You know those weird ‘meant to be’ moments when a facet of your family history falls in to place and it seems to be more than just co-incidence? There are even suggestions from the scientific community that memories can be passed on through our DNA. Genetic memory or not, there are certainly some inexplicable twists of fate that lurk within the stories of some people’s family history research trails. Often we find that our skills, abilities and interests reflect those of our ancestors. To be honest, we’ve an awful lot of ancestors out there; it probably isn’t too difficult to find someone who shares your musical ability or your love of dressmaking. I feel drawn to certain landscapes and parts of the country. Many of these have ancestral connections but my ancestry spreads over most of the counties of southern England, with a few rogues from the north, so again not much of a co-incidence.
Serendipity then. Here is my hairs standing up on the back of the neck tale. I spent most of my adult life living on the Isle of Wight. I chose to live there and have an affinity to the island but as yet, no ancestral connections, although my parents went there on honeymoon (no I wasn’t conceived there!). Although both my children were born on the island, neither was christened there. The elder was baptised in a Buckinghamshire village during a brief, work related, three years that we spent living in that county. The younger was christened, far from home, at the annual church service arranged by our one-name society.
Several years after we returned to the island from Buckinghamshire I took another look at my paternal grandmother’s side of the family. This was decades before online research made life easier. My uncle, by then deceased, as was everyone on this side of the family, had been adamant that his grandmother came from Cumberland. It made some sort of sense, her husband was from Northumberland. After diligent searching I found her, not in Cumberland but in Buckinghamshire. At the time I was living there I had no knowledge of any ancestral links to the county. She was born fairly close to where I had been living. In those days, the only way to see the census returns was to travel to London, so it was some months before I could take this any further back and reach the next generation, my great-great grandmother, who, the census revealed, had lived in not just the same county, not just in the same village but in the same road that I had inhabited for three years.
We so nearly didn’t live there. At the time neither I nor my husband drove. The houses we had been looking at were all in the town where he was to be working. Typically, in the days before online house-hunting, the estate agent had also sent details of properties that did not meet our spec, one of them was this village property about five miles out of town. A colleague offered to drive us out for a viewing and we were hooked. Thus my elder daughter was baptised in the same church as her 3 times great grandmother, although we did not know it at the time.
Even my current home has a family history connection. I had decided to downsize and relocate to North Devon but had not yet started to search seriously for a new home. We were visiting Devon and taking someone round parishes that had connections to their ancestry. We drew up near the churchyard. This was churchyard number seven. It was, inevitably, pouring with rain. By this time I was losing the will and in need of drying my socks on the car radiator so I remained in the car whilst my companions plunged knee deep in wet graveyard. I looked up and saw a For Sale sign. After six months and various trials and tribulations, that are an almost essential concomitant of UK house buying, I moved in. Do I have any ancestral connections to my current home? Well – and there will be questions on this later – my 4 times great grandfather’s, sister’s, husband’s father was baptised here – I’m not sure that counts!