The Apple Doesn’t Fall Far From The Tree

Posted on: 08 September 2008 by Gareth Hargreaves

A quarter of adults in the UK have discovered they share similar hobbies and occupations to their ancestors.

Despite changing times and modern technology, many Brits have discovered they have not only inherited a surname or eye colour from their ancestors but also a ‘hobby gene’, with similar hobbies and career paths being passed down through the generations. 

Research commissioned by, has found a quarter of people have discovered they share either the same pastime - 17 per cent - or profession - 9 per cent - as some of their ancestors.

While just 2 per cent of men today work in a traditional ‘father and son’ family trade, one in twenty Brits continue to take part in family hobbies that have been passed down through several generations, such as Morris dancing, fishing and sailing, in their leisure time.

Encouragingly, it’s not just the older generation that is keeping up with traditions, as nearly a fifth of the under 35s have also discovered they share a hobby or leisure interest with their forebears.

Boris Johnson discovered his interest in politics and journalism has been passed down from his great-grandfather, while Patsy Kensit recently discovered two generations of walking stick finishers in her family tree, while researching her family history for the BBC’s Who Do You Think You Are?

Many actors and actresses have their talent in their genes, such as the Redgraves and Barrymores, with Drew Barrymore able to trace her ‘acting gene’ back nearly 200 years.  

“We tend to think of the trades and pastimes our ancestors participated in as outdated, but it appears that while many specific occupations may have changed or disappeared over time as social trends and the economy has shifted, many of these core skills and interests are still being passed down from generation to generation," says Elaine Collins at

"You would be surprised with how many people have found that they actually come from a long line of doctors, actors, sailors or stamp collectors.”

“Many people polled would have only discovered the link after tracing their family tree and learning more about their roots and where they came from, which can be both rewarding and insightful."

"Just speaking to family members can help you to plot the first branches of your family tree, and there are many records available online to help you trace your ancestors as far back as the 1500s to discover who they were and where they lived.”

Interestingly, the ‘hobby gene’ is strongest for people in Scotland and Northern Ireland with 31 per cent having discovered ancestors with similar occupations and hobbies. Londoners also have the ‘hobby gene’ with 27 per cent sharing similar occupations and hobbies with their ancestors. 25 per cent of people in the South West and Wales have also found the ‘hobby gene’.

People in Scotland and Northern Ireland seem to be more traditional with 8 per cent handing down a family trade or pastime from great-grandparents to grandparents to today’s generations.

Web Links

Find My Past - Access to over 600 million records dating as far back as 1538. Family historians and novice genealogists can search for their ancestors among comprehensive collections of birth, marriage and death records, parish records, military records, census, migration and occupation directories, and current electoral roll data.

BBC: Who Do You Think You Are?

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