Does our ancestry define us?

I managed to do a little more sleuthing over the weekend, trying to trace my mother’s family tree. What jolly good fun it can be. I have found some very interesting sounding individuals, including a barrister and two military types.

Looking into the family’s fortunes, from what I can gather, one of my mother’s ancestors made some very shrewd investments in the early stages of the railways. It is a kind of rags to riches tale, almost literally as I believe they were mainly connected to textiles at about that time.

I suppose that all families have their interesting characters, and on my mother’s side that seems to be one Robert Hurley. From the documents that Nigel and I have been able to find, he was a bit of a scoundrel, probably what we would call a conman or trickster, back in the mid-1800s. I have read several newspaper cuttings that chronicle his various court appearances, although he also seems to have managed to wangle his way into society, appearing in more than one society journal. I have to admit that I rather like the rogue. Unfortunately, he did meet a rather gruesome end, getting himself killed in a bar brawl in Birmingham of all places.

Like all established trees, the family variety has far too many roots and branches for one to investigate them all. Consequently, I am having to be selective about whose path I follow and who I research. But the further back one goes, the more difficult it gets to find anything useful. But I suppose that is where the fun is. If it was too easy we would soon get bored. At some point, I am going to have to return to my mother’s more direct descendants and start looking into the family’s more recent history. I am sure there will be a few surprises there as well. After all, every family has its skeletons.

Nigel himself is doing a little bit of research into his own family, as well as helping me with mine. Maybe that is where the Russian and Thia links come from, although I was not previously aware of any. But that just goes to show you that one never knows what is lurking behind other people’s closed doors.

One of the reasons I find all this ancestry research to be so fascinating is because heritage is so important, especially to families such as mine. Like so many families with long histories, we feel that it has established us as an important and well-respected part of society. In many ways our heritage defines us. Whether you believe in nature or nurture, each generation has a profound influence on the one that follows. I am who I am because of those who went before me, or despite them!

I mean, can one bad apple in the family’s past taint future generations? I would think not, but there is a stigma attached to the direct descendants of any criminal or low born individual. But that is not really a case of the individual being influenced by their relative, but more of society making a link and branding the individual by such association.

I have to be honest and say that this whole ancestry thing is something that until recently I hadn’t given a great deal of thought to, I have just taken it all for granted. As a child, my history lessons often featured relatives, and I just accepted that. It never occurred to me that other families weren’t the same. But the more I learn of my mother’s side of things, the more I see how much different their lives were to those of my father’s family at the same time. It gives me a certain amount of pride to think of how hard her family has worked to get to the position they are in now. It can’t have been easy, and I would like to think that some of the strength of character and determination to succeed has found its way into me.

 

 

 

 

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Lord Robery, PI!

holmes

What a week! My days have become so hectic recently I am not sure how I manage to fit everything in.

It was another early start today as I was back in the office again. And what a busy place it is. Miss Drayton, my trusty secretary, has been helping me, going over the details of the various pieces that make up the family business. It is like a huge jigsaw, but without the picture; or one of those you see with a different picture on either side. I am sure I will never get the hang of it all. I am very much in awe of Miss Drayton for managing to keep track of it all. I have not the slightest idea how she manages it.

Of course, Aunt Murdock has always been the one who really knows how all the pieces fit together, but I am beginning to think that Miss Drayton is the only one who has the whole picture. Anyway, I left the office feeling somewhat exhausted at about 1 o’clock and headed down to the club for a spot of lunch. Nothing fancy, just a simple soup, the Beef Wellington and a particularly nice cheesecake, washed down with half a bottle of Chablis.

When I arrived home a little after 3 o’clock, I found my godson Nigel waiting for me. He was already on the computer – he said he had an update of some kind for the family tree software. It is all beyond me which is why it is so good to have someone like Nigel around to help me. Admittedly I was a little confused at first by the documents that Nigel was working on. I was not aware that we had any Russian or Thai connections, but I am sure that Nigel knows what he is doing.

Anyway, we I spent the rest of the afternoon doing some research on my mother’s side of the family. I must say it is jolly good fun searching through old records. I am beginning to feel like one of those private detectives you used to see so much of on the television. Looking for the smallest clues hidden amongst the veritable shoal of red herrings. There’s so much information out there on the internet that it is very easy to get distracted. One never knows where any of the threads you pick up will lead to.

But there is more to this research than simply going through birth, marriage and death records. You see, Nigel has been showing me how to search the whole web thing, and how to work out what is interesting and what is not.

I’ve seen them on the television go through old newspapers and such, so I know we may well have to get out and visit some old libraries and museums at some point. But for now, I am quite happy doing what I can online. Now, that’s something I never thought I would say.

I have to admit that the who ancestry thing has got me hooked, it is quite fascinating and very addictive. Each new nugget of information opens up a whole new avenue of investigation and helps complete the picture. It’s a little like trying to figure out the jigsaw of relationships between the various parts of the family business.

Families are funny things and as I have discovered, not everyone is what they seem. The biggest shock for me so far has been finding out that several members of my mothers family were leading socialists at the turn of the twentieth century. Quite a thing really. I knew her side of the family had built their fortunes and reputation on trade but had not suspected that they were socialists. I must admit that I don’t really know how to feel about that little revelation.

Right now I am feeling a little tired after such a busy day. I can hear Dorothy moving around upstairs so I think I will pop up and say hello before going out. This evening I am meeting a few of the chaps for a few drinks and, hopefully, a bit of supper at the Club.