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About the study


It all started with a lie.

An eight-year old boy was sitting at his desk in Kilimani school in Nairobi, Kenya, when the teacher asked the class, "Which of you has a family tree?" The boy looked around furtively as the hands of his school chums started to go up one by one. Beginning to feel left out his arm lifted almost involuntarily until there it stood high above his head in false satisfaction. What a family tree was he had no idea. He didn't really care, until "Bring them in tomorrow!" said the teacher. A mild panic filled his head; I will be caught out, he realised. What to do? 

That boy was me, and as soon as my parents got home that afternoon I begged their help. "Who begat you?" I asked urgently, and "who begat grandma?" Soon a small tree was forming on a sheet of paper showing me and my two brothers, my parents and their parents. Relief! The teacher wouldn't punish me after all. My elder brother got hold of it and drew a long line to the top of the page and wrote "Adam and Eve".

The seed had been sown and mighty oaks from small acorns grow. Within days I was writing to elderly cousins back in England asking innocent but blunt questions like "Who begat your father and mother?" "When did they die?" "How was Thomas born on November 1st when his mum and dad didn't marry till June?" And when letters returned a fortnight or two later imagine my excitement as I eagerly tore open the envelopes and transferred all the new names and dates to my steadily growing chart. In those days there were no worries about data protection and dates of birth and mothers’ maiden names soon populated the ever-growing pedigree.

It was always female relations I corresponded with. I cottoned on quickly to the fact that most men are not particularly interested. This meant that my early research was all on maternal lines - my mother's and my father's mothers’ principally. In fact my father positively put me off researching our own surname. "We don't know anyone from that side of the family." Many years later a skeleton tumbled out of a cupboard that I opened; sprawled out on the floor I realised why.

But a passion for genealogy had taken hold of me and when I was sent over to school in the UK my summer holidays would always include a cycle trip to country villages to stay with the vicar who would let me look through the original parish records. In those days they were still kept in the church chest. I would wander through the churchyard looking for names on gravestones and ponder over all the lives that had come and gone down the centuries. It was a lonely hobby, but a deeply satisfying one. Several times I even went up to London on my own to Somerset House on the Strand and searched through the hefty volumes and ordered a certificate. But this was a long and costly process in those days.

Then disaster struck. My masterpiece, the 16ft long roll of cartridge paper that I had so carefully researched for a decade and so meticulously written up, and which had led me to be introduced to the Queen Mother (“Are you related to anyone famous?” she asked, “Er no.”) got lost. Lost!! Would you Adam-and-Eve it?! It was no longer in the cupboard at home where it was always kept. I searched everywhere. Where had it gone? No one seemed to know. It – and all those years of research - had simply gone. No electronic back-ups existed in those days. Computers were way in the future, even photocopiers. I was bereft. In one blow I had lost all my relatives, past and present.

I had actually just left school then. I was entering a new world of university, new acquaintances and new ideas and although over the years that followed I often thought about my ancestors I had left their world.

Fast forward 32 years and for Christmas one year my mother unexpectedly gave me The Burke’s Peerage World Book of Brocketts. I flipped through the lists of names and addresses at the back and the flame of genealogical enquiry suddenly reignited. With the children leaving for universities themselves I might have some time to revive my old passion, I thought. And the rest is history, they say, family history.   

Variant names

Nowadays principally Brockett and Brocket, but scribal variants, not to mention errors, are numerous:

Name origin

The name Broket goes back to 1170, perhaps 1140. These dates are simply based on the oldest surviving record, so the name may well have been used earlier.  See .



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