Intergenerational connections

The story goes something like this…

Maureen left school and started working in the office of a local weaving factory. At the factory, she met and became friends with powerloom weaver Jean. Maureen and Jean enjoyed socialising outside work. After their nights out, Maureen would drive Jean home, where Jean’s brother David also lived. David took a shine to Maureen and she to him. And so the courtship began.

Maureen and David got married, mixed their DNA, and made me.


So I exist, in part, because of weaving. Weaving was around me as a I grew up in Angus in the 1980s and 1990s, in the weaving factories that still operated in Kirriemuir and Forfar, and in the “Jute, Jam and Journalism” of Dundee. The first bar I pulled pints in was called The Osnaburg, named (I now know!) after the fabric that was once extensively woven in the area.

Back then, weaving was considered a dying trade with factories in the UK struggling to compete with cheaper production elsewhere in the world. Only a few still operate today. Technology was the future and a university education was the route to upward social mobility. So off I ventured to become a scientist in the field of human genetics. At that time, I didn’t know that weaving was (almost) in my DNA…

Your selvedges are very neat for a beginner. You must have been a weaver in a past life!

Weaving tutor to Lynne

It turns out that I come from a long line of Scottish weavers. By researching national records that span seven generations going back to 1841 and combining this with family records and memories, we (the family – it’s been a collective effort!) have found relatives in every generation who worked as weavers or in jobs related to weaving. This includes handloom weavers and factory powerloom weavers as well as yarn winders and a weaving factory office worker. We know when and where they did this, and have been able to follow the threads of weaving interwoven throughout our family history. It’s a story of working class women and men scraping a living from local production in a trade built on empire. It’s also a story of change, from weaving as a heritage skill to weaving as contemporary craft.

This project combines that family history of weaving with my previous scientific research in human genetics, using this very personal but – in some ways – universal story to think about the threads that run through families, the stories that are interwoven across generations and countries, and how these connect us to people and place.

This website is a work in progress. Links from the images below will be added as content is developed. Check back another time for more info, or get in touch if something you’re looking for is not yet published.


Embroidery showing family tree with weavers indicated

Maternal inheritance – an (almost?) unbroken line – mitochondrial DNA.

People and places

Mapping people and places in space and time.