Published: March 11, 2020
Published: March 11, 2020

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Alex Helps Colleagues Discover Family Secrets

Not everybody is brave enough to dig into their family history. You never know what skeletons you might find lurking in the closet. But when Alex started sifting through his family tree, he unearthed some unexpected surprises.

Alex Mowat, PPG systems analyst expert based at our Birstall site, UK, has a very interesting hobby. When he was a young boy, he was given a handwritten list of names on a few A4 sheets of paper going back along his paternal family line 250 years, all the way back to his seven-times-great grandfather.

He turned it into a visual family tree and gave it pride of place on his bedroom wall. A passion was born. The rest… is history!

A Historical Step into the Future

It wasn’t until about 10 years ago that he discovered genealogy websites. He signed up to one and transposed his hand-drawn tree onto their site. In moving to the 21st century, he was suddenly better connected to his ancestors than he had ever been.

Very soon, I discovered that the search engine behind this website was a very powerful beast, constantly trying to match billions of records maintained by members around the world.

When he made matches, other members invited Alex to see their trees and to share his own.

My tree started to expand quite quickly – mainly through the hard work of other people, admittedly – and I was now well and truly addicted to this fascinating hobby.

Alex now has almost 20,000 ‘relatives’ in his tree, and it is still growing! Researching into census records and other genealogy archives gives him a tremendous sense of satisfaction, especially when he discovers some new facts about his forebears!


Royalty in Our Midst!

Alex’s family in the UK goes back to 1068 – they came over from France, just missing the famous Battle of Hastings – and is linked to many an interesting historical figure!

The Scottish branch of his family started around 1250, but the final member on the English/Welsh side (Sir Ranulph de Monte Alto), died in 1327 when he was the keeper of Chester Castle.
Another ancestor, Master Gunner James Findlay (who fired the first ever 1 o’clock gun salute at Edinburgh Castle in 1863) had royal ancestry (to the Scottish Crown – King Robert the Bruce) through marriage. This means that since all kings and queens of Britain were linked by marriage to all other crowned heads of state throughout Europe and beyond, our Alex is descended from some very influential personages indeed!

More recently, and more locally, Alex’s great-grandfather’s nephew was one of the founders of Whitcliffe Mount School in Cleckheaton (around 1905), and he also endowed the local library – still called the Mowat Library.

Doctor Who Do You Think You Are

Alex was very surprised to find he was already related to his wife(!) – no blood relationship, thankfully (although it does explain a lot) – and that she is related to the current Doctor Who actress, Jodie Whitaker.

While helping to compile family trees for other people, he found that he’s also related to a colleague, who sits no more than two meters away from him in the IT Department at Birstall!

Alex Mowat, a History in the Making

We have been fortunate enough to have had Alex with us for almost 33 years, “from the early days of IBM System 38 through to the current iSeries Power8 AS400 machines”.

As well as looking after the AS400, Alex assists users throughout Europe with their BW (Bex Analyzer Reporting) requests, and anything else that crosses his desk.

The variety in my role is what makes my work at PPG so interesting for me because every day is different.

His passion for genealogy helps in his work, too. Just as when he finds a name incorrectly spelled in his ancestry research, it helps to have that same feeling of determination to solve an issue at work.

One of the things that his great, great, grandchildren will find when they look up their great, great, grandfather is that he appeared on the Krypton Factor TV game show in 1993 and reached the Grand Final.

They’d be interested, too, to learn that Alex was a club fencing coach for about 25 years. But nowadays, when he’s not exploring the past, he’s playing golf or snooker, reading, walking or travelling (and drinking malt whisky!).

Who knew we had such a historically important person as a colleague? Are you related to anyone interesting? You could always contact Alex for help in finding out!

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