In the UK we have a genealogy programme on the BBC called ‘Who do you think you are?’ It follows a celebrity as they are led on their journey through their family tree. Sometimes it concentrates on a particular family member, or an area of the country or event. Sometimes it simply traces the various lines back as far as they can go. For me, as someone who loves history and social history in particular, it is an hour well spent.
For years now I have been tracing my own family tree back through the generations. I have stumbled upon a few merchants who did quite well for themselves on the wider branches of the family but for the direct line hard work and modest achievement seems to have been the key. Good country and city folk who worked hard to provide for their families and carve out a life for themselves. There were a few rotten apples in the barrel but that was only to be expected when my research had been so in depth and all encompassing.
The job is not yet done. As any genealogist, amateur or professional, will tell you there are always new records waiting to be unearthed, new discoveries to be made and I still have one half of my family tree as yet mostly unexplored.
Whilst my Mum was a devoted reader, neither of my parents wrote anything more than the odd letter. No one in my immediate family has any compunction to write other than me. It leaves me wondering where my talent, if I dare call it that, comes from.
I had hoped that possibly somewhere in my family tree I would find a writer. A firm link back to a passion I have always had within me, a long lost ancestor whose genes I undoubtedly shared but alas no. At least not one I can prove.
It strikes me that I probably did have ancestors who shared my love of words and my passion for creativity but such were the circumstances that surrounded their lives it was impossible for them to pursue their dreams or give flight to their imaginations beyond perhaps story telling in the pub or around the hearth. I will never know.
But it gave me pause for thought. How lucky am I to live at a time when all of these opportunities are available to me? In the rush and tumble of the modern word it is all too easy to lose sight of that.
So today, I’m feeling grateful.