Keen historian Michael J. Rochford set up Heir Line Ltd. in 2009 along with his wife, Caroline. Together they run a thriving family history business with a growing reputation across the globe for being at the top of their profession.
Michael has received praise from clients from around the world, who tell him his work is second to none. It was through his genealogy work that he became interested in writing, and hopes to pen future novels and non-fiction history books based upon his rummages through the annals of history.
He is currently working on his second local history title, an exciting glimpse at the history of Nostell Priory, West Yorkshire, for Pen & Sword.
Keep checking back for updates!
There is an ever-growing media interest in Ancestry by Heir Line’s brilliant family history stories. Click here for recent newspaper articles or wander through our vaults of archived news, features and book reviews from 2011/2012 and 2013/2014!
Have you ever wondered about the secrets and lies that lay tangled among the knarred old branches of your family tree? Some trees, I’m pleased to say, have relatively few; they have sturdy roots and strong branches that reach high into the sky, taking you on a journey into the clouds as you follow their every twist and turn. Others, however, are riddled with them; they grow from the branches like sour apples; forbidden fruit that hold momentous consequences for those foolhardy enough to pick them.
In 2010 Michael was approached by Paul Beetham, a Leeds businessman whose late mother had kept many secrets hidden from her family, and he needed Heir Line’s assistance to unravel the mysteries in his mother’s past.
Born Patricia McManus, Paul’s mother had come to Yorkshire from Australia as a war bride in 1946. When quizzed by her children about her family history, she claimed to have immigrated to Perth from her native Ireland with her wealthy parents, and even had a picture of their hired help: a black lady in a floral skirt.
However, after noticing her passport had been doctored, and discovering a birth certificate the family thought lost, Michael was able to piece the puzzle back together. As the weeks passed and more and more clues were uncovered, Michael soon began to realise he’d stumbled upon something quite unique, as bit by bit he unfurled Paul’s incredible ancestry like a rich tapestry that had been locked away in a forgotten drawer.
The black lady in the photograph was in fact Patricia’s mixed-race mother, born out of wedlock to an Aboriginal woman and a powerful white settler who owned extensive lands and indentured natives in Western Australia. Patricia’s story turned out to be a tale of love, loss, adventure and discovery spanning four generations, three centuries and two continents, with plenty of secrets and lies thrown in for good measure.
With Paul’s blessing, Michael has turned this astonishing family saga into a spell-binding historical novel, which is currently in the hands of a London-based literary agency who praised the manuscript for its compelling narrative.
With the help of various organisations in both the UK and WA, (including the Department of Aboriginal Affairs, the West Australian Genealogical Society and the Australian Centre of Indigenous History, as well as information gleaned from an array of primary source material such as archived newspapers, the diaries of Paul’s ancestors and first hand accounts of the descendants of characters in the book), Michael has made the story as historically accurate as possible. He left no stone unturned, and even consulted Sally Morgan, the author of the best-selling book My Place, who was similarly brought up never knowing about her own Aboriginal heritage.
Following the Songlines
Michael J. Rochford, Heir Line’s genealogist, and Paul Beetham, local entrepreneur
A for Authors Literary Agency
Historical fiction, based on a true story
In discussion with potential publishers
The detail in my account is a result of the time and funds I was given to research this particular story and I am very keen to have it told as a piece of historical fiction. Depicting real stories and events in this way is the reason why the likes of Wolf Hall have proved so popular. There are literally hundreds, thousands perhaps, of accounts of Tudor England (I own several myself!) but these books are generally unappealing to a mainstream audience. However, as a work of fiction, Hilary Mantel has brought the same characters from the reference books to life, making them accessible to many more readers than would pick up any of the textbooks. I want the same exposure for Following the Songlines as I feel it is what Paul's story deserves.
Wakefield Then and Now
Extraordinary Tales from the Merrie City
Michael J. Rochford
Pen & Sword
DATE OF PUBLICATION:
Illustrated paperback, in black and white
WHERE TO BUY:
Rickaro Books, Horbury
Wakefield Cathedral bookshop
Pen & Sword's online shop
Other local stores
MICHAEL'S FAVOURITE LOCAL STORY:
The day in the early 19th century when a dare-devil aeronaut was due to make a flight over Wakefield in his shiny new balloon, but falling ill, he sent his nervous younger brother to complete the task on his behalf. Unfortunately, the stoic sibling was unfamiliar with the controls and pulled the wrong lever at a vital moment, sending him and the balloon crashing to the ground! Find out if he made it out alive!
The escaping bear who’d had enough of being a Victorian showpiece; tragedy narrowly averted over the skies of Wakefield when a balloonist lost control in 1827; secret passages and hidden relics; and dark tales of determined village ghosts are among many enchanting stories told within the pages of Wakefield Then and Now: Extraordinary Tales from the Merrie City.
In this fascinating book about his home city, Michael J. Rochford has gathered dozens of intriguing accounts from the annals of Wakefield folklore, presenting a quirky and insightful historical tour. Captivating images from times long forgotten in the form of early photographs, topographical drawings and romanticised paintings bring the stories to life before your eyes, as modern photographs contrast how things were with how the proud city appears today.
So, take a step into the past and journey through Wakefield, learning about Robert Hood and his wife Matilda; the town’s beloved Cliff Tree; the first public railway; boggarts; haunted mansions and much more…
Michael was born in the old Manygates maternity hospital in Wakefield and went to school, college and university in the city. In 2010 he married Caroline, a local girl, at Wakefield Cathedral. Her ancestors have long lived in the area, even having a street (Hargrave Square) named after them.
Michael has always had an interest in local history but it wasn’t until he decided to pursue a career in genealogy that his passion for the long forgotten stories of the ‘Merrie City’ was really stirred. Over the last few years he has amassed a huge collection of books and pamphlets on Wakefield, some hundreds of years old. The tales told within the pages of these rare publications deserve a modern audience lest they are forgotten to history, which is why he set about writing this quirky and charming book.
~~ ANCESTRY BY HEIR LINE LTD ~~
Books by Michael J. Rochford: Professional Genealogist
"Escaped bears, out-of-control hot air balloons and tales of secret passages - this book has it all. Rochford's enthusiasm for his home city is evident in this book which combines folklore and lively stories with fascinating historical detail. Wakefield Then & Now paints an intriguing picture of changing cityscape that you'll want to explore too."
- Who Do You Think You Are? Magazine, November 2016
"Terrific local colour and interest for people from the area. Brilliant."
- Books Monthly magazine, November 2016