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32 Ancestors

Every person on this planet has exactly 32 great-great-great grandparents, genetically speaking. This website is my attempt to provide the human stories behind the 32 ancestors of my children’s heritage.

The main navigation for the site is the Ancestor Chart. It is always available on the main top menu and also buttons linking to this page are available at the foot of most pages. If you click on the name of any individual ancestor it will load a page of stories and anecdotes about that person.

Since I completed my original 32 ancestors project, I have written more articles about other members of our family. These can be read at Recent Posts.

Click on Name in Box to view Personal Story

How do we make sense of the future, if we don’t understand the past?

When I was a young student of architecture, many years ago, the old joke used to be that architecture students only took books out of the University Library if they had lots of pictures in them. It’s quite true, but pictures are worth a thousand words, so this website has plenty of pictures.

The format and style of this website is intended to be more magazine than book. Something you can browse, rather than read from cover to cover. It is intended as a light hearted look at some of the stories about our ancestors, and is not in any way intended as a scholarly study. 

It is very easy for a family historian to just become a custodian of names and dates. Obviously, the names and dates must be accurate and provably so, but I want this website to try and tell the stories of the lives our ancestors lived between the start and end dates of their lives.

Some of the stories on these pages make uncomfortable reading; slavery, illegitimacy, colonialism, electoral fraud, bankruptcy, child abuse, lunatic asylums, adultery, robbery and murder to mention a few. Where I have used sources that were present at the time, I have resisted the temptation to adapt their accounts to contemporary attitudes and sensibilities. History is not there for us to like or dislike. It is not ours to erase or adapt, because it belongs to all of us.

I realise that other families share some of the 32 ancestors on this website. I would love to hear from anybody who is interested in these stories. I have enabled “comments” on the pages on this site, so do leave a comment. All comments are welcome, particularly those that provide further information or correct errors. Comments are moderated, so there may be a short delay between you posting a comment and it being released to the website. 

Thomson and Thompson

Thompson and Thomson (a spelling lesson)

Anyone familiar with the Tintin books will have heard of the two incompetent detectives called Thompson and Thomson. They were identical except for the shape of their moustaches and the spelling of their surnames. Thompson had a bushy moustache and liked to introduce himself as Thompson with a silent “P” as in “Psychiatrist”. On the other hand Thomson had a splayed moustach and liked to introduce himself as Thomson with no “P” as in “Venezuela”.

In England the surname is normally spelt “Thompson”, but in Scotland the surname is spelt “Thomson”. Our family are from Scotland so we spell our surname “Thomson” with no “P” as in “Venezuela”.

I hope that is all now clear.

Ian Thomson, Bath, UK, 2022


I got the idea for this website from Richard Knott who created a much more ambitious website called 64 Regency Ancestors.  Our family trees overlap and he has kindly given me permission to reproduce the stories he researched and wrote about Nicholas Knox/Mary Butler and Richard Hine/Susan Treeby. 


  1. Brault Kelpin
    20th December 2023 @ 00:05

    Wonderful site, and an inspiration. I discovered it while looking for background on James and Isabella Thompson as their children’s baptisms show in my copy of the St. Paul’s church registers, Fort Chipewyan. What a good job you’ve done. I noticed an error, however, that you may want to correct. Your photo of St. Paul’s Anglican church is actually the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Roman Catholic church in Fort Chipewyan. This beautiful 1909 building and the rectory (Fathers’ House) which appear in your photo were both destroyed by arson in 2022.

    I can provide you with my own photograph of the Anglican church of St. Paul the Apostle for your article if you wish. I was baptized there in 1961.



    • Ian Thomson
      20th December 2023 @ 10:01

      Thanks Brault, I’m always grateful for corrections and yes I would love a copy of the correct church. I will email you. You mention that you have access to the church registers of St Pauls. I believe that James and Isabella’s daughter Marion was born there in 1882. Does she appear in the register? I have written an article about her too, based on an account her daughter gave to my father.



  2. Shona MacLeod
    14th December 2023 @ 14:07

    Fabulous resource, so happy to have come across it and learned more of the lives of some of my ancestors, I can pass this information down to my children and theirs. Thank you for your great idea and efforts.
    Shona, daughter of John Murdo, son of Jessie


    • Ian Thomson
      14th December 2023 @ 16:27

      Hi Shona, Glad you found it interesting. Feel free to share with your family. I remember John Murdo, and Jessie was my Dad’s sister.


  3. Ian P Russell
    5th March 2023 @ 13:46

    Very clean easy to use interface, well done Ian.

    There is so much interesting history and background in the tree. I must get back to working on mine !


    • Ian Thomson
      5th March 2023 @ 13:49

      Hi Ian. Thanks for the comment. Did you try checking the option to be informed of replies to comments?



  4. Andrew
    23rd February 2023 @ 16:20

    Ian you have been on a most interesting ancestral journey. I was particularly interested in the Richard Knox and Mary Butler story as I am very familiar with the Barbican and the narrow streets and of course not forgetting the Plymouth Gin distillery where I have spent a happy hour or so on more than one occasion!

    I now eagerly look forward to your next journey and reading about your 64 ancestors.


    • Ian Thomson
      23rd February 2023 @ 17:50

      Thanks Andrew. 64 ancestors would be a step too far, but I am now working on stories that are peripheral to the direct line of descent. I am doing these in the form of a blog as they do not appear on the Ancestor Chart.

      You can read the latest post about The First Lewis Woman in Athabasca. Needless to say she was Mrs Thomson!



  5. Claire Down
    21st January 2023 @ 22:19

    This must have taken forever to do. I love the anecdotes and learning about how each generation lived. Love the photos being able to also put context to the photos you have on your walls.
    Thanks so much for doing this. Have you shared with the turners?? xx


    • Ian Thomson
      22nd January 2023 @ 09:18

      It took a lot longer than I expected. Perhaps, you could do the honours and share with the Turners. I’m not sure I have email addresses for them.


  6. Jennifer Tarry
    12th January 2023 @ 13:29

    A brilliant job so far, Ian! Glad you were able to use so much of Dad’s work done in the days of pen and paper! I’ve learnt a lot I didn’t know. Keep at it!


    • Ian Thomson
      12th January 2023 @ 13:32

      Thanks Jenny. It’s taken a lot longer than I thought it would, so I’ll be having a break for a while.


  7. James A. Thomson
    10th January 2023 @ 19:45

    What a wonderful legacy you have provided for contemporary as well as future generations of Thomson and Turner Families.
    My wife Donna commented on the fact that I also share the receding hairline as do you. Point of interest is that Donna and I
    share the same wedding day March 12 as your Grandparents John and Henrietta. I found the dialogue, photos and written notes
    totally fascinating. Well done Ian!

    We send our Love and Good Wishes to All.
    James & Donna Thomson


    • Ian Thomson
      10th January 2023 @ 19:52

      Thank you so much for those kind words. I do hope you enjoy your trip to Southern Italy in May. It should be delightful then. Still green and spring flowers, before the heat of the summer scorches everything.
      Love and Best Wishes to all in Vancouver.
      Ian & Anne


  8. Ian Russell
    10th January 2023 @ 06:13

    What a wonderful legacy you have created for your descendants.

    The format is easy to navigate and invites added content.

    I have only read a few pages but they are interesting. They give an insite into the people’s lives and the times they lived in.

    Well done. A magnificent piece of work.



    • Ian Thomson
      10th January 2023 @ 09:23

      Thank you Ian


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