|Margaret alone in London on the EYE.|
I've learned from that, so apart from key cities like London - where I know I can cancel a booking with 24 hours notice - I've left my travels fairly flexible. This meant I was able to stay with Alex and Viv - who I hardly knew - when they invited me to Kent, halfway through my stay.
And I'm so pleased I did.
I already knew most of the cousins and friends I stayed with this time, having met my young American cousins three years ago in Panama City, and I'd met most of my English cousins - Ray, Linda and Ange whilst on our motor home holiday in 2008, and stayed with them the following year. I'd also introduced Carole to John in 2008, after having not seen her since the 70s. This time I was also able to meet other distant cousins - Sarah (nee Tucker), Hannah and her parents (Rose cousins), Moira (also a Rose cousin), and Claire, who is no relation at all, but we share cousins.
Some of these new cousins and I have been communicating on Facebook for what seems like years now, so meeting them was just like continuing a conversation!
|Elizabeth with Isabella and Carolina in Irvine, Orange County|
|Caroline in San Francisco|
In California, I caught up with two of my second cousin Shirley's grand-daughters, Elizabeth and Caroline. Elizabeth advised me on accommodation, took me to Hollywood and to the Ellen Degeneres show at Warner Bros, then invited me down to Orange County to spend a day with the family.
I stayed four nights with Caroline and Kent in Menlo Park, and Caroline took me sightseeing in San Francisco and down the coast to Monterey, Salinas and to see the coast.
I love both these girls dearly. They both lead such interesting lives, so committed to family life and their own career goals. Caroline is supporting her husband as he studies for a new career whilst totally involved in her own, and Elizabeth putting her career goals on hold whilst she commits herself to her young family.
|Shirley - matriarch of my American cousins|
|Tracey, Donna, Cheryl and Trish at back, Johnnie, Shirley, Ray, |
Margaret and Kathryn at front - in Banbury
We were able to travel together by rail to Banbury in Oxfordshire to meet our mutual second cousin Ray and his family. It was so good to unite after nearly 70 years of Shirley being "lost" to the family through her mother's early passing in 1942.
Shirley, Ray and I are descended from three Reed sisters born in Southampton between 1881 and 1884.
|Linda and Peter on our day trip to Chichester|
After London, I travelled to Angmering in Sussex, to stay with Linda and Peter. Linda was a Tucker, my second cousin on my dad's side. We've become more like sisters than distant cousins since I first discovered her in 2006. I stayed with them at the beginning and towards the end of my holiday. They spoiled me rotten. Both times.
|Linda meets Ange for the first time.|
They also insisted on driving me down to Southampton - twice. I think they just wanted to meet Ange and Paul, who they'd been hearing about for four years.
Ange and I met about five years ago through Genes Reunited (a family history site) when we discovered that we shared great great great grandparents, making us 4th cousins.
|Enid, Margaret, Bette, Angela, Robert and Paul|
Ange has become a dear friend, and we have plenty in common. She encouraged me to make Southampton my base, which I gladly accepted, it was a real home away from home. I wanted to really get to know Southampton on this trip anyway - there is so much to see relating to my family history research in the old town and in the New Forest where my Tuckers lived for at least two centuries.
|John and Sue|
From Southampton, I took an overnight trip to the Isle of Wight, where I met Sue and John Moxon, active members of the Moxon Society.
Back in Southampton, Ange and Paul drove me down to Branksome near Poole, where I met a Facebook friend and fourth cousin Hannah and her parents. I don't have any photos of them unfortunately.
|Sharn, April, CarolAnn, Eve and Carole|
I left Ange on Wednesday 6th June, to travel to Coventry to reunite with my friend Carole who I first met in Sydney in 1972. She was spending two years in Australia doing what I did not long after in 1973-75. We shared a room in Strathfield for a few months. She is now a grandmother to Eve, who is a very friendly 10 year old. I also met Carole's three daughters, Sharn, CarolAnn and April. Aren't they a photogenic family?
|Margaret and Claire|
From Coventry I caught four trains to Barnsley in Yorkshire. This was a long way north, but I'd promised John to check out the villages and streets where his great great grandparents lived. My Facebook friend Claire, who also lives in Yorkshire offered to drive me around. I'd never met Claire, who I'd discovered on Genes Reunited when we were researching a test cricketer who was related to both our families. We had a great day together.
From Barnsley it was back to Banbury where I stayed overnight with Ray and Trish. Ray was still recovering from his big heart operation. The next morning, our mutual cousin Alex arrived from Kent. We'd never met Alex, and he was keen to find out about his newly discovered family.
|Alex and Viv|
Strangely, their surname is the same as my mother's mother's family who came from a neighbouring village - Ightham, but the families are not related. But because of my interest in Ightham, Alex and Viv spent a great deal of time showing me places of interest to me in the village.
I also met their son and daughter and their two grandsons, at a pleasant night out at the St Julian's club at Seven Oaks.
|Margaret, Sarah and Linda - all with maiden names Tucker|
From there I returned to Southampton, once again being driven down by Linda and Peter. I stayed a further five days with Ange and Paul, and we continued to explore Southampton, Winchester and the New Forest.
|John and Moira|
|Ray reading the John Rose story|
So you can see why I enjoyed my trip - wonderful times with some great cousins and friends.
Still it was lovely to come home after more than five weeks away. It was good to be able to talk to John almost every day via Skype, but nothing like the real thing!
Thank you dear friends on four continents who followed my blog - my brother Jim was touring Thailand at the time. I think the French views were from our friends Stewart and Lesley who are touring the canals of Europe in their wheelchair accessible narrow-boat.
Here are the statistics, which include multiple dip-ins, apart from your author.
Goodbye for now. Thank you from the bottom of my heart, hosts and blog followers. Happy travels, all of you, and may we meet again!