Monday, 18 April 2011

Family History Tales (Part 2)

I started this blog wondering why family history is appealing to so many people at the moment.  Today I am wondering the opposite - why aren't more people interested in family history?

Take my husband (add your own joke here please) - not in the least interested by genealogy - either his own or that of others.  Of course he will paste a semblance of polite interest on to his face and nod approvingly when I present him with my latest findings on his family - but frankly we both know he could care less whether he is descended from Charlemagne or Joe Average (actually he is descended, in part, from a Scottish lace pedlar who failed to impress his offspring so greatly that they changed the family name).  But really his lack of interest is not surprising - he doesn't like "old stuff", he is a throroughly Modern Billy and his interests run to sport, modern art and modern music. 

My mother was more of a surprise family history nay-sayer.  She, like me, loved history so I had assumed that she would be interested in her own history.  No!  My early requests for information about my grandparents were short and sweet, she affected not to remember any of her wider family and could never identify anyone in photographs.  Eventually I lost patience - "don't you want to find out about your family?".  "No dear, I know who I am". 

Well, I am not so sure that that is the reason.  Yes, my mother was a person who was very happy in her own skin, but I think a little digging would reveal a more complicated reason for her dismissal of family history.  Remember my husband's ancestors who wrote their father out of their family history by changing their name?  My mother didn't do anything so drastic, but I know she had a complicated relationship with her mother and maybe she is writing Olivia ("she was probably called Olive, she was always putting on airs and graces" said Mum) out of history.  Reading between the lines, my mother always felt that her mother favoured her sister, mismanaged the household and disapproved of her choices. 

My mother is gone now, but certainly not forgotten.  Nor is her family.  Mum may have been more than a little reticent about her family, but a pile of forgotten paperwork has allowed me to research the Toals and the Williams and will ensure that they too are not forgotten.  Oh, and Olivia Williams may not have been the most successful housekeeper, but her airs and graces weren't put on - she was brought up in an affluent household with maids to do the work - maybe we can forgive her a little!


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