Sunday, 29 May 2011

Will the real Uncle Charlie Please Stand Up?

Once upon a time a grumpy old man turned to his daughter and said,
"you can carry on with this family history stuff, I'm too old for all this now. See if you can find those darned actors"
The daughter accepted the large box of papers and certificates and promised her father that she would do her best to find out about the actors. She methodically read everything in the box and carefully (with a new fangled computer program for her Atari computer) drew up a family tree. she put all the documents into lever arch folders in chronological order and began a research journal so that she wouldn't forget what had been done and where she had looked so far.
She found that the actors, John Charles Guilfoyle (stage name Charles Guilfoyle Seymour) and Elizabeth Nathan (stage name Bessie Nathan) were married in March 1879 just before travelling to Dublin to perform. She discovered that Their oldest daughter was born in Dublin in 1881, that they were in Scotland when the 1881 census was taken and that they already had a son, born 1879 who was named Daniel after his grandfather. A daughter Margaret followed, born in 1882 in Darlington then another son in 1884/5 called Charles after his father. There was a long gap and just when Bessie must have thought she was safe she had another daughter, Bessie Hope, in 1898.
Now it would seem that Daniel was the black sheep of the family. One of the many family stories that have come down to the grumpy old man's daughter from Aunty Mu (pronounced Mew) is that Daniel married a spanish girl and she was a bit hot tempered. She took him to Spain to meet his in-laws and for some reason she threw him out into the street in his underwear and the British Consul had to help him get home. Daniel then met a french girl and because he was already married he "borrowed" his brother's name, courted her, married her and then emigrated to America where he lived in New York State until he died in the 1950s. Always swearing that he was Charles John Daniel Guilfoyle.
In the mean time the Real Charles had joined the British army, served in India and in 1914 was discharged as "unfit for war". With the help of several real researchers Grumpy's daughter now knows that the real Uncle Charlie married in 1914 had a daughter and two sons over the next few years. Those sons were both in the Royal Navy in WW2 and both died, one in 1939 and one in 1945. She was delighted to learn that Real Uncle Charlie's daughter married and had a son.
The only regret is that the grumpy old man died in 2003 so he never got to see just how much information his daughter had gathered. He never got to see her on TV doing her research in the Jewish Museum and the Metropolitan archives and being interviewed in her own front room.
She hopes that he is looking down on her whenever she finds something new about her ancestors and that he is able to meet up with his cousins that he never knew in life.

This one is for you Dad

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

It's all about Pavlov's dog...

I was just reminded about something that happened when we lived at Rhiwlas Mill (In the picture I am pulling a sulky face). I say we, I mean my children and I were living with my parents. The children's father had left and we were getting used to life without tension and shouting.

Every night I would take my cup of hot chocolate or milky coffee - we used a lot of milk in those days because we had several goats that I milked every day and before the goats we had our own house cow.
I digress.
I would take my cup of whatever up to bed, carrying it in my right hand with the current reading matter carried in my left. On reaching the bedroom doorway I would throw the book onto the bed, which was to the left, and then turn slightly to my right to switch on the light. The light switch being on the right of the doorway.
I always did it this way, had done for the last seven or eight years. Reach the doorway, throw with the left hand turn to the right and switch on the light. I could do it with my eyes shut or in the dark. Ah It usually was dark, that's why I had to switch on the light. Anyway, I had become accustomed to doing it, a habit you might say until one night..... You're way ahead of me aren't you?
Yes I picked up the cup in my left hand because I had several small things to read. I was a member of a letter writing group and the package had arrived that day. Eight letters to read with pictures and all sorts of stuff and I took it to bed to enjoy it in private. I also had a book and a magazine. I picked them up into my right hand and then picked up the cup in my left. I reached the bedroom doorway, threw with my left hand and then froze as I realised that it was the cup.
Hot milky coffee soaks through a duvet really quickly and through sheets and into the mattress. It is really difficult to get the stains out too.
Now this wouldn't have mattered a bit if I had been able to keep quiet about it but by the next day - after a most uncomfortable night in a sleeping bag on an airbed whilte the mattress dried out - I just saw the funny side and had to tell some of the people I worked with.
It was also one of the first things I told Mr M when we were getting to know each other. I was reminded of it tonight when I picked up my coffee cup with my left hand because my right hand was full of the letters my Mum wrote to my Dad just before they were married (Why I was holding them is a story for another day). I thought "I had better not get confused about which hand has the letters" and then I remembered what I did way back in about 1979. I thought I would write it down somewhere so it doesn't get lost.

Monday, 9 May 2011

When Aunty Mary helped paper the spare bedroom

I have been preparing things for our family reunion. We are getting together at the Gwent Family History Society Open Day. They have very kindly said we can use one of the rooms they don't use at County Hall, Cwmbran for our family get together. I have printed several small branches of the family tree for each of the family groups and a big version of the whole tree as it stands at the moment for everyone to look at. I have also put all the newspaper cuttings that my Dad had collected into an album and also I have scrapbooked loads of old photographs of previous family parties and weddings and stuff.
It last night, after dinner with my cousin that I sat down to watch Robson Green's programme about the Pitmen who were painters in the north-east. One of the pictures they painted was of a family decorating the parlour and this brought a picture into my head of the day my mother, my Aunty Mary and I papered the ceiling in the middle bedroom at the farm.
I have no idea why we had to paper the ceiling, mother had decided and who were we to argue?
There were two sets of step-ladders and a plank; a sweeping brush (new), a bucket of paste, a pating table and several rolls of cheap paper and several pasting brushes. The floor was covered with dust sheets and the window was open.
Mother measured the length of the first strip of paper, cut the required amount from the roll and began pasting it. She and Aunty Mary delicately held the strip and awkwardly climbed the steps onto the plank.
Oh, did I tellyou the room was about 15 feet square? well it was.
I stepped forward with the sweeping brush and gently raised the middle of the strip to the middle of the ceiling. Mum and Aunty gently unfurled the paper and began the task of smoothing it onto the ceiling without stretching it but firmly enough that it wouldn't fall back down again. They were both of them out at the ends of the plank and as they worked they gradually came towards the middle.
This was where the plan went a little awry. The closer they came to each other the more the plank bowed with their weight and the less contact they had with the ceiling and the paper. I stood on the floor with my sweeping brush holding the paper up and tried so hard not to laugh. I failed. Mother started to giggle Aunty tried hard but soon was leaning against the steps at her end of the plank gasping with laughter. Then the paper started to sag so they would gently move to the middle of the plank and this would set them off again. they would work their way back to the ends of the plank and wipe their eyes.
I was sent to find the old sweeping brush the dusting mop and some old pillow cases from the airing cupboard. These were used in the same way as my sweeping brush and pretty soon we had things back under control.
It did remind Aunty of the time she and her sisters were decorating, before any of them left their parental home, and Chris decided that the only thing was to paper under the stairs. Apparently there were five of them under the stairs holding the paper up when the parish priest arrived to enquire why they hadn't been at mass the day before..... TRAPPED!