The woman who wants to look into your past

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Fiona Nimmo was on top of the world. She had just been bridesmaid at her sister Alyson’s wedding, celebrated her 21st birthday in Florida with her friends and was beginning to start her third year at the University of Stirling doing her degree in history.

However, her life was turned upside down later that year in 2001. She woke up one morning before lectures started, with a pain down the side of her face. She couldn’t brush her teeth, something was wrong.

“My mum Janette came to see me that day,” she said. “She thought I had a stroke. I had nerve damage in my neck and shoulder and I had lost my sense of taste and smell. I was in shock. It was deeply troubling to be in pain and not know what it was.“

After seeing a number of specialists and doctors Fiona was eventually diagnosed with Ramsay Hunt Syndrome which results in facial paralysis.

“It forced me to pull out of uni for a semester the pain was that bad,” she said. “It was very frustrating.”

Fiona (36) was restricted to only a few hours a day of being “with it” as heavy pain killers forced her to sleep a lot but this episode in her life awakened the genealogist inside her.

“Robert, my dad, saw I was low so tried everything to keep my spirits up and that is when I got looking into my family tree,” she said.

“He realised that although I wasn’t able to do things physically, I was still sharp mentally so this was a great way of keeping my mind active.

“I always had an interest in history, researching and finding out what happened to things. I suppose I get that from my dad as he was interested in history. He told me how he drove tanks and did his national service. He passed away eight years ago but he was my inspiration and gave me encouragement.”

Despite missing a chunk of her third year through illness, Fiona graduated with a BA in history after doing a summer course.

She then worked at the Falkirk Wheel for three years and spent a further eight years at Stirling Castle with Historic Scotland, but the idea of turning her genealogy hobby into a career was a desire that burned deeply within her.

“Working on my family tree has given me a sense of perspective. I believe you need to delve into the past to help make sense of your future,” she said.

“It’s exciting researching the family.

“You never know what you are going to find out it can be both good and bad. I got back to the 16th century on my dad’s side of the family. We haven’t got very far out of Bo’ness in 300 years. We’ve only moved out a few streets. We’re mostly textile workers and miners.

“Friends and family have come up and asked me to find out about their ancestry. I’m working on my mum’s side now she is one of nine in her family so it could get quite complicated

“I’ve started up this new business Nimmo Genealogy in October. I do it from home which is great because I can work in a suitable environment and choose the hours that I work.

“I’m really looking forward to investigating other people’s family ancestry and seeing what surprises come up and their reactions when they find out.”

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