I'm Denise Colbert, the new Engagement Co-ordinator for Free UK Genealogy, and I will be supporting communications and volunteering. I've had a varied career but during the last few years I have used my skills and experiences volunteering with Wigan Archives and Local Studies which has brought me to this happy point.
I started out as a secondary science teacher. History has always been my passion, but my father suggested that science was the future and 'where the jobs would be' so I took his sage advice and really enjoyed learning about the scientific principles that underpin our everyday lives. I suspected that teaching would satisfy my desire to gain and share knowledge, and it really did. However, after a time I started to feel pulled in a different direction. I was devouring historical fiction, quizzing the elders in my family about their elders, and obsessively watching 'Who Do You Think You Are?'. The winds of change were blowing!
I started volunteering in Wigan Archives and Local Studies around this time. My teaching background enabled me to develop and deliver a series of Local History workshops for primary schools, which were very well received. They then contracted me to do more, going forward. While compiling my own Family Tree I helped others with theirs, conducting Family History workshops in the archives. I soon began to offer my research services in a professional capacity, which led to me being contracted to perform genealogical research on canal boatmen families for The National Waterways Museum at Ellesmere Port. I still remain actively involved with Wigan Archives, writing articles for Past Forward, their quarterly local history publication.
I realised during this time that heritage has a great capacity to engage people of all ages and abilities, and can be quite therapeutic. I set up Heritage for Health CIC, which offers bespoke local history-based services for people who could benefit from them, including those with dementia, autism and Asperger's.
I'm excited to be joining the Free UK Genealogy team, and really looking forward to the coming months.