Sarah Pettyfer

Genealogist and Family historian

IHGS Higher Certificate in Genealogy



My background is in law, working as a solicitor for 18 years before taking a career break to have children. I am originally from Yorkshire but have lived in Surrey since 2012 having met my now husband, who is Surrey born and bred, whilst taking part in the 2011/12 Clipper Round the World Yacht Race. A great story to add to my own family history!

Taking a career break gave me the opportunity to spend more time furthering my own family history and to undertake some family history research for a couple of friends. Realising I found researching for others just as fascinating, I decided to turn my passion for family history into a new career. Thus, I embarked on the IHGS Higher Certificate course, which I completed in November 2020 and am currently studying for the IHGS Diploma to broaden my knowledge and understanding of record sources.

I am an Associate of AGRA (Association of Genealogists and Researchers in Archives) and a student member of RQG (Register of Qualified Genealogists). I am also a member of the Society of Genealogists, West Surrey Family History Society and East Surrey Family History Society.

Through the qualifications and research undertaken thus far, I have developed a particular interest in and a good knowledge of the wealth of pre 19th century records available which can provide much more insight into the lives of our ancestors and help develop their life story. After all, family history is far more than simply knowing who your ancestors were, it is also about how they lived and helped mould the lives we live today. For me there is nothing quite like the excitement of getting my hands on 300+ year old records to find ancestors and discover how they lived, whether they be agricultural workers or Lords of the Manor, copyhold tenants or Knights of the Realm. There is no such thing as a “boring” ancestor, finding out about the hard lives our ancestors led, leaves me with nothing but pride for all those who came before us.

As you have no doubt already guessed, we are a family of keen sailors, having already introduced our two young children to sailing and I was a keen scuba diver in my younger years, diving on many fascinating wrecks around the British Isles. I have also had a lifelong interest in criminology. These interests, coupled with my legal background, has also led to a particular interest in our criminal and maritime ancestors although I have yet to find any interesting criminals in my own family history!  The closest I have come is evidence of my publican ancestors holding inquests in their public houses and with one such ancestor, allegedly, having the 20th century Executioner, Albert Pierrepoint (who was also a publican), as a guest at his public house when he was undertaking his hangman duties in Yorkshire. A family rumour I would one day love to prove!

I am always excited to take on new projects and help you find your family history and help you understand how that family history has helped shaped who you are and where you are today.

Below are some of my round the world sailing memories