We’ve all heard of the Jack the Ripper and his reign of terror in London in 1888 but still to this day we have no idea who he was or why he did what he did. It’s though he killed 5 women but many believe he was responsible for many more deaths.
The killings attributed to Jack began in August 1888 when he killed his first victim. She was Mary Ann Nichols, nee Walker. She was found on the 31 August 1888 in Buck’s Row (now Durwand Street) in London. Mary was born in 1845 and was the estranged wife of William Nichols and the mother of 3 children.
Jack’s second victim was Annie Chapman who was born Eliza Ann Smith. She was born in 1841 and was the estranged wife of John Chapman and the mother of 3 children. On the night of the 8 September 1888 she was found dead at 29 Hanbury Street, Spitalfields.
Victim three was Elizabeth Stride nee Gustafsdoffer. She was born in Sweden in 1843 where her career as a prostitute was thought to have begun. She was the widow of John Stride. She was found on the night of the 30th September 1888 on Berner Street (now Henriques Street), Whitechapel.
The fourth victim was Catherine Eddowes. She was the common law wife of Thomas Conway and the mother of 3 children. She was born in Wolverhampton in 1842. Her body was found on the 30 September 1888, the same night as Elizabeth Stride, in Mitre Square, Whitechapel.
The final confirmed victim of Jack was Mary Jane Kelly who was killed on the 9th November 1888 in Miller’s Court, Spitalfield.
All the murders had much in common. All were gruesome and involved the removal of organs. The attacks must have been brutal and terrifying for the women. They were investigated at the time by the Whitechapel division of the Metropolitan police and Scotland Yard. The lead investigators were:
Detective Inspector Edmund Reid from Whitechapel
Detective Inspector Frederick Abberline from Scotland Yard
Detective Inspector Henry Moore from Scotland Yard
Detective Inspector Walter Andrews from Scotland Yard
Now I personally have an interest in the murders as I believe they may have impacted upon my Ancestors. My great, great Grandfather was George Dow who was born in Pollockshaw, Glasgow in 1842. He moved to Sunderland to work in the ship yards and it was here in 1867 that he married Eleanor Easton (born in 1844) the daughter of a local blacksmith. The couple had four children including my great Grandma Elizabeth Dow. To this day we don’t know why but between 1878 and 1880 the family moved to the Whitechapel area of London and started using the surname Smith. I know this as in 1880 the couple had another child named George Smith and my great Grandma was born in 1878. On the 1881 census the family was living on Sander Street in Whitechapel, which if you look at the map above you will see linked to Henriques Street where Elizabeth Stride was killed. We know that by 1891 the family was living in Walthamstow in Essex. The question is did they move because of the murders or had they already decided to move on? If they were still living in Whitechapel then the murders would have been a good enough incentive to move especially since Eleanor was of a similar age to the victims. It would have been no place to raise the 3 surviving of their 4 children.
When I started researching my family tree I knew nothing about this. I knew Elizabeth was born in Sunderland and raised in Woodford but I had no idea about the Whitechapel link. I have had an interest in the Ripper murders since I saw at TV drama called Jack the Ripper starring Michael Caine and Lewis Collins, also on the Two Ronnies Show they did a sketch called the Phantom Raspberry Blower of Old London Town which was a skit on the ripper case in which a raspberry was blow and the victim died. These both lead to an interest which was only boosted by my family connection.
So who was the Ripper? Several names have been connected to the case but there seems to be no chance of the Ripper being identified. So the mystery many never be revealed, but in my case the interest continues due to my own family’s connection.
When you get into genealogy it’s always fun to be able to visit where your ancestors lived and effectively walk in their footsteps. So one good way to do this is to go to where your ancestors lived.
This is something my Grandpa did in the 1990’s when he went to the time of Thorpe St Andrew in Norfolk and I recreated in 2010. Thorpe is a town just 3 miles from Norwich on the banks of the river Yare. Today the town has a population of just over 11,000 and the most notable event in the town was in 1874 when a train crashed killing 25 people and injuring 75.
Thorpe is the centre of one branch of my family, the Weeds family. Now not all member of this branch came from Thorpe but from my 6 times great Grandfather when his son John Weeds was born in the then village in 1755. The last member of my family with a connection to the town was my Grandpa when he was christened in St Andrew’s church in December 1914 just days before his father went to war.
So what do you need to consider before you make a trip.
Well make sure your research is correct. You don’t want to make a trip and be disappointed not to find what you’re looking for and then discover you were in the wrong place. It’s not uncommon for several places to have the same name so it pays to check.
Make sure you have the research you want with you and have made a list of anything you want to discover while you’re there. This means you’re not flapping while trying to find some information you need only to find it’s a home on your desk.
Set out your goals before you go. Don’t just go and make it up as you go along. This could lead to you not achieving everything you want to and finding your trip disappointing.
Make sure you know everything you need before you go. Look into what graveyards there are so you know where to go. It’s not uncommon for the church to have a grave yard as well as a cemetery. Make sure you’ve noted which place your ancestors are buried in. If you have time once you have finished what you set out to achieve then look in other places as you may find things you weren’t expecting to.
Expect to find things out that you weren’t expecting. You may discover the information you have is contradicted by what you have previously found. You may have found a death record which you assumed was you ancestor only to find a gravestone who’s information proves you were wrong.
Do make sure you have a camera and a note book and pen. In fact take several pens in case you lose one. You can photograph all the things you find and the places you ancestors went and lived and make notes as you go along so when you get home you don’t have to worry about forgetting anything.
Expect your trip to take longer than you though. If you’ve only planned to stay for a few hours, you’ll probably end up spending the day. Before you know it you’re trudging through the undergrowth of a church yard and have lost 3 hours, but you might find some new information.
Use the trip to answer all your questions and don’t forget to visit everywhere you can. Don’t skip things such as war memorials as you don’t think there relevant. Do if your ancestors lived a long time before the wars but if they lived at a similar time then you may find distant relatives on it. For example I found my Great Grandpa’s brother and 2 cousins on the one in Thorpe St Andrew.
Most of all enjoy the trip. It’s your chance to truly connect with your past and walk in their footsteps.
So Easter is upon us again and you can celebrate with religious festivals or eating far too much chocolate. But what things did your ancestors get up to? Well you may be pleases to hear that the UK has a proud tradition of doing some really weird things over Easter.
Well if your ancestors were from Yorkshire they may have taken part in the World Coal Carrying Championship. In this event held in the Yorkshire town of Ossett a sack of coal weighing 1 hundredweight or 50 kg for men and 20 kg for women has to be carried from the Royal Oak pub to the maypole in Gawsworth, a distance of just over 1000 meters, as fast as possible. This event has been held since 1963.
Your Leicestershire ancestors may have taken part in the ancient art of bottle kicking. The first mention of this event is in the 1770’s. In the event the villages of Hallaton and Medbourne fight over three barrels of beer. Each side has to try and get the barrels to their village in a rule free contest that usually end up in blood and pain for the contestants after several hours, but it’s OK as the villages share the beer!
What about in Lancashire well you ancestors may have taken place in Nutters Dance. This is similar to Morris Dancing but the men where black and white costumes and have dirty faces. So any ancestors from the town of Baccup may have done this on Easter Saturday. In fact any ancestors from a more rural community may have taken part in Morris Dancing throughout the country. These dances have been taking place since the 1400’s and involve a group of usually me dancing to music fiddle music accompanied by a drum. The men where white with brightly coloured ribbons tied to them and bells on their legs. They carry hankie or clubs. Some believe the dances are fertility dances to encourage the crops to grow. These days the dances are usually done outside pubs and involve drinking much beer in rural villages in England but there are now sides (the name for a group of morris men) throughout the world.
Ancestors who lived near Smithfield in London may have taken part in the practice of the widow’s charity. It was in effect a form of helping the poor. People would place 21 sixpences (a sixpence was about 2.5 pence so in total is about 50p) on to the tombs in the grave yard. This money was then distributed to 21 poor widows of the parish. Your ancestors could have been the givers or the receivers.
My personal favourite is the ancient art of egg rolling. In this people stand at the top of a hill and roll their eggs down a hill. The first to the bottom wins. This is done throughout the UK but in particular in Preston, Lancashire. In the Bedfordshire town of Dunstable they use oranges instead of eggs. I suppose an orange would survive better than an egg.
Each town or village probably had some sort of tradition they carried out. Some may have distributed relief to the poor, others may have had festivals and plays. In reality Easter, aside from the religious significance meant that winter had lost its grip on the land and new life began to spring up. Easter became a time for celebration as the days got longer and warmer. The harsh conditions were over, food was going to become more plentiful and the people had a reason to look forward to the summer to come.
So however you spend Easter, be it with an egg hunt, a bonnet competition, religious practices or just eating far too much chocolate until you feel sick have fun!
I know it’s not traditionally the season for weddings, especially in the UK (who wants to get married in the rain?) but for both my sets of grandparents they married out of season. Last month would have been my grandparent’s 79th wedding anniversary and December would have brought my other grandparents 70th anniversary.
Weddings aren’t something I ever really thought about much until recently. I’ve been to hundreds (I was in a church choir as a kid for a long time so weddings were great for pocket money) and never really took much notice until close family started getting married as we all grew up. Recently though I’ve found Say Yes to the Dress. I find the program so funny (I know I’m probably not supposed to but some of the things people say are hilarious, especially the bridesmaids episodes). It’s got me thinking about how weddings have changed over the years, especially for our ancestors.
It seems weddings these days are grand affairs in various venues with lavish receptions and often without involving the church in anyway. People travel abroad and the whole wedding party goes. It must cost an absolute fortune. Just the dress can cost more than fitting out a new house. All that expense for one day. Sorry I’m from Yorkshire and as the saying goes short arms and deep pockets. I’m not tight I just couldn’t spend all that money on one day. Put clean clothes on and got to the registry office. I hit the internet and found a nice wedding dress in the UK for £175, where as they pay thousands of dollars on Say Yes to the Dress, and I am yet to see one made of denim.
But what was it like in our ancestor’s time?
If you look at the photo of my grandparents wedding my grandma is not wearing a flowing dress or anything. In fact it was a pale blue (and still is as we have it). Blue throughout history has been used in wedding gowns as it symbolised purity, this is where the something blue comes from today. It may not have been until 1840 when Queen Victoria married Prince Albert that white became the norm in the UK. So all of you who want to wear colour, just say you’re only carrying on the traditions of your ancestors. Most of our ancestors will have just worn their Sunday best (if they had any) on their wedding day as they couldn’t even consider having a new outfit for one day. If they were from a wealthy family this may have been possible. In fact some people married on Christmas day as this was the only day they didn’t have to work and so their families could attend.
From 1215 in Europe marriage had to be recognised by the church. This stopped couples from using handfast as a legal form of marriage. They said a form of vows to each other and was designed “till death do us part”. It was common as although the recognised religion was common, not all had access to it and other pagan forms of worship were still used. By the 16th/17th century the church had to be involved for a marriage to be legal.
After 1836 couples could be married by a registrar in a registry office. This made life more difficult and better for couples. Vicars could refuse to marry a couple in their church. The main reason for this would be that the woman was pregnant. It was not uncommon for couples to marry if they became pregnant as it was expected of them. They probably would have anyway, but baby just moved things forward a bit. Now they could marry elsewhere and still have a fully recognised marriage. It could make things worse though as if they married in a registry office most people probably thought they were expecting a child and thus treated them differently, especially if they didn’t have a blessing in a recognised church afterwards. I’ve got ancestors who already had children before they were married and had married in a registry office. Does it really matter, as long as the children had a stable home? Registry Office weddings also made life easier for those who wanted to marry without the involvement of the church.
These days as long as a venue has a license you can marry anywhere you want and any couple no matter what their sexuality can legally marry each other and live their lives the way they want to.
As darkness falls across the land…… all the kids come out and bang on your door.
So it’s the end of October and Halloween comes around again. All the shops sell their wares and parties abound. There are loads of costumes in the shops to wear for the day, although some of the Goth dresses I’d wear every day and yes I do wear my dress with bats, pumpkins, ghosts and full moons on it in the summer. You can get foods from jelly eye balls to slime pie.
Halloween as a kid for me was scary. People would bang on the door demanding treats and if you didn’t answer or given them anything eggs would be thrown. Then there was the fact that all the ghosts and goolies, witches and vampires were roaming about ready to attack. To top it all of I was terrified of the glow in the dark skeleton my brother had. I was even scared of Professor Coldheart from my beloved Care Bears and don’t get me started on Skelator from He-Man, although I find him funny dancing in the current advert. How ironic now is it that I mainly read books with vampires and werewolves in them.
Halloween as we know it today mainly came from good marketing and the shops realised it was a great way to make you spend money, but where did the tradition of Halloween come from? Well it appears to be the merger of both pagan and Christian practices.
Let’s consider the pagan practices first. It was a celebration of the end of the harvest and the coming of the winter and in the Celtic countries was known as Samhain, the festival of the dead, but it also had other aspects to it. Many believe that at this time of year that the barrier between the living and the dead was at its thinnest and thus the dead could pass through. This meant the living had to protect themselves. They would do things such as lay out meals by a fire for the dead to welcome them so they would be peaceful and carve out turnips, as we do pumpkins today, to ward of the evil spirits as these were the ones they had to worry about. They also believed they had to protect themselves for the living evil spirits. Many homes would attempt to protect themselves by engraving witches marks into the fabric of the house. This was usually in the walls or the fireplace and was in the form of a pentagram. They can still be found today in old buildings. Another pagan practice which begun was the dressing up and playing tricks on people. This along with the carving of turnips is thought to have come from Ireland as many of the practices we still use today seem to have come from the Gaelic speaking regions of Europe.
The Christian practices mainly revolved around the honouring of the dead. In the Christian calendar All Hallowes Eve is the day before All Hallows Day which is the celebration of saints, or the dead in general. It is believed this day was set as the 1st November by Pope Gregory III in the 8th century when this honoured the relics of the saints, martyrs and confessors of the church. From the 12th century the ringing of church bells became common to honour the saints and departed souls. There was also the tradition from the mediaeval period of England of baking a soul cake. These were similar in appearance to the modern day hot cross buns. They were given out to children, the poor and the homeless who went from door to door saying prayers for the souls of the household. It’s believed this could also be the origin of trick or treat.
So if you combine both the pagan and Christian practices you get a good indication of where the modern day Halloween comes from. Maybe think upon your dead ancestors and celebrate them as you enjoy your pagan practices.
So it’s nearly that time of year where the kids go back to school and embark on the next phase of their education. Be it at primary, secondary, college or university level.
Education of the masses first became compulsory in 1880 in England. Before that the only education children would get would depend on their place in society. Children of the rich would have access to tutors and the best education establishments the country had to offer. Those from the poorer sectors of society would have attended Sunday School at the local church, or if they were really lucky they may have got into a ragged school (this was a free school started by John Pounds in 1818 which could be found in various places throughout the UK. The building for the school in Chesterfield still stands today).
From 1880 all children between the ages of 5 and 10 and from 1893 the age was raise to 13, had to attend school. This wasn’t well received in the poorer families who needed their children to work to help support the family. The financial loss to the family of a child going to school could be great, especially since children as young as 8 could work full time.
The school buildings were basic, with benches with tables attached and a black board at the front. The children would write on small chalk boards and have had access to very few books. They would have been taught the 3R’s or reading writing and arithmetic. How they could call it the 3R’s when only 1 started with an R is beyond me and surely implied bad education.
They would have been taught the basics which would have been enough for most for when they went back to the factories and fields. For some it would have perhaps lead them on to further education and maybe even a scholarship to go to university and given them a real chance to make a better future for them and their families.
I don’t envy the children going off to school. I hated school. The best part of the school day was the end. I wasn’t so much the education I didn’t like, although I still don’t get maths that’s what the calculator was invented for, no it was the other kids I didn’t like. School would have been fine without them. When they pulled my old secondary school down the other year to rebuild it I would gladly had done it for them. Same with my old college when it was pulled down this year.
I was lucky at primary school in that I had the best teacher in the world in Mrs Pryjomko. She really was great and I liked the 2 years she taught me for. I also loved the head teacher Mr Clark, he was like a granddad to us all.
The primary school I went to was built in 1928 and is still standing and used as a school today, although I think it has been modernised a lot. The old leaking classrooms in the playground have gone. Kids don’t know what their missing with buckets in the classroom when it was raining. Same to with the 1960’s secondary school I went to. Broken windows which didn’t shut and a ¼ mile walk between building in the pouring rain. My favourite is the college I went too. Most of it was built in the 1960’s but part of it was built in the 1990’s while I was a student there. They pulled it all down this year!
So good luck to you all with your studies, and good luck to the 4 munchkins of my extended family who start school this year. May you have a great time and learn all you can and enjoy your education. It’s only 12 years till you can leave or carry on if you want.
Now I know graveyards are the resting places of our ancestors and should be respected but they should also be places to enjoy.
A graveyard is a special place to visit. They can give us some much. An afternoon wandering amongst the graves learning about the people who now live there is a relaxing time. It’s a great way for kids to learn about their local history and for them to meet their ancestors. A graveyard can also attract so much wildlife and nature into a town or city. They are great places for wildlife to live and for nature to thrive.
Graveyards come in several forms. There is the cemeteries that many of us are familiar with where hundreds, if not thousands are buried.
In many places they are the traditional graveyard with the graves around the parish church.
These graveyards appear to have a hierarchy to them. It always seems to me that the nearer the church or main path to the church the more important the person was. It seems the only way a person can deem more important in death is by being buried in the church itself.
Another way a person can show they importance in life is by the grave itself. A plane grave stone can show the importance of the person by the size of it. The bigger the stone presumably the more important they are, although if there are many family members on it then this could also be the reason. Any time spent in a grave yard shows that there are some really fancy graves out there.
I suppose someone with a lot of money can afford a fancier memorial to themselves and so demonstrates their wealth in life. I wouldn’t think many, for example, farm labourers on a massive farm could afford a large gravestone, if any at all, but the farm owner may be able to. This demonstrates one of the ways graves can use symbolism.
The subject of symbolism is massive. The symbolism can range from a small portion of the grave to all of it. From example an owl on a grave shows a wise person and a broken urn can mean a person was very old when they died. If you want to know more there are 2 excellent website:
It’s amazing how much symbolism there is.
Graveyards also can be great places to view nature. There is debate as to how graveyards should be managed. Some argue that disused graveyards should be left to become overgrown and allow nature to take over, others feel the graveyard should be kept neat and tidy. I’m somewhere in between. I feel the graves themselves should be kept nice and if the grave stone has to be laid down then they should be done so the writing on the stone can be seen, but the surrounding grounds could be left more informal so that nature can move in (or be introduced. Some graveyards have sheep to keep the grass cut).
I’d like to think that nature can help those visiting their loved ones in the graveyard and those buried there can enjoy the wildlife. Just think how the songs of the birds can make you smile, and who doesn’t want to watch squirrels running about and playing. It can help make a difficult visit more pleasant. It also brings nature into places where it might otherwise not be. In the cities graveyards give a space for nature and a place where we can go and experience it.
First and foremost graveyards are the resting places of our ancestors, but they are also places where we can go not only to visit our ancestors, but also to see nature and gives us some peace in the busy towns and cities and help distress us and hopefully mean it’s longer until we ourselves reside there.
These days illegitimacy is not frowned upon, but in the past it was a big deal. Anyone tracing their family history will have no doubt come across it several times in their tree and with our modern eyes it doesn’t mean much but then?
Let’s start with what illegitimacy is. Well according to www.collinsdictionary.com “Illegitimacy is the state of being born of parents who were not married to each other” https://www.collinsdictionary.com/dictionary/english/illegitimacy
I suppose up until the 1960’ illegitimacy was frowned upon and the mother was deemed immoral, but now a lot of children are born to parents who aren’t married and no one cares as long as the kids are looked after and happy. But this has not always been the case.
In the past it was not unheard of for single women to be sent to the workhouse or worse for having a child out of wedlock, but nothing was ever done to the father of the child. There is some evidence of women being committed to mental institution for being a single pregnant woman especially if the father of the child was an important person. He wouldn’t want the woman to be listened to and people believe he was the father, must think of his reputation and all that.
The laundry’s and homes run by the Catholic Church were another example of how the women were treated. They were sent there to have the child and have it adopted and some never left. They spent the rest of their lives there. The author Steve Robinson covered this subject in his second Jefferson Tayte genealogical mystery novel “To The Grave”.
Thankfully most women had the child and raised it with the help of their family and went on to have a normal life and in some cases married the father of the child.
In my family illegitimacy is not uncommon. Take my great grandfather for example. He didn’t know he was illegitimate until he had to produce his birth certificate in order to be ordained as a Church of England vicar. When they found out about his illegitimacy they refused to ordain him, even though he had been working as a lay reader for years and thus he became a chemical factory foreman. We have copies of letters he wrote begging for help to achieve his dream of becoming a vicar. It’s a good Christian attitude if you ask me and ironic as if you believe the teachings of the Church. He was baptised so what did it matter. Now the subject of who his father was that is interesting to me. Just 3 years before he was born his mother was in service to the Canon of Norwich and Archdeacon of Norfolk. Now although there is no evidence that anyone in the church was his father, his mother was obviously linked to the church and so could his father have been part of the church? Mind you his mother was pregnant when she did get married 8 years later to the child’s father, so who knows.
The other case of illegitimacy in my family which I find intriguing related to my 3 times great grandmother Sarah. She had 2 illegitimate children one born in 1863 and the other in 1864. I’ve found the records of her and her first child entering the workhouse in Stockport in May 1864 and the reason for entering was pregnancy. He eldest daughter was released 2 days later by order of the parish and lived with her grandparents. Sarah and her new daughter were released in October 1864. Now in some respects she at least had the workhouse hospital to help birth the child, but really was it the best thing to do to 17 year old servant girl? I don’t think so, but perhaps it was to scare her into mending her ways? In any case she didn’t have any more until she was married to my 3 times great grandfather and her children lived with them as a family, including her eldest daughter’s illegitimate son!
Throughout history the stigma has been on the mother for being immoral, but surely the same should have been placed upon the father. The mother hopefully knew who the father was, so he should have shouldered half the blame, if not more as I reckon some of the girls probably either were too young to understand, too frightened to say no or just given promises he had no intention of keeping.
So if you find illegitimacy, don’t judge, just think that without that child I probably wouldn’t be here.
We’ve all though of the question which famous person from history would you like to have met. Well I have. In fact I’ve given it much thought. My first answer is always King Henry VIII. I want to know what he was really like. Was he the man history makes him out to be or was he actually a man in a situation he didn’t want to be in (Henry was destined for a life in the church until his brother Arthur died and he suddenly became his father’s heir) and did he became the person he was as a result? The other person I would like to have known was John of Gaunt the third son of King Edward III. This was a man who had at least 14 children by many women, 3 of whom he was married to. I’ve love to know what kind of man he was and whether he realised how much his descendants went to populate Europe. Our present Queen Elizabeth II is descended from John of Gaunt. One of his grandsons was the explorer Henry the Navigator (a prince of Portugal being the son of King John I of Portugal of Phillipa of Lancaster (John’s daughter)).
This led me to think about which of my ancestors I would like to have met. The answer I always come up with is my Grandma. She died 2 years before I was born suddenly in her 60’s from a brain haemorrhage. All my life I’ve seen photos of her and heard stories about her, but I would have loved to have seen her. What did her voice sound like, what did a Grandma hug feel like, am I really as like her as everyone says? All questions I’ll never find the answers to.
So which other ancestors would I have liked to have known? Well my Grandma’s mum. She died when my Grandma was 6 so she really missed out on her mum and could possibly have had the same questions of her mother as I have of her. Family story always had that she died in the flu epidemic in 1918. We got a bit of a shock when I purchased her death certificate and found out she had died of an appendicitis. She was 39 years old.
Another ancestor I’d loved to have met was my 5 times great uncle Hugh Wardle. He was born in 1802 near Leek in Staffordshire. He had an interesting life. He was a Druggist (the fore runner of a pharmacist although he probably just sold drug rather than made them). He was married twice to women called Elizabeth and the couples had 5 children between them. In 1855 he emigrated to America where along with his 2 sons from his first marriage and they opened a drug store on Warren Street, Hudson, New York State. I would love to know what prompted this move especially since it meant leaving his other children behind. Was it just the adventure, or were times so bad he left for a new life and to give his sons a better change in life? Did he miss his daughter Lady Elizabeth Wardle and his son George Young Wardle? both of whom were friends and colleges of the designer William Morris. Lady Elizabeth’s husband Sir Thomas Wardle was influential in the silk dying industry and George ran the Morris Works in London. Did he ever wish he’d stayed in Staffordshire? Again all questions I will never have answers to.
One of the main reasons I would love to be able to meet all of my ancestors is to see what they look like and see if I can see any of myself in any of them. I’ve seen picture of some ancestors and I think I now know where my silly hair comes from, but does any of my other traits come from them.
But alas this is all pipe dreams as it will never happen, and even if a time machine was invented I’d be too chicken to go in it, so I’ll just have to continue imagining answers to my questions.
I was sad to hear of the death of the actor Peter Sallis. He was an actor who bought much pleasure to many either through Last of the Summer Wine or Wallis and Gromit among others. As I was reading his obituary it also brought up answers to some questions I had regarding my own family history.
The article stated that Peter Sallis was a radio instructor at RAF Cranwell during WW2. This was where my Grandpa was for part of the war. He two was a radio instructor. I knew he was a RAF Yatesbury but I knew he served at the same base as Peter Sallis. So I now know he was at RAF Cranwell as well. My Grandpa ran the lab next door to the one Mr Sallis worked in. Grandpa always used to say what a nice man Mr Sallis was and he used to enjoy watching him in Last of the Summer Wine.
From this remembrance I got thinking about what I really knew about my Grandfather’s war. I knew Grandpa joined the RAF, even though he was a reserved occupation being an Officer of His Majesty’s Customs and Excise, and I know my Grandad was in the army and served in India after the war and guarded York race course with a broom handle at one point, but what else did I know?
Neither of my grandfather’s used to talk about the war. Grandpa would if you asked and he did try to teach me Morse code a few times (and failed as I was a bad student). Grandad never spoke about it. The only time I heard him mention anything was when he was watching It Ain’t Half Hot Mum and said how it reminded him of his time in India. I have got my Grandad’s military records which I purchased so I do know more now.
I suppose the feeling all this thinking brought about was that if we don’t ask questions we lose out on so much of our ancestry. How many of us have a box full of photographs and we have now idea who’s in the photos. Even only back to my Grandparents I have a photo of their wedding day and I have no idea who half the people are! If I don’t know, what do I tell the next generation? This is a photo of your great grandparents wedding day, no idea who most of the people are! Even my parents don’t know who they are and they were people important enough to be at their parents wedding.
So the moral of the blog is ask questions and ask them before it’s too late. My Grandma died in her early 60’s before the questions were asked and now we’ll never know some things even though genealogy has given me answers to some things it can’t answer the undocumented stuff can it.
Hello and thank you for taking the time to read my ramblings on genealogy and history in general. I hope you find it informative and hopefully funny!