How much do we know about families? I don’t mean what your brother did last week on a night out. The real stuff, where you came from and why you are who you are.
I have been researching my family history now for 3 years. Initially with a enthusiasm that took over my life but which I dip into now and again.
I started when I was laid low from a chest infection; I couldn’t do anything but my brain was active and having harped on for years about why I look the way I do, thought it was time to find out. I am olive skinned and have been mistaken for being Spanish or Greek when visiting those countries by the locals, so I was convinced that there must be some mediterranean blood in the family line.
Starting off was relatively simple, whilst I knew only one of my grandparents, I had remembered bits and pieces that my Mum and Dad has mentioned about their family. Additionally one of my old Aunts used to whisper ‘There was a black man in the family’. So there was a starting point and a mystery to try to solve so off I set. This is where the internet really does become your friend. The information out there is quite incredible but often only enough to tantalise then leave me to my imagination and fill in the blanks.
It was a journey where sometimes I took the wrong road and had to backtrack. Each day brought new discoveries, getting copies of birth or marriage certificates were like receiving presents; they brought more answers and sometimes more questions. Census records tell so many stories about living conditions and life in those periods of time. When we get to fill out the census I am sure that many just consider it a way in which the government is gathering more intrusive knowledge about you, I prefer to think I am recording my life for future generations who will, in a hundred years or more, say ‘Look what my Gt Grandmother was doing and where she was living’. Opening up a new world or interest for them to follow.
So what did I find out? Where does this mediterranean look come from? Well nothing concrete, almost without exception all my roots are firmly in Suffolk in some cases back to the 1500s. But there is a possible link with Papal emisaries so that’s my explanation for my olive complexion, though I haven’t been able to prove anything as it just hinges on a family surname. But I am happy with that, the mystery is still there and there is still room for further research on those days when a walk, work or other daily distractions are not an option.
What I do regret though is not asking more questions and being interested in the family whilst my parents were alive; a great wealth of information went with them to their graves. I hope my children find a use for the information I have gathered and when they roll their eyes at another one of Mum’s tales, perhaps they will remember those stories and tell their children and the history will continue long after I am gone.