It may sound a trifle pretentious, but I like to consider myself the Family Historian.
Ever since the Eldest of the Extraordinary
Eight grandchildren was born sixteen and a half years ago, I have done my very best to unravel the past so that I could one day answer for her (and all the others who followed her) that popular question: Who Do You Think You Are?
Over the years I have drawn up a passable Family Tree. I have become a bit of an expert (though I say it myself, as shouldn't, as my Mum would have chided me) on interpreting Census data and I have
spent inordinate amounts of money purchasing Birth, Marriage and Death certificates to verify my assumptions. Inevitably (I say, though Mr B would beg to differ) I have, from time to time, purchased a certificate of a person who bears the same name as
one of my ancestors but turns out to be definitely not One of Mine. You can’t always tell, you see, not until you hold the certificate in your hands and can check out all the details. This never happens to the researchers on the TV programme
Who Do You think You Are – or, if it does, they are not about to let us in on any mistaken identities they may have been pursuing.
One of the tasks of The
Family Historian, in my humble opinion, is to do his or her best to pass on the information gathered from such research to other members of the family. Whether they are interested or not. My sister and brothers have all had sessions with me passing them
certificate after certificate as I try to explain the twigs, sprigs, branches and boughs of our Family Tree. My trouble is that I get my Greats mixed up. So, if asked a sensible question, like for instance, “so, he is our great, great, great,
grandfather, then?” I start counting the greats and getting all of a tizzy. I am even worse when people talk about “my 3 x great grandfather” or “my 6 x great-grandmother.” How can it be six times, when there’s only one
of her? And don’t get me started on second cousins, once removed...
There is, however, another type of family history. Perhaps it should be called
“family anecdotes.” As the Fount of All Knowledge when it comes to what their parents got up to when they were children, I am much in demand by the grandchildren when it comes to spinning a family yarn, or the Telling of a Tale. There is
something deliciously subversive about knowing that your father used to go to bed with his arms wrapped lovingly around his Martin Chivers Super Football or that your auntie once cut your mother’s fringe, leaving a great chunk out of it which didn’t
grow back for what seemed like years.
It’s social history, too, of a kind - showing these children of today how different things are now than they were back
then. Like, how we could quite legally (if not comfortably) squash four children in the back of our car because there were no seat belt laws, no requirements to have car seats fitted for children below a certain age. Or how there was no wall-to-wall
children’s TV, with a cartoon for every taste – but just an hour from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. each day on either BBC or ITV. And how their parents adored being allowed to stay up to watch “It’s a Knockout.”
“Our team looks strong today,” one of them would remark, sagely, as the teams from all the nations paraded. The other three would nod fervent agreement. As children, My Foursome were
always patriotic in the extreme. They settle themselves down on the carpet for some serious Telly Watching. The British team lose the first game. Badly. And the next two or three. It is definitely not our team’s night. The Foursome are sunk in
gloom and go up to bed at the close of the competition, endlessly discussing What Went Wrong until I have to threaten them with Dire Consequences if they don’t stop talking and go to sleep. However hope always springs eternal for my off-spring.
Next week they will be there again, sprawled in front of the TV, and one of them will say, as sure as sure can be, “Our team looks strong today...”
not certain what that particular story tells anyone about anything. I report it just for what it is.
A little piece of family history.