BEFORE hitting 50 next year, former SNJ news editor Sandra Ashenford has compiled a bucket list of 50 goals to achieve before her birthday.

The aim is to do one every week.

LIST item no. 44 - make a family tree for the family

One of my favourite daytime television shows is Heir Hunters, which features firms who try to track down living relatives of people who have died without making a will.

If heirs can be found, the firms offer to pursue the claim on their behalf for a percentage of the inheritance, but if no-one is tracked down, the money eventually goes to the Treasury.

But the joy of the show is not that people receive an unexpected financial windfall – in fact, the amounts involved are often very small – it is that they feel a connection with family that they had long ago lost touch with or, in many cases, never knew at all.

Often the new-found heirs go on to meet long-lost cousins, or visit the towns where their unknown relatives previously lived.

They try to trace life stories, and to find out how connections were lost, and they are often saddened to think that someone from their wider family might have lived out their last few years alone.

But, as the stories unfold, it is so easy to see how families fracture; occasionally it will be due to a big falling out over some issue, often it is due to marital breakdown but mostly it is simply a case of people drifting apart because the business of life gets in the way.

I’m lucky enough to have my grown-up daughters and their families living very close by.

And, in fact, spouse and I are unusual among our friends and acquaintances in that we were both born and bred in the Stroud area.

Yet, for all that, the wider family tends to get together only for weddings and funerals, events from which the youngest members are sometimes excluded.

So, while I might never get around to tracing back the family tree much beyond my grandparents, I decided I would put down on paper the current generations so that my children can see all of their parents’ cousins and their cousins’ children and so on.

It is amazing how wide a piece of paper you need, but it is fascinating to see all of the names included there, and to try to work out the exact relationships as you move across the branches.