It's rained on and off all day today which is a welcome relief for the poor garden plants. Everything was beginning to look decidely frazzled and there were leaves going brown and positively cascading from the trees...just like Autumn in fact. It's all very well idling about of an evening watering various pots and tubs but totally impractical to start watering the trees...

Now, those anomymous people have in out in force lately...poking about on my blogs and probably running away sniggering and muttering under their breath about how I don't half go on about family history and what's to bet she makes most of it up...sad old biddy.

It can be so frustrating when the records only go back so far and no further and the parish records haven't been put on-line yet...I'll sail back to 1841 without a bother on me and then get stuck fast...so I plough through births and marriages and at last find what I'm looking for and away I go again and sometimes there will be a story or a little bit of information that I snatch and squirrel away.

One of the most interesting stories I've read so far in my search for family, concerns a boy of sixteen who sailed to Africa in the early 1800's and made a considerable fortune. It is a long and quite complicated tale of him being left behind when the ships captain sailed for home and being befriended by a Hottentot man...his Father came out to visit him the following year...and brought the boys dogs with him. That would have been allowed then of course...no pets passports or quarantine in those days. With the financial help of his Father, the boy bought his own boat...then he supplied arms to the Zulus during the Zulu Wars...sneaking out of English harbours under the cover of darkness. All rather Boy's Own comic stuff.

He married and had a family and made a small fortune...and his descendants still live in Africa today...

Those stories make the family history come alive...as it is with Richard who was beheaded and those higher born folk who were beholden to their King and left their best mattress or a cow to a wife in their Will. I do so love to read the really old Will's with the small portions of monies left to the 'poor of the Parish' and 'my best copper kettle to my eldest son'...a kettle in this instance would have been a big round pot rather than something to boil water in for a cup of tea.

It is the little bits which I store away carefully...the lady who was very houseproud and would never let anyone into her front parlour...another who was beaten by her Father for coming home one evening escorted by the village policeman...the little girl sent away to live with strangers because her Father was a drunkard...the so-called Black Sheep of the family who sailed away to Africa...the vet who tried to find a cure for Anthrax among the Wildebeest...

There are bakers and carpenters and shoe-makers...Yeoman farmers and Farm Bailiffs...straw bonnet makers and linen weavers...a couple of coal miners and horsemen on farms...there are those who lived long lives and others whose lives were cut short by accidents or disease...there were many Ag Labs and widows who took in washing or became dressmakers to make ends meet. Some lived on Parish Relief and others in Alm Houses or the local Workhouse. Many lived in tiny three roomed cottages with twelve or more children and a few lived in grand houses with gravel driveways and carriage houses and can be found with a quick search on Wikipedia.

Some people have ten or more of their descendants searching through records to find out about their lives...and some have almost no-one. There were many who married twice or three times...a few had up to twenty children. Some left a large sum of money in their Will and others left virtually nothing...

But of all the information available to find out, the one which gives me the greatest personal pleasure is finding photographs. When someone contacts me via a message on Ancestry and says 'I have some photos, would you like copies' it's like Christmas and birthdays come all at once. To be able to put a face to a name...to see those casual holiday snaps taken in the 1920's at the seaside or the terribly formal professional pictures when wearing their best frocks and posing awkwardly in a studio...to peer at the women's tiny waists and big hats...the men with their wing collars and watch-chains. To see a sepia portrait of a beautiful girl and to know that is Alice.

Perhaps part of my interest in those who have gone before, stems from a need to find my own place in the scheme of things. Were it not for those who made their living from the land or from an eccentric vet who travelled to and fro from Ireland to the West coast of Africa...if the cordwainers and the priests and the bakers and tailors had never existed...then neither would I.

It's always sad to find someone that no-one is searching for except me...