The title this week is a nod to the Chelsea flower show. Gardening, as any gardener knows, can be addictive. Tilling, planting, pruning, moving something to a better position (a process we called ‘triffidising’), until those inside the house yell, “It’s getting dark, can you see what you’re doing out there?” But, gardening for me is over with the exception, of course, of helping Maureen to move a window box occasionally. At Chelsea this year there are some fascinating things. Not least, the complete tree on display, roots and all.
This gives me a neat segue to something else that can become addictive. No matter how much you consume, the nag is always there, ‘Just one more bit, just one more bit. Who knows what a little more digging will reveal?’ No, I’m not talking about harvesting magic mushrooms. It’s something far more controlling than narcotics; genealogy. You never know where it will lead you.
Let someone who is researching their family roots start talking and you’ll soon realise how all consuming it can become. They’ll jabber on excitedly for minute, after hour, after oh, ever such a long time, in detail, about people in whom you have no interest, never noticing the glaze that has formed over your eyes. I’m one of them!
I started a while back. It began by wanting to record all of the descendants of both Maureen’s parents and mine. After all, we needed to know how to share out the £100M+ that we might one day win on the EuroMillions lottery didn’t we? Well, one thing led to another. I found living relatives that I didn’t know existed. I became aware of thriving branches of the family that I might otherwise have missed.
Emails and photographs were exchanged; I became aware of ‘my life so far’ stories that gave me a new picture of the family of which I am part. Some stories were serious, some were humorous and others reminded me of when I was younger. Sleepless nights, milky dribbles, terrible-two tantrums, over-adventurous toddlers and the joys, or otherwise, of school days; they wove a rich tapestry.
My Dad, 1910
It couldn’t stop there. Learning where the family was going led me into wanting to discover from where it had come. I started with my immediate family using my memory, a few documents and old photographs and it took off from there.
At this point I shall go into intricate detail and wait for your eyes to glaze over. Some interesting facts emerged but I’ll spare you the detail. I have discovered that we have a royal connection! The farthest back that I have been able to trace my father’s line is to my great, great, great, grandfather who was born in 1774. I have documents that show that he was part of the Royal Household. Yes, he was employed as a coal porter at Kensington Palace; how’s that for a claim to fame? A relative of mine filled up the coal scuttles of the king so that the maids could keep the royal toes warm. And this was no ordinary king; this was George III, the guy who was kicked out of America.
Fresh young life.
Rupert and Elijah. My sister’s great grandchildren, 2013.
Post script: People on the family tree are permitted to keep their fingers crossed but please don’t hold your breath while you are doing it. The odds against us winning the jackpot are 1 in 116,531,800 or 0.0000000086%.