Sunday, 18 July 2010
For a number of years now I have been interested in family history. When I was much, much younger my family consisted of the usual connections of parents, siblings, grandparents, aunties and uncles and a plethora of cousins. I never ever thought about great grandparents although I could recall when I was quite small, and reluctant to walk far, having to trudge uphill and tiring my little spindly legs to visit a great grandmother. I have no recollection of talking to her or kissing her or even eating a slice of cake which undoubtedly was offered. Yet now so many years later I feel a little ashamed that this link to the past, my source so to speak is not clearer in my mind. There were other great-grandmothers of course and I have a photo of one on my mothers side when we visited her a little before the Second World War. She looks as old as I feel now!
But things have changed now. I can remember asking my parents a bit about their grandparents and they knew so little. I know so much more than them! It is so much easier to trace all those forebears through birth, death and marriage records, delve into their lives though census returns and even discover past deeds and misdeeds through recorded history. This amazing resource gives us a wonderful chance to glimpse into the past and relive the lives of our long gone relatives. It is sad yet uplifting to celebrate the birth of children, weep at their early deaths, watch newlyweds set up home and get frustrated when they disappear only to find that they have moved on to seek their fortunes elsewhere. There are some that have died in the Poor House and others who were on the Titanic. There are some who were convicts transported to Australia and some who achieved their 15 minutes of fame in art, music, sport, on ocean liners and in the wars.
Occasionally photographs are discovered and I must confess I fell immediately in love with the innocent allure of one of my wife's relatives who looked so beautiful when she was wed before the First World War. My own grandparents on my mother's side curiously never married, possibly the only relatives in the past who failed to do so. Apparently they managed to find the money for the marriage licence but thought it would be better spent at the pub; well the story goes!
So the past has been untangled, fascinating discoveries made and through it I am proud to have tracked much of the source of my and my wife's family. Do we go back far? Well of course we do. Either we have a direct line to Adam or to the primeval ooze but as for actual records there are but a few names from the 17th Century. In doing this research it has made me glad to be the result of these ancestors efforts and achievements, their pain and joy and despite their faults and of mine it is wonderful to have such a colourful past.
Photo of my Great Grandmother Hannah Titheridge c 1939