Discover your family history the CWU way!


With TV programmes like Who Do You Think You Are? and the proliferation of online genealogy sites, more people are delving into their family history than ever before.

And now, thanks to the Time Team-like sleuthing skills of two CWU reps – Scott Taylor of Glasgow & Motherwell Branch and Denise Hennigan of  Eastern No.6 – an ever-increasing number of CWU members are accessing the union’s online learning portal for guidance on how to find out about their ancestors – often dredging up unexpected surprises from the past along the way!

Developed with the help of Paul Dovey of the union’s Education & Training department, the Discovering Family History course on CWU Left Click provides the fundamental pointers required to help budding time-travellers populate and understand their family tree.

Key elements of the course, which aims to help students cut through the jargon of genealogy, include guidance on the interpretation of old writing and language, how to extract information from official documents and how to place the findings of such research into a historical context.

Scott Taylor’s fascination with family history began in July 2013 when he attended a meeting with the Workers’ Education Association in Glasgow with the aim of setting up a genealogy course. Visiting the renowned Mitchell Library, Scott immediately recognised the treasure-trove of information in official documents, like birth and death certificates, that can provide powerful pointers to the life and times of even long-forgotten ancestors.

Inspired to help others conduct their own historical investigations, he designed a course and associated activities to run in his local ‘Key 2 Learn’ union learning centre. He soon realised, however, members wanted to access the information at a time of their choosing, so accordingly developing  the course for the Key 2 Learn website accordingly.

Denise Hennigan, meanwhile, had already been working on her own family history for many years – successfully tracing her family tree right back to the year 1100!

Having often helped her work colleagues begin the adventure of researching their own family histories, a chance conversation Denise had with Paul led to a discussion about how CWU Left Click could potentially help other members across the country with their family history investigations.

Paul was already aware of Scott’s work – and it immediately struck  him that combining  the two reps’ skills on Left Click was the obvious way forward.

Having transposed their expertise for easy access on Left Click with Paul’s assistance, both Scott and Denise agreed to become course tutors to assist those who get stuck.

“The great thing is that, because the Discovering Family History course was developed and designed using the skills of two of our own reps, it can always be available free of charge to all CWU members – when and where they want it, without being tied to term timetables or restricted availability,” Paul stresses.

It didn’t take long for Paul to catch the genealogy bug himself – resulting in some fascinating finds.

“In researching family members who worked on the Great Western Railway I discovered that, during the General Strike, upper class scab labour caused so much damage in 8 days that it took two years to fix!” he explains.

Assistant secretary for education, training and equal opportunities, Trish Lavelle, concludes: “All credit to Scott and Denise who have devoted their time and energy to making the free Discovering Family History course on Left Click one that compares with the very best out there.

“It stands as a testament to what can be achieved by collective effort. I hope that even more of our members will use and enjoy it.”

To find out more about the Discovering Family History course, and the wide range of other learning resources on CWU Left Click – visit