Tuesday, 13 September 2016

My Curiosity Thing

My curiosity thing, it all started with a name I didn’t recognise.

Following the death of a close relative, I came into possession of her belongings, including a large, torn, worn and overly stuffed envelope bearing the words Important Papers printed neatly on the front. When I got round to examining the contents, there were all sorts of things and none of it in any order. Certificates of births, marriages and deaths, mainly concerning my grandparents, were folded up amongst old photographs of family members I struggled to recognise. I smiled at the black and white image of my beloved maternal grandmother, young, slim and fashionable with a dashing young man by her side. I didn’t realise it was my grandfather, white scarf, white gloves, tilted Trilby hat. How handsome he was and what a shame about the tea or coffee stain, a perfect brown circle across the lower half of his pin-striped trousers.  Black-edged funeral cards dating back to long before I was born, one from just before the twentieth century were squashed together in a small, white envelope. A collection of very old Prudential insurance certificates were particularly delicate with tears appearing along the fold lines.

As I glanced through the items and attempted to put them in some sort of order, the same surname kept cropping up and I grew increasingly curious. I knew the maternal side of my family very well, at least I thought I did. No one had this surname and there was nothing to indicate what the contact was. There was nobody left to ask and at that time, I didn’t expect to find out.

Years later, during a lengthy recovery from illness, I decided to see how far I could track my family tree online. I had been fascinated by the television programme ‘Who Do You Think You Are’ and public records were easily accessed on a couple of reliable websites. I wondered if it was really an ok thing to do and I was full of ‘what ifs’. Curiosity got the better of me and I subscribed to one of the better known genealogy sites and spent hours studying electoral rolls and census details. I discovered that the recurring name in my aunt’s papers was the maiden name of my great-grandmother. She had many siblings which accounted for the frequency of the name showing up.

My late father never knew his heritage from his mother’s side. I wish he could have lived long enough to have had access to the information which is so easily available nowadays. He knew she was orphaned as a baby and taken in by another family and maybe not formally adopted, nothing more. She might not have known anything herself. Recently, I was having another look at my paternal side and after discovering a possible link, I found her on the 1901 census. I was able to trace her back to her parents and after obtaining death certificates, I learnt that her mother died days after giving birth as a result of what we now know to be pre-eclampsia and her father died a few months later of TB.

Curiosity killed the cat, so it’s said and satisfaction brought it back. I’ve found the answers to most of my genealogy curiosities and I haven’t discovered anything bad. No one has been thrown in jail, or worse. It seems like we’ve always been the ordinary folk that we are today. I’ll let you know if I uncover anything shocking.

Thanks for reading, Pam.


Adele said...

This is a very rewarding read. Thanks Pam.