Saturday, April 26, 2003
Goin' Back To My Roots
It could be the growing spectre of middle-age. Or simply the realisation that, as an only child, the pedigree ends with me. In the past month, I've been tracing my family tree, trying to put names and dates to all the people who, in some way, have made me what I am.
Despite being a bunch of breeding-like-rabbits Lancs/ Irish Catholics, my parents' siblings were never ones for staying in touch or keeping records. Almost all of them are dead now anyway. So, for the facts, my main source material has been the staggering amount of info available in the 1901 census returns at the Public Records Office. Several pleasant G&T-sozzled evenings with Mum have provided loads of the long-forgotten goss. Bit by bit, I'm starting to put the flesh of fact onto family legends.
So, the story that an anonymous ancestor has a statue dedicated to him in a park in Cork seems to be a myth. And despite my nanna's remarkable resemblance to the late Queen Mum, I regret the Bowes-Lyon connection has to be ruled out. But I've discovered two uncles I never knew existed; and Cathleen (who they didn't talk about after That Divorce); and, just possibly, my paternal great-grandfather.
As well as flame-haired Catherine, considered such a beauty in the 1880s that the jealous Paddy never let her out alone. John, just nineteen, dead at Ypres. Edna, who changed her name to Judy Gray and tried to make it big on the stage. Fred, who did make it big - in fish. And Isabella, wilful mill-owner's daughter from Chorley, disowned by her family when she married beneath her. The 1901 census tells me that, as a widow, she was forced to take in as boarders two circus clowns.
And then there was Thomas. Fine figure of a man, by all accounts. Winning ways, to-die-for smile. All the lasses from miles around were half in love with our Tommy, but, oh no, he wasn't interested. He went off to be a sailor instead. Later they heard he'd taken the boat to America to become an actor. Surprisingly, he never married.
Hmmm… I wonder what happened to him?