For building a family tree combines the need to retain the sharp mind of a personal investigator with a love of the past.
But now academics are warning that many people who take up genealogy might uncover more than they bargained for.
Delving into one’s ancestry can open up “a Pandora’s box” of secrets that can lead to serious family rows, according to sociologists who have studied the popular passtime.
It can reopen old wounds and shatter illusions about a family’s “respectable” history.
Illegitimate children, hidden affairs, troubled finances and deceit all await those determined to piece together their family’s past, found Dr Anne-Marie Kramer of Warwick University.