In 2019, I decided to post a series of interviews with members of both the genealogical and old Hollywood communities, hoping to find common ground between the two and learn more about some people whose online presence I truly enjoy. Welcome to the Hollywood/GenesCrossover Interview series! For the original post in this series and to see the complete list of interviewees, click here.

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Paula is a prolific and colorful blogger on her very interesting Scotch and Irish ancestors. I enjoy her ability to uplift the common man’s story; it reminds us that one doesn’t have to be famous to be interesting and that everyone has a story worth hearing. Speaking of stories, here’s Paula’s:

Name: Paula

Tell us a little about yourself: 

I live with my husband and son in Lanarkshire, Scotland.  I work full time, I like to go to the gym and I try my best to find time to work on my family history.

What made you become interested in family history? Was there a particular moment, person, thing that first sparked your interest?

I had an interest when I was still in school but to be honest I had absolutely no idea where to start. I do admire people who got started way before the internet. My mother had told me that her grandparents were married in Scranton, Pennsylvania in the United States. This was kind of confusing as they were both from Lanarkshire and both died in Lanarkshire.  Initially I thought it must be a mistake but I did find their marriage record from 1888 which confirmed the story. It took me quite a while to discover what had happened and it wasn’t the romantic tale I might have hoped. My great grandfather decided to leave Scotland for a new life in America. Among those he left behind was a young neighbour. The young neighbour who discovered after he had gone (presumably after he was gone) that she was pregnant.  The baby was born in Scotland and then the two headed to America to track my great grandfather down. They married the day after she arrived in the US. The story goes that my great granny was unhappy in America so they came back to Scotland. They had 12 children in total. I met some of the grandchildren of that first born child and they had grown up believing that their grandfather was born in America. It was a bit of a shock for them to discover that he had been illegitimate and only took his father’s name after the parents marriage.

Genealogically speaking, what takes up most of your free time at the moment?


Recently I have been working through the Poor Law applications for North Lanarkshire.  My mother’s side of the family were Irish immigrants and they were poor.  They struggled but clearly couldn’t always make ends meet.  There are numerous applications giving me loads of information.  It’s not nice to find your family in the poorhouse but the records really are a goldmine for family historians.

What was/is your biggest brick wall and how did you bust it down/how are you working on busting it down?

I discovered that one of my great grandfathers was illegitimate and the couple I thought were his parents were in fact his grandparents.  I found a name for his biological father after discovering that his mother took him to court to prove paternity.  I couldn’t however identify the man.  I thought I had reached a dead end until DNA gave me not one but two matches to his descendants.  Using the results helped me piece together his life proving paternity after nearly 140 years.

What is your favorite website(s) related to family history research and genealogy? Why would you recommend it and what makes it special?

I actually like Twitter for Family History.  It’s great for networking and I find that the majority of genies are very generous with their time and wisdom.  It’s great for an amateur like me. I’ve learned a lot. Tuesdays at 7pm I try my best to be around for #AncestryHour.  There’s always plenty of genealogy chat ad. It’s a really friendly and welcoming group.

Scotland’s People is where I spend most money.  It’s a fabulous resource but buying the necessary credits can be costly.

What advice would you give genies just starting out? 

You know what?  All the advice I would give is advice that I routinely ignore. I know I should stay more focussed and keep better records but I have to be like that at work and I quite enjoy jumping from one branch of the tree to another as and when I find a good new lead. If I ever turn pro I would certainly have to rethink that strategy!

What is your favorite classic film(s) and why (1900s-1960s)?

Apart from It’s A Wonderful Life I don’t really have a favourite. I love discovering a classic movie on TV on a Sunday afternoon that I can lie on the sofa and enjoy with tea and chocolate biscuits. Especially in the wintertime.

Who is your favorite classic film star(s) and why(1900s-1960s)?

James Stewart is my all time favourite.  He just had the kindest face.

Have you ever come across a connection to Hollywood (new or old) in any of your family history research? How so?

There was a family story about a cousin who was the nanny for Spencer Tracy’s family.  I couldn’t exactly prove it but I did find a bit of a connection.  You can read about it here.  https://shakingthebranches.blog/2019/01/06/newmains-to-new-york-mary-brawley-1903-1986/

What is your favorite TV show or film that relates to family, family history, and/or genealogy and why?

Depending on the celebrity I quite enjoy Who Do You Think You Are. I don’t like it so much when they skip back ten generations to find a connection to royalty.  I like the more ordinary stories.  Like my family tree I suppose.

Where can we find you?

I am on Twitter @msgeneaology. It took me months to notice the typo and it can’t be changed!  I have my blog which is Shaking The Branches which links to my Facebook page Shaking The Branches @MsGenealogy