See also: A computer generated family history
A few years ago I started to realise that I didn’t really know where I had come from. I wanted to know who was part of the blood that has run through my veins all these years. So, I have compiled an extensive genealogical study of my own family starting with the basic knowledge I had as a child. I have managed to trace my blood relatives back to the 1600′s. They were tracked in London, Gloucestershire, Ross and Cromarty, Poland and Devon. All have connections through to the Georgian era into harsh cruel Victorian times, through the worry and death of two world wars and into the prevailing Elizabethan age.
(above: The 1911 Census (England and Wales) shows greater detail and information about one’s family history than ever before. Here you can see my Great Grandfather’s (Clement Edwin Waugh) household with his wife (Sarah Waugh, nee: Lear), her father (my Great, Great Grandfather – John Lear) and my Grandfather (Albert) at their home in Newton Abbot, South West England. Three years later Albert volunteered to serve in the Great War in the ‘Devon and Dorsets’ during which time he was sent to India to serve. His two brothers died in the 1890′s during a flu outbreak. Albert told me years later how he just survived the flu, but it wasn’t until after he died that I discovered the fate of his brothers).
(above: Here you can see Clement, who was born in 1857 in Bitton, Gloucestershire, was a Coppersmith working for the Great Western Railway. Sarah Lear, also born in 1857 in Deptford, Kent, was a fulltime housewife, Albert, born in 1895 in Newton Abbot, was working as Solicitor’s Office Boy. After the Great War he worked in the Regional Offices of the Great Western Railway. John Lear, who was born in Teignmouth, Devon in 1822, spent most of his working life as a Shipwright at Chatham Dockyard. By 1911 John was a Retired Pensioner. Pensions were introduced in 1909 by Lloyd George. “The Lloyd George pension required no contributions, was “means tested” (i.e. based upon how much money you have, and what you needed) and was payable from age 70″)
From all this detail and that of the 1901, 1891 and 1881 census you can see that my family moved and travelled quite a lot – Clement had moved to Newton Abbot from the family home in Gloucester by 1881 to find work with the then booming railway companies (in his case Great Western). Clements family was based in Gloucester for about three generations and were originally from Ross and Cromarty in Scotland. Clements’s wife was born in Kent where her father (John) had moved and settled from his rural home in Teignmouth, Devon to work with the thriving Chatham Dockyard. John had returned to his Devon roots some years before 1911 bringing with him his his daughter, Sarah.
In 1922, Albert went on to marry Newton Abbot girl, Edith Churchward (a long established Devon family) and they stayed in the Newton Abbot area all their lives (moving to nearby Kingskerswell in 1952. My father was also born in Newton Abbot during the 1920′s and, keeping the Westcountry ties strong, I was born in nearby Dorset where my father was based for the BBC after the Second World War!).
Other people’s family history is not unlike looking at other people’s wedding or holiday photographs – on the surface they all look basically the same and, try as you might, other people’s family history, like those holiday and wedding snaps are never as interesting as your own so I will restrain from boring you with the, for me at least, exciting little stories. Stories of a way back grandfather who for some unknown reason was sent to the colonies and the story of a poor great cousin of mine who was so hungry he was reduced to stealing a little grain and then sentenced to hard labour. My tragic great uncles, brothers, who died so very young from the deadly flu in the late 1890′s.
Like a majority of ordinary family history the outcome of the research paints a picture of commonplace folk – hard work, desperation, the fight for survival and short, slightly diverse, sometimes tragic although in many ways similar lives.
Somehow it gives me a strange feeling of actually belonging, a feeling that my predecessors were far more triumphant and in a way glorious than I ever will be – they fought and worked hard for their survival. They never saw or possibly envisaged what has become the result of their daily fight and drudgery – this politically paranoiac, self destructive, instant, pre-packaged, self-centred period we call the 21st century.