Endless genealogies

I’ve hit a standstill, in more ways than one. Firstly, my productivity has died to zero as fast as my car when the fuel cut-off is knocked out (ah, Saturday). The cause of this decrease in output has also come to a dead end for now. Yesterday the national records office released the details of the 1911 census, enlivening my day, and many others’. I’m now in possession of records of my grandparents, even some of my great-grandparents, and my house, just under a century ago.

Presented as downloadable (upon payment…) picture files, the census reports are as filled in by the occupant’s own hand. So, in my house the head of the family, Henry, an electric tram conductor completed the form on behalf of his wife and seven year old daughter. 

It’s strange to think of an Edwardian family living on my plot of land. I wonder who slept in my bedroom? Probably Clara. There’s a column to be completed, number of children born alive, another the number remaining alive, another the number who’ve died. The score on this Noel Park house was 2-1-1. Say what you want about modern life, it’s still a jolting reality to consider how normal child death was just a century ago.

I can’t help but form mental images of the occupants, little stories. Henry, with his whiskers strides of to work each day, perhaps to the Wood Green garage. The house is immaculate, although quite differently arranged to today’s extended footprint. Potentially the wallpaper hasn’t been changed. They have a piano where I have mine, yet theirs is in tune, with candle holders and lots of sheet music, and there’s no TV, no Xbox, no Ikea furnishing, no uPVC windows, no electric doorbell, no washing machine, no cordless phone, no strewn car-keys, no fluorescent cycling jackets haphazardly tossed on the table. Yet Henry and Emily aren’t doing bad for themselves, because they rent one of the larger homes on the estate, and they have a spare bedroom (perhaps that wasn’t intended that way).

Same for my family members, some of whom I’ve traced back to 1828 now. My own parents have ended up settling (and bringing me up) not far at all from where my great-great-grandfather settled, and brought up his own family. I imagine a Hardy-esque bucolic splendour: Fisher’s Pond is hardly a bustling metropolis today. Charles’ ancestors (invariably called Charles or George) ended up moving into town, setting up a soft drinks company. One had the middle name ‘Whale’.

My father’s side is considerably more mysterious. My grandfather, a merchant navy captain, is just about listed, at 8 months old, living (or at least staying) with his uncle and aunt in Salford, Manchester. I know nothing else about him.

What stories these disparate lives have, what depths and characters they contain. Young Uncle Herbert’s comfortable living as an accountant’s clerk thrown into disarray, perhaps, when he inherits his wife’s nephew? Or was Herbert the younger just staying there overnight? It seems unlikely, at 8 months. When Charles inherited the drinks company, did he plan to move it to Winnall? What would he make of the soulless warehouse stores on its site now? No doubt the affable tram conductor would have had a few words to say about the situation.

So I’m ploughing through my relatives, finding out what I can for free. It’s taking precedence over work but I’m only stuffing envelopes anyway…


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: