Friday, May 11, 2012

My ancestors, my cousins and me

My great grandfather, Robert Henry Reed of Southampton.
I have an exceedingly close relationship with many of my ancestors, having spent so much time on the Internet finding out as much about their lives as I can.  I know a lot about some, and frustratingly little about others.  The more notorious they were, the more I know.  Others - especially the women - stayed well out of view, their education limited by their status in the family or their community or lack of ambition, their opportunity to hold office, to own property, pay taxes or to vote.  With few exceptions they were the working poor, surviving well enough to avoid entry to the workhouse.  If they were unfortunate enough to be born prior to 1837, they may or may not have been baptised and thus had a record of their existence.

I wonder too whether I would have liked them.  Which one of my ancestors or distant cousins would I have enjoyed spending time with? What did they look like?  It is so frustrating not to know. But at least I know where many of them lived, hence my recent visits to England.

The people I have befriended are the other drawcard.  Mostly these are cousins, although it starts to get ridiculous when your common ancestor was born in the mid-seventeen hundreds.  My dear friend Ange and I share an ancestor born in 1780.  Ange's folks have never moved from Southampton, unlike mine who moved to the other side of the world.  She and I clicked on Genes Reunited well before we met in 2008.

And then there is Linda.  Her father and mine were first cousins, and our maiden names were the same.  She is now more like a second sister.  We've spent some wonderful times together.

There is Ray, and his wife Trish - I've known about Ray since my childhood, since my dad and his father lived together when they were 10 and 12, and corresponded all their lives.  But I didn't meet him until 2003 when they visited us in Australia.  We've since met them twice.

And Olivia - she too is my second cousin.  I spent a lovely few days with Olivia, following the tracks of my errant grandfather at the family home at Godden Green near Sevenoaks in Kent, and at his place of work at Oxford University.

I hope to meet at least two more second cousins in England on this trip, one in London and another in Kent.

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