My grandchildren look nothing like me, or anyone in my past. One looks like his dad. The next one looks like his uncle. The next one’s the spitting image of his granddad. And then along came Zoë. A few weeks back, my son found this photo of me at about the age Zoë is now, and thought he detected a resemblance. Two of a kind? You decide.
My goodness. What a can of worms I opened when I decided to research a bit of family history. Originally, I simply planned to gather together all the stories, legends, bits of fact and fiction that all families accrue around themselves and record them in my new blog ‘Notes on a family’. But then, you can get a free trial period of a fortnight on Ancestry UK, so why not take things a little further?
I think the site may have sucked me in, just as it wanted to. Sleuthing around, tracking my family through the generations has been quite a lot of (frustrating) fun. But all that’s for the other blog. Here’s where I wanted to tell you about some of the incidental stuff I’ve found.
Did you know, for instance, that the census recorders used to have to note anybody they found who could be described as:
- Deaf and dumb
- Imbecile, feeble minded.
I remember that my mother told me that when she was a child, the use of such terms as ‘moron’, ‘imbecile’ and ‘idiot’ was quite normal and not necessarily offensive, while my father, never known for his political correctness, had no problem in winding down his car window to yell ‘cretin’ at any passing jay-walker.
One of the shocks is just how large my ‘family’ is, potentially. My grandfather was one of ten, his father one of nine. Add in their spouses, their children, and their children’s spouses and children, and sudenly you’re wondering if the person you hold a door open for at the library might be your seventh cousin, five times removed.
And then all those wonderful occupations. My grandmother’s family came from the textile districts of Yorkshire and Lancashire, so whole streets full of people worked at the busy mills. But nothing as dull as ‘Mill worker‘ will do as a job description. Try these: *‘worsted spinner’; ‘overlooker, stuff factory’; ‘stuff weaver’; ‘scribbling overlooker’ (what?), ‘woollen piecer’. An entire road’s worth of houses were inhabited by people had jobs such as these. Just occasionally, someone else got thrown into the mix. ‘Lamplighter’; ‘washerwoman’; ‘Roman Catholic priest’, as well as the odd ‘domestic servant‘, a young girl of 15 to 20, usually.
I couldn’t think how to illustrate this piece. Then I remembered a couple of old family albums, full of photos I have no possible means of identifying. Let’s give them their last outing.
- These are for you, Kerry.