Throughout genealogy we find out all about our ancestors, when and where they were born, who they married and when they died, even where they lived. We can find out so much. But what about the people who meant a lot to them that were not family members? What can we ever know about them?
Well we can find some things about them. The first is family stories passed down through the generations. If you know any write them down. If the tale has been repeated throughout the generations then it is important to the family. It could be silly things kids and their friends did or even the exploits of young adults. It could even be heart warming stories of friendships forged on the battle field.
I will always remember fondly my Uncle Bill who had been my Grandpa’s friend since the 1940’s when they moved in next door to each other. After their wives died within weeks of each other they spent every Thursday gallivanting around Derbyshire and further. I loved going to visit Uncle Bill. He always had marshmallow tea cakes and lemonade for me. He would try and teach me chess (no chance, I’m useless) and let me play with his rubix cube, until his son taught me to peel the stickers of to finish it. I really missed him after he died.
Photos are another way to show friendships. If you have a group photo and you know who they are then you are looking at your ancestors friends. If they continue in photos as the people age then you know it was a lifelong friendship.
Are there work colleges their friends? Many people probably spent more time with those they worked with than their family. Also if they worked in a dangerous industry such as mining you needed those you worked with to be friends as they had your back while underground and if things went wrong a friend is more likely to help you if you’re in trouble.
The best way for genealogists to uncover who our ancestor’s friends is through marriage certificates and photos. Who were the witnesses on the certificate? It they weren’t family members than they were close friends, usually the best man and bridesmaid.
If I look at my grandparent’s marriage certificate then witnesses are their fathers. But I have a photograph and I know the names of the best man and bridesmaid. I know the bridesmaid was my Grandma’s half sister and the best man was my Grandpa’s friend.
So the marriage certificate can give a name as to who the witnesses were, but who were they. Well in truth we may never know but we can as genealogists research them.
On my great grandparents marriage certificate from 1916 the witnesses were my grandma’s sister and a man named Abbott Bentham. I’ve spent hours trying to find anything about this man but I can find nothing. There are people with this name but not of an age which would have made them a friend of my great Grandad. So who he was I have no idea and no one to ask. All I do know is he must have been important to Grandad Walter.
Walter’s Grandad John witness to his marriage was a man named N M Theakston. Now John and his bride Sarah got married in Ripon in the 1840’s. Anyone who knows the name Theakston will think of beer, that was my first thought. Ripon is only 18 miles from Masham where the Theakston’s brewery is. So was my 3 times great Grandad friends with a member of the brewing family. If so do I get free beer! Mind you one and I’m hungover instantly!
Now this all sounds great that you can find out from a marriage certificate about friendships but are they really friends. On my 3 times great Grandad John sister’s marriage certificate she and her husband’s witnesses are William Holmes and Christopher Gibson. Now this is ok there just their friend’s right? Well on the previous marriage certificate they are also the witnesses. Now I know the marriage certificates are from a brother and sister (not marring each other) but wouldn’t there future spouses want their own witnesses. So is it possible the church used their own witnesses, are they the church wardens? I guess we’ll never know.
So friends of our family need to be remembered just as much as our ancestors as they may have had a closer relationship with them than their siblings.
Hello and thank you for taking the time to read my Family History Ramblings on genealogy and history in general. I hope you find it informative and hopefully funny!