So this one time? Back in the 17th century? Some dude got together with a hottie and made babies. I come from them. Totes. (Late edit: it wasn’t 16thC, for those astute readers who picked up the difference in network feed previews! I get my centuries mixed up, it was the late 1600′s which made it the 17thC…)
It’s not really the stuff of legend, is it, when you put it in modern speak? Still, that is exactly what happened, more or less. A man named George and a woman called Rebecca got married. They had a boy called Richard. Hats off to them. Seeing as that’s as far back as that side goes so far, you could safely say everyone since has literally been…. by George. And let’s not deny Rebecca!
I’ve written previously about some of our family weddings since. I love writing about my ancestors. I’ve done it here several times before. Each time, it helps me become clearer about my own life today. Like this time when I connected with a 4x great-grandfather. Wowzers.
It’s little wonder, faced with a tree that so far has over 3,300 people on it, my cousin and I have decided to focus first on one of our maternal great-grandmothers to begin mapping not just names, birth dates, causes of death and places of residence, but more in-depth “what were they like?” analysis of our heritage. It feels a little more manageable to start with someone who’s just outside of living memory of those left in the family.
So we’re on a bit of a reconnaissance mission, my cousin and I. In its 70+ years in the family, the oldest permanent family residence still owned by someone in our family has seen just about every family member pass through it since the early ’60s (if not stay a while or live there for a time). It’s quite humbling to see photos of the same verandah and do a head count of people in the photo who were there and then gaze around you and realise that not only have they been dead some 40 years but the place hasn’t changed since they visited. Furniture in the same positions, mantel pieces with the same ornaments. The whole home is like a time capsule. And lots and lots of correspondence, photos dating a couple of hundred years, documents, books and many other things owned and passed down to the “girl of the family”.
It’s all still there. Untouched. Not looked at. Under-appreciated.
With the third module – Grief And Loss – of our foster care training under my belt, I am anticipating even more this journey I’m about to make. As participants, this week we had it brought home (ha!) to us just how “off the grid” some of these kids are. Many don’t have photo albums, let alone own *a* photo of their immediate relatives or even themselves. We watched footage of a teen explaining how much this lack of knowledge of where he had come from had affected his life. It was deeply touching.
And here’s me with all this knowledge of the members of my family at my fingertips. It feels so disrespectful all over again not to acknowledge them by getting to know them a little better.
As I scour the family tree and trawl through scores of photos to put faces to names…
…I’m thinking more and more about all these family members who have gone before each one of us. I don’t know about you, but I take them all for granted so often. I look and see photos of children who are holding dearly beloved soft toys – where have they gone? what will become of the LGBB’s dear Scraps in a few generations’ time?! – and it strikes me how very impermanent we all are. Really.
For the past week, I’ve been preparing for our upcoming trip back to the ancestral family home – in a location that’s somewhere on Tatooine you’d be forgiven for thinking, going by the isolation of it, check this out:
Last time I went, my passion for discovering more about ELB was front of mind.
This time, I am growing a sense of the woman who stood alongside him until her rather untimely death from heart failure in 1955. This great grandmother of mine, Alice Leonora Mary, who bore those four wee children (above), themselves all now gone. The wife of a Baptist minister, so far I know about her only as much as is described about her in a letter by that same minister (my great-grandfather Edward Leslie, or ELB) which he wrote after she died. And what he shared about the kindly woman just makes me yearn to have met her. I hesitate to say “know her”, for in some respects, I believe I do know her a little bit already.
Know what I mean? Is there someone in your family who you never met but feel like you know them?
If you’re drawn to your own family history, you might understand what I mean. It’s more than a passing interest; it becomes a drive to uncover who you really are. And every little bit of information helps, I say.
Wish us luck, good speed and no flat tyres for this Thursday please! If we drive on highways without stopping, we will get there in a little over eleven hours… It’s not somewhere you want to try and find in the dark. Have you seen Wolf Creek?