I was completely hooked
I thought I had no family. I was always a loner, never fitting in anywhere, feeling like a fish out of water. I became quite introverted and self sufficient. Then by pure chance I moved to the county where my father had taken me when I was 4 years old. He had shown me some places and told me a little. The only thing that stuck in my mind was that my grandmother had bred Suffolk Punch horses (I just love them) and him telling me ‘that was where your grandfather watered his horses’.
So knowing absolutely nothing about genealogical research (I didn’t even know that people did research their families), I went to the local record office and looked through the parish registers until I found my grandparents’ wedding. I was then addicted to trawling through microfiches and films and kept going, making a note of everyone of the same surname and looking through every parish register until I had them all linked or discounted. I was completely hooked.
I almost fell over when I discovered that my grandfather (whom I never knew) was one of about 12 children. I eventually located a couple of my father’s cousins who were in their 90’s and they lent me photos (I had no family photos of my own), which I copied and produced a family photo album for my children. I went back to the beginning of the Parish Records with my father’s family and suffered severe withdrawal symptoms when I stopped.
I never even considered doing my mother’s family as I didn’t live near to where they had come from. Then along came the internet and one day I idly googled and was away again. Having an unusual surname made my task easier and the fact that they were well to do and had left wills and documents which I could download from the National Archives (and other sources). When all of the census returns came online I could find out more and more.
I wanted to disprove all of those casual statements which my mother had thrown out in her life such as ’well of course you are interested in….’ , ‘….your great grandfather was a world authority’ and ‘my great uncle was a bishop’. I did manage to disprove the bishop story (he was a dean). However, I did find another relative who was indeed a bishop, and over 50 clergymen from deans to canons to rectors, which I found fascinating. I’ve always had an interest in religion, which my parents didn’t have.
Strangely the one statement she made which I really didn’t even think of bothering to try to disprove, because I took it with such a huge grain of salt, has actually been proven to be correct. This has led me into an even greater field of historical research. I just love history. Most of her ancestors left reams of fascinating historical documents. Some were explorers; many were academics, in the army, politicians, bankers, ship owners and merchants. They had estates in the colonies, about which I writhed in shame, especially as one of my best friends comes from Grenada. Although that was appeased a little by discovering that one of my ancestors was instrumental in starting the movement to abolish slavery as he had disliked what he saw in Jamaica.
However, it isn’t just the great who are interesting and can teach us things.
At the time when my daughter at university was having a baby and my world was falling apart, I discovered a daughter of one of my father’s ancestors who had a baby too. She was 18, the same age as my daughter and had no family to help her. She had been in the workhouse sewing shirts in order that she could keep her baby son, who had been born there. This put everything into perspective for me.
So, I have my own history books right in front of me which never cease to fascinate, although my daughter’s face glazes over with boredom at the first whiff of ancestry. I do think that when she gets older it will interest her. I hope so, as it will be a shame for all of this writing to go on the bonfire when I pop my clogs.
I console myself with the fact that if I played golf for a hobby I wouldn’t have much to show for it. I can’t think of any other hobby which makes one think as hard. I have always been a perfectionist and a realist, never being able to accept ‘facts’ until they were proven to my own satisfaction. So really this research is like manna from heaven for me. It must be so good for those ‘little grey cells’ which we need to keep active as we get older.
© daisiesinmay 2007