The search for family roots 

Seeking out our ancestors is becoming a global phenomenon

click to flip through (6) Douglas family picture 1911. In this Douglas family picture, John Barker's mother is the one-year-old seated on the ground on the left next to her sister, Margaret, with the bow in her hair — third from the left on the bottom row;
  • Douglas family picture 1911. In this Douglas family picture, John Barker's mother is the one-year-old seated on the ground on the left next to her sister, Margaret, with the bow in her hair — third from the left on the bottom row;
 

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Sometime it's an interest in how historical facts relate to families, he added.

"There's a whole range of interests out there," said Whitlock, 63. "Genealogy is probably the number one hobby in the world these days."

Whitlock runs a website that contains data on 50,000 people with the same surname.

It operates as a clearing-house for information and several thousand people have contributed their findings to it over the last 40 years.

Whitlock said he started out in 1967, when people had to travel to find out information, rather than using the Internet.

"When you actually go and see the places these people lived and you go in the basement of some ancient mansion in England and realize you're seeing the same stones that your family in the 1600s walked on, it's quite fascinating," he added. "We use it as a reason to travel. We travel all over the world to visit people and places that have some sort of connection."

He said he tries to get to Salt Lake City once a year to access the huge database run by the Mormon Church.

"They subscribe to data bases all over the world," he said. "Last time I was there I downloaded 400 wills. I was able to get them without going to England and sit in a lot of different records offices."

Whitlock said the advent of DNA testing has opened up a whole new way of finding out if people are related.

"I had an African American family that wanted to confirm that they were actually descended from a Whitlock slave owner and DNA actually showed them that," he added. "People want to know, 'Where did I come from and why do other people have the same name as me?'"

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