Since my mum died, I’ve had so many times where I’ve wondered something about our family history and then came to the gut wrenching realization that I really have nobody to ask. Before she died, my mum was struck by idea that she was the last of her generation who really had a lot of the old information, so she pulled out a pink school notebook and started to jot down some notes. I was thrilled. After all, I’ve always had an interest in genealogy and loved when my great-grandma would tell stories about our relatives. They were probably all a complete crock, but it was still fun and it triggered in me a deep desire to find out what the truth was.
Then a couple of weeks ago I decided to purge a bunch of papers from the house because if I didn’t do it, we would be living on a pile of old bills and school notices and I don’t want to end up on an episode of the show hoarders. I had a panic when the pink school notebook wasn’t where I thought I had carefully stored it (ie. stuffed in a drawer with a bunch of other “important” papers). I swore to myself that if I found it, I would get the ball rolling on the whole ancestry thing.
Cut to the next morning and I realized that I had indeed put the notebook in a safe place – filed in a drawer of my filing cabinet in an unmarked folder. I really have to stop convincing myself that I don’t have to write shit down and that I’ll just remember it. Seriously.
I opened the book and was immediately depressed. No dates. No places. Just lists of names and practically no information at all on my dad’s side. This may be more difficult than I originally thought.
So, off I go to Ancestry.ca and within 5 minutes realize that I’m going to have to fork out the huge fee for an international membership. Toronto being the hub of immigration that it is, people are sometimes surprised when I explain that my maternal grandparents were both born here but let me tell you, in the genealogy world, that’s like a drop in a bucket. So, off to England I had to go. But not at all for the reasons that I expected.
Turns out the first leads I got were all on my dad’s side. Huh. Wasn’t expecting that. We never had a good relationship. He was an alcoholic who only really stopped drinking after my sister and I were out of the house. His father was quite old when my dad was born and his mother, who lived with us when I was little, was not a very nice person by all accounts. Still, the severely dysfunctional side seemed to be winning out so off I went.
Three days and 480 years later it’s safe to say that I’m a bit stunned. Who knew my dad’s family had such strong genes? I’m finding folks from the 1700s who still lived into their 70s and 80s. Seriously? The paternal side of his family has some truly scary staying power but now I’m itching to follow his mother’s line because there is one question I need answered. The nose. I don’t have it but my dad and my sister both do. It is a strong nose and, along with his pitch black hair, not a very Scottish look. It comes from my grandma on that side but all I know is that she was Scottish. Like, sang me songs in Gaelic when I was little, still had a brogue until the day she died Scottish. Methinks there’s an interesting tale to tell somewhere down the line.
Now I’m waiting on my sister to dig up the old records which are all stowed at her place. I’m hoping it will give me some hints and I can get a move on with other branches of the tree. I’m afraid I’m addicted but since I already finished the entire new season of Orange is the New Black, there’s nothing else to feed my crazy obsessive side, so it’s all good. I’ll let you know what I find out if it’s anything worth telling. All I know at this point is that I come from a line of apparently incredibly fertile farming folk in Norfolk, England. Boring but still kinda cool.