Now, I told you a sad little story about poor Alice having her head chopped off in Winchester market-place...and you said nothing!
Shan't tell you anymore gory stories about my very distant relations you know...I'll keep them to myself and then you'll be sorry...you won't be able to say...'Ah yes, I have a friend whose extremely distant and rather obscure relative was a proper sort of a Viking'
Or...'My friend in Ireland is actually related to William the Conqueror don't you know...'
You won't be able to bask in some sort of reflected glory 'cos I shan't tell you about the latest beheading or being sent into exile...I'll keep it all to myself instead.
Actually...you'd fall about laughing so you would if you saw just exactly how I'm related to William the Conqueror...Teresa did. She read it all out...then she read it all out to Reuben...and then she laughed and then she said...but was he your cousin several times removed...and then she laughed again and handed all the detailed info back to me while stifling giggles and making herself choke in the process.
Teresa can afford to have a laugh because poor Richard Empson was far closer to her than ever old William was to me...he was her sixteenth Great Grand Uncle if you remember...whereas William...well, let's just say we have the same genes but you'd need to be an expert to fathom out how and why...and that is where Ancestry comes into its own 'cos it does it all for you.
By the time you've worked out Grand Uncles and ten times removed cousins on the paternal side and add a couple of sister-in-laws just to keep it interesting...
What I find incredible is that so many others are also related to poor Alice who lost her head...and to William the Conqueror...and to the oddly named Deliverance who was an early settler in America...there are all those people...all those descendants...we are as diverse as those ancestors were...there are Americans and English and Scots...Australians and New Zealanders and some who live in China and India...
We have Jews and Non-Conformists and Quakers...staunch Roman Catholics and Baptists...a sprinkling of Church of England and a few Wesleyans'...there were grand landowners and those who resided in huge houses and a few in remote and lonely castles...we have warriors and tyrants and pacifists. Many died in battles...some while on Crusades...just a few died peaceably in their beds of old age...
Some have carved marble effigies in old country churches, others are buried where they fell in battle...still more have nothing to mark their passing but for a brief record in an old book kept for safety in the local vicarage...
The more I delve into my family, the more there is to wonder over...to be able to go back five hundred years is wonderful...to go back one thousand years into the stories of the old kings of England and Ireland...the alluring tales of the Icelanders...to read of a battle fought and know one of my relatives was there...maybe in heavy armour on a war horse especially bred for battles...with young men by his side carrying his arrows and his axes...that was when battles were fought on agreed dates and times...there was something gentlemanly about them. Retreats were honoured and prisoners' were held to ransom and allowed freedom within the confines of those ancient castles...
Just occasionally I cannot grasp the enormity...I suppose most of us are guilty of thinking our heritage begins and ends with grandparents...perhaps great grandparents. We declare ourselves to be British through and through or Irish down to the bone...from what I've found so far I am nothing but a mongrel...French and Scottish...English and Irish...Icelandic and Swedish...all mixed up in varying portions.
To find ancestors...however remote and obscure they may be...who were hauled into a marketplace and beheaded...makes me astonished and awed...to know hundreds of other people are also related in some way or another to Alice is almost beyond grasping...
So, I write about these people...the ordinary Ag Labs of the 1800's, the Crusaders and the minor royals...the traitors and the heretics'...it brings some kind of a peace I suppose...to know those people were my people...it helps me find my place in the scheme of things.
Not one single one of us is plain ordinary...we all have tales to tell and stories to be heard...