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Five centuries of family tree unearthed

PUBLISHED: 15:46 08 May 2008 | UPDATED: 11:02 03 July 2010

BRYAN Harman from Great Yarmouth has a tall family tree - all 26 feet of it - tracing his ancestors back to the 1600s.

The 77-year-old retired civil engineer first embarked on the massive quest to find his family roots half a century ago but put it to one side for more than 40 years.

BRYAN Harman from Great Yarmouth has a tall family tree - all 26 feet of it - tracing his ancestors back to the 1600s.

The 77-year-old retired civil engineer first embarked on the massive quest to find his family roots half a century ago but put it to one side for more than 40 years.

But when his wife Rita died in 1995, he decided to rekindle his interest and since then he's delved back in time, pored over documents and researched on line going back over 16 generations.

And he intends taking it back even further admitting with a laugh it has become something of an obsession.

He said: “Funnily enough I didn't actually set out to try and build a family tree as such. There was a rumour in the family that there may be money at stake so I started to investigate and went back a couple of generations. As it happens there was no money after all but it started my curiosity of tracing those long distant ancestors.”

Mr Harman has one brother Emmanuel, who is 79 and also lives in the Yarmouth area and the brothers have also discovered another family tree linked to their own roots, fruits and branches.

He said: “It's a question of knowing where to draw the line. The north Norfolk branch's name is Powditch . It is this name we have traced back to 1663. It appears that all of our family are Norfolk born and bred.

“One particular interesting branch revealed one relation on my mother's side was James David, a well known builder in this area. He was responsible for the original grammar school, the Empire and some houses which still exist on the Marine Parade in Gorleston. I believe he was a councillor for Yarmouth and died in 1920.”

Another ancestor found was Eric Jeffrey Harman who, in his 20s, was a Spitfire pilot and was killed during the second world war after his plane was shot down over Greece.

Tracing a family tree can be a long and arduous task as church records only go back a couple of hundred years and Mr Harman found the spelling of his family surname had changed at one point in history, which did not make the task any easier.

He said: “It was during the 1880s that the name was changed from Harmer to Harman.”

In all, he has found a total of 242 different surnames with a total of 985 individuals, 288 marriages and 16 generations.

To achieve this impressive list he had to consult a total of 21,598 text records, involving everything from newspaper articles, to church records, websites and the library facilities at Norwich.

One further point to emerge was the fact that the average life span for his relations was 47 years and nine months.

He said: “Whenever I buy a national newspaper I always look in the deaths column and I have made some contact this way. I want to carry on, I have two grown up children aged 46 and 52 and would like to see the tree continue.

“A lot of pre-1600 texts are in Latin and I'm afraid I can't read it, but I won't let that stop me.”

If anyone can help Mr Harman with translating Latin script, he can be contacted on 01493 300287 or by e-mail on b.harman@ntlworld.com

ends


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