Meet Judy Purkiss – Genealogist & Record Agent

“Does it get depressing looking for dead people all the time?”  It’s a question I’ve been asked a few times when I say I’m a genealogist.

I’m Judy Purkiss and my response is, “No, because a person’s death is usually only a small part of their life story. When I’m searching for your ancestor, I’m looking for details of their life.  When and where they were born, married, if they had children, what their occupations were, were they involved in the community, hobbies and interests, criminal charges, any military service, the times they lived in and were they a noble prize winner (ok, I haven’t found one of them yet! 😊).  But you get the idea, I’m looking at the whole person to understand who they were and to add context to their life.

Like many genealogists my journey into family history started with an interest in my own family.  I obtained a Diploma in Family Historical Studies by writing a thesis that involved family legends that had been re-told over a few generations and how different aspects of these legends were proved and other parts of the stories were ruled out.  Our family now has a factual version of the family tales that have been passed down!

Over the last ten years I’ve researched family in Australia, England & Scotland for many individuals and also a few companies.   I live in Western Australia and can therefore attend Western Australian archives when needed.  During this time I have been able to assist others to assess whether their family legends are based on truth, as well as more general research to put together family trees or to locate where their family was from or went to.  Some stories are stranger than fiction, others show tragedy and strength, some hold hard times and sadness, and yes some skeletons in the closet have been found.  Most have been exciting or answered questions that families had, a few have required tact when explaining the unexpected find.

Technology improvements and digitisation of records over the years for both paper documents and DNA have definitely helped achieve results at a faster pace for clients now than in the past.  However, it must also be remembered that not all documents are available online and it is important to have a thorough check of paper based archives as well.  Given the volume of documents already digitised, it is truly amazing how many more have not yet been digitised and it’s wonderful to be able search through original books and registers.

I am a member of AAGRA, SAGS, FamilyHistoryWA and GenealogySA, and have had articles published in several family history magazines.  I love the variety that each project provides as each family has a different story waiting to be told.

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