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The genealogist going back to his roots

JOURNEY OF DISCOVERY: Adrian Stone outside a mural in Bristol dedicated to the Windrush Generation

TEN YEARS ago when his mother fell seriously ill, Adrian Stone began looking into his family history – concerned that vital information and values would be lost if his mother passed away.

“The thought of her almost passing that would have been like a book closing – all of those stories, her histories,” he said.

The voyage of discovery for Stone started with learning more about his grandparents – when they came to the UK, what their names were, when they were born and so on.

Stone put together a basic family tree, collected oral histories from surviving relatives and he has compiled these discoveries and documents within a book as a way of preserving the findings for generations to come. A surprising discovery that Stone and his family made was that one of his son’s school teachers was actually a distant relative.

Bristol-born Stone said: “It was really incredible to discover that his school teacher was his actual cousin.”

But that hasn’t even been the most exciting gem of information Stone has unearthed.

“Most people, especially if you come from the Caribbean you kind of embrace Africa as your ancestral homeland but to find an actual African place of origin is, I guess, what the quest is for most people.

“So one of the most incredible discoveries for me is tracing back my family tree sort of 200 years, [and] finding my actual African ancestor that came to Jamaica and was enslaved on a plantation.

“I actually found the first person that came from Africa to Jamaica and that was somebody who was born around 1791 that came over about aged 16 or so,” he said.

It took Stone around four years to come across that kind of record. Piecing together the puzzle was no easy feat and the common practise of using pet names and nicknames among elder relatives was just one of the challenges he had to overcome.

Stone describes the process as “incredibly difficult” to start with as it requires the possession of a considerable amount of information in the initial stages.

“It was incredibly difficult because from the beginning. You would have to know quite a fair amount to find that particular ancestor. For example, if the child was born out of wedlock, wasn’t born during marriage, then there were things like knowing the mother’s surname, which helps the research,” he said.

Now, through his company Own History, Stone runs genealogy workshops in which he provides, among other things, expert assistance and helps others to understand how to find what they are looking for using the digital databases and how the information they hold is catalogued. In recent years ancestry DNA technology has become increasingly popular as people seek to trace their roots, but Stone said there are pros and cons to such tools.

“The DNA technology has enabled people to get through the brick walls and what I mean by that is when the paper trail runs dry. It then becomes very difficult to find any connections with any particular African ancestors, which is what most people are trying to find,” he said.

There has been increased interest in Stone’s workshops, especially in the wake of the Windrush 70th anniversary and the recent immigration scandal.

“Since the Windrush scandal, the conversations are [opening up], as before it was a cultural thing for people not to necessarily talk about their past,” he said.

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