We have been on the road and on the internet, looking for traces of our ancestors. It’s hardly ‘Who Do You Think You Are?’ but it’s an entertaining and sometimes rather moving occupation.
I am highly pleased to tell you that one of my great-great-grandfathers was a pig dealer. I am a little less certain about telling you that his first wife was so young that it embarasses me too much to give her age here. Presumably the marriage was legal at the time. When he died, my great-great-grandmother, his second wife, married a gentleman 18 years younger than herself.
On our list of places we have visited, or plan to visit, are Bognor Regis, Brighton, Wolverhampton, Bournemouth, Richmond, Mortlake and little villages in Hampshire, Wiltshire and Lincolnshire. We have discovered agricultural labourers (lots of them on my side), servants, ironmasters, teachers, stokers, photographers, caretakers, ploughmen, coachmen, tobacconists and ‘gentlemen’. We have investigated divorces, emigration and have been left with more and more mysteries.
I have written before about my great-grandfather , Isaac. We have been to Nottingamshire, where he was born and lived his early life. Magically, the school where he must have been educated is still standing, though now a derelict (but just purchased) house.
It was donated and endowed for the poor children of the parish. I speculate, rather idealistically, that the basic education he received here was the first step on the road that led to his daughter becoming a teacher, my father gaining professional qualifications in insurance and computing, through his own hard work in his own time, and to my teaching career and M.A.
I frequently wonder what our ancestors would have thought of us. So many lived their lives all in one place, in the same place as generations of their forebears. In the rural areas, I think they would not have found so much changed. There are still fields, trees, hedgerows and little villages. What would they have made of me, sitting tapping this on a machine which would have appeared magical, for a medium which is virtually virtual…? I suppose much of it would be beyond their comprehension. Sometimes I fancifully imagine myself in a line, with my father next to me, his father (who I never met) next to him, Isaac next to him, and so on. Or with my mother, my grandmother, my great-grandmother, my great-great grandmother the pig dealer’s wife…. All people, all the same, with all the hopes, joys and fears we have ourselves.