research conclusively proved that the family legend was wrong. Fortunately, the uncovered truth proved to be even more excitng!

Martin’s true family history contains many fascinatng stories including cotton mill owners in Oldham during the Industrial Revolution, a trial in a Lancashire bawdy court and a German family fleeing persecution in Europe.

Martin and Bridget not only researched online but have also amassed a large collection of photographs, documents and other items from the family, estate sales and online.

They also journeyed to visit archives and places in Germany, Texas and the UK collecting photographs, records and meetng people, bringing the past to life.

Bridget said: “It’s been an exciting rollercoaster ride. The truth is far from anything we were told about Martin’s family background.”

As an example, a Texan woman found an ancient notebook in an estate sale in Dallas. Researching online she linked it to Martin.

It turned out to be a diary penned by Heinriette Nohl, Martin’s four times great grandmother, born in 1809, who emigrated with her family from what was then Prussia to Texas fleeing persecution and taking part in one of the greatest migrations in human history.

The diary chronicles the pioneering family’s adventures including the months onboard the Neptune, a three-masted barque in 1849.

Subsequently Martin found online, a whole nineteenth century photograph album containing actual photographs of Heinriette Nohl, her family and their friends.

Martin’s great grandmother (great granddaughter of the diarist) met Martin’s great grandfather in San Antonio, where they married. The couple then returned to the UK, to live in Lancashire.

Bridget said: “We offer sessions in Tavistock Library to support people building their family trees and help people know where to start and where to resume if they’ve come to a brick wall in their research.

“We’ve had so many people go away really pleased at the results of their research and it’s very rewarding to see it.”