Having dealt with journeys and migration yesterday ‘K’ gives me the opportunity to write about another of the themes underpinning my ‘emigrants’ research – kinship. What role does kinship play in migration choices? Certainly there is plenty of evidence for chains of migration, where one family member goes overseas and is followed by siblings, cousins or other relatives. This leads us on to wonder how strong family ties were for our predecessors. Particularly in a small rural community, where many inhabitants were related in some way, how aware would our ancestors have been of those relationships? Unless they are family historians, many people in today’s world would struggle to name all their first cousins, let alone be in contact with them. How much is this due to the fact that many families are now widely geographically dispersed, whereas a century ago they might still be living in close proximity? In the days when families were larger, did cousins become insignificant because siblings were numerous?
Many celebrity tree hunters are keen to link two disparate celebrities on the same pedigree. If we try hard enough and follow many ancestral lines we can probably link ourselves to someone famous, to royalty, or to a number of our friends and acquaintances. There was a dear family history friend whom I had known for many years. We had long since had the conversation ‘I am descended from the Smiths of London’. ‘So am I! Ha! We must be related!’ A considerable while later it turned out that we were indeed related (more of that story when we get to S).
Equally we can probably connect ourselves to many places through our distant kin. So, for example, my four times great grandfather, William Braund, had a sister called Betty. Betty’s husband was Gamaliel Bartlett, whose father was, in 1735, baptised in the parish where I now live. Convoluted I know but the connection is there. More eerily, I moved to Buckinghamshire in 1982, believing myself to have no ancestral connections in the county. After I moved away I discovered that not only had my grandmother been born in Buckinghamshire, despite her family living in London but that my great great grandmother had lived in the same road in which I was make my home.