Looking for help with your family tree?
My name is Jessica Feinstein and I am a professional genealogist. I am a member of the Register of Qualified Genealogists.
I have been researching my own family for many years, as well as teaching others how to do it and helping them share their family stories. I love to solve mysteries and I don’t give up – sometimes you just have to be patient and then all the pieces of the puzzle come together. Don’t leave it too late, whether you are researching your own ancestors or creating something to pass on to your descendants. Make sure that your family stories are not lost forever.
My father’s mother, Rose, used to tell me stories about her family when I was a child visiting her in Johannesburg, and I drew family trees showing all my cousins on rolls of computer print-out paper.
Rose gave me her parents’ wedding invitation from 1899 and this wonderful photo of them taken in the same year. On my mother’s side, I was lucky enough to inherit a treasure trove of letters written by her parents and other family members, and suitcases full of old photos.
I looked after all the artefacts I was given as well as I could as a child, by sticky-taping documents into notebooks (do not do this yourself!) and using photograph albums that left horrible sticky marks on everything. What I didn’t do, of course, was record my grandparents and other relatives telling me about their lives, or ask them those questions that would have been so useful if I had only known what to ask. Luckily, some of them left their own stories behind, like this page from my great-grandmother Fannie’s autobiographical notes.
When the Internet came along, a cousin introduced me to a wonderful website where you can build your family tree and share it with your relatives. From that moment on, I became seriously addicted. I set up my own site in 2008, signed up for subscriptions to well-known genealogy websites, and spent every waking moment checking the details I thought I knew, excitedly emailing family members with each new discovery, and building up my tree.
Then I was offered the chance to teach a genealogy course for beginners, and I realized that I had a lot of experience that I could share, including how not to do it! I decided to undertake a professional qualification, and completed the Postgraduate Certificate in Genealogical, Palaeographic and Heraldic Studies (Strathclyde University) in 2015, and their Postgraduate Diploma in 2016.
I love showing people how to research their own family trees, but also enjoy the fact that so many people ask me to do the research for them, and it’s a privilege to share the excitement of genealogical discoveries with them.
My voluntary roles include acting as an advisor for the Oxfordshire Family History Society, and editing Shemot, the journal of the Jewish Genealogical Society of Great Britain.
I now have descendants of my own, and am busy introducing my grandchildren to their ancestors.