Monday, 28 February 2011

Family History Writing Challenge - Day 23

Genealogy is like travelling along a country road, following the twists and turns of the road, with those taking the journey unsure of just where they will end up. There can be some real surprises, some curiosities and as always more questions. Genealogy is also like doing a jigsaw puzzle, with some of the pieces in the box and the rest rolling around on the floor, so that you must seek to find the bits or they will be lost for ever.

We all have a catalyst that prompts us to research our ancestry. I am not too sure what mine was. I was always curious of the life lead by my Grandfather and his siblings. I have mentioned before the visits to my Great Aunts and listening to them talk about the past, the people and places of their earlier lives. I also knew that my Grandfather was born in the parish of Wanborough, in the small hamlet of a wonderful place called Christmas Pie. Great name isn't it? I had this burning desire to bring the family back to life and really flesh out the bones of my ancestry. So that I could really understand who I was and from where I came.

The day I saw on the 1881 Census the name of my Great Grandmother, Annie Prudence Butcher, nee Harris I was truly overwhelmed. This was the old lady who had let her Great Grand daughter sit on the bed and tickle her toes, and who loved pineapple and we always took one when we went to visit. I recall a really jolly old lady with her white hair tied behind in a bun full of smiles. At the time I was only about 2 or 3 years old, yet the life she had led, the hardships she had suffered and the sights she had seen.

Born in 1879 in Puttenham Surrey, she married Charles Harris in 1898 aged just 19 years. Together they had 12 children with 9 living to adulthood. Charles died in 1943 aged 74 and Annie died in 1972 aged 92 years. I have only just realised that Charles was in fact 10 years older than Annie, something that I had not realised, not in 24 years of researching my ancestry. Which, just confirms that it is always worth re visiting the data held on a given person.

I think that sometimes, we simply focus on the common criteria of our ancestors lives; their dates. I read somewhere recently that everyone has a set of dates (1879 - 1972) and to leave the bracket open is a loose end. Thinking about it, whoever said it was right. Imagine the questions if I didn't know Annie died in 1972. Would I be compelled to find the dates? Probably as I hate loose ends! but, in doing so would I loose focus on the other bits of her life? An obvious one is that Annie lived through the Boer War, The Great War and The Second World War. Was she frightened? Did she feel worried, sad, concerned that her son, my Grandfather had joined the Army? Did she feel proud of him for doing the right thing? or, cross that he had not returned to the farm where he would have been in a reserved occupation with his brothers? That is just a few questions involving one of her 9 children, what about the other 8?

So, when we hear the statement "Going back to our roots" perhaps we really should revisit the data we hold about our ancestors and ask what don't we know rather than what we know, ask what we would like to know and can we find out? There are always more questions than answers, and I rather think there are more questions that even we could comprehend.

Word count 638

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