A QUEST FOR THE HOLY GRAIL

Denison house where I was born  errrr 15th August and yes that is the Chinese flag it is now that countries consulate in Manchester.

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The holy grail can mean whatever we want it to mean. So many definitions exist to this mythical object that the grail to me are my family roots; all steeped in the history of my country. Genealogy is becoming more popular by the year. Television programmes abound and in particular I watch “Who do you think you are?” with avid curiosity. I am genuinely surprised when this centuries view of how mankind conducts itself are transferred, one two even five centuries back and then people recoil in horror at what was the ‘norm’ to their ancestors. Experience tells me that success in the quest is not quite as easy as the program teases its viewers. No worldwide flights for this researcher! Just visits to county record centres within a day’s travel. Twenty years ago there were no such programmes on television. No internet to interrogate.  Simply a few well written books gathering dust in my local library. What I did have was time. Redundancy had given me that in abundance.

The story tellers….We are the chosen. Each family, has one who seems called to put flesh upon their ancestors and make them live again. To tell the family story and to feel somehow they know and approve…To me, doing genealogy is not cold gathering of facts but, instead breathing life into all who have gone before..We are the story tellers of the tribe..

An awe inspiring task for the beginner because in 1992 I had little information about my family and so  put the advice that gathering information from living relatives, was where to begin the search, I headed to my birthplace in Lancashire. On one of my frequent visits I planned to question my Mother, who in her 91st year was my oldest living relative. I was full of enthusiasm, expecting to fill my notebook from cover to cover, with tales of two or even three generations.  I returned home disappointed. Ada you see had a ‘convenient memory’ or her hearing aid was, as usual, mal functioning it was difficult to tell. A cup of tea and a forbidden biscuit, to the diabetic, she began to reel off information about her childhood in Hulme a district in Manchester she even mentioned and anecdote about her father, George Davenport. He had lived on a farm in Cheshire and he had led a bull into the kitchen.

“Possibly he did that to emphasise a point in a family augument?” I surmised.

“Why do you want to know all this?” asked my mother.

“I have begun to research our family history.” I replied.

Big mistake!

“Let ‘em be!” She muttered.

“They ‘av gone. Let ‘em rest in peace!” she emphasised as she dunked her biscuit into  the half drunk cup of tea. Sadly a year later she died and between times never again spoke about the past.

None of the reference books give advice on how to deal with an uncooperative elderly mother. Neither her nor my father had many pictures of their respective relatives.  On being rehoused from Manchester,in the mid 1960’s to Wilmslow, they had thrown away books, pictures and to my everlasting sorrow, a Victorian family bible. I have questioned her reluctance many times over the intervening years because nothing since unearthed amounts to a family scandal, apart perhaps, for a suicide.

My time spent on the quest was then, and remains, determined by the available cash I had, on a monthly basis, to devote to the project. I decided in the beginning to follow the paternal lines back as far as the records would allow. Over a period of two years I accumulated the necessary birth marriage and death certificates [ each cost at that time £7 p & p] to enable me to make sense of the 1881 Census, a copy of which I located in the Derbyshire records office in Matlock.

I then had 150 years of facts. My paternal Great Grandfather, James Boardman had been born in Leigh, Lancashire in 1842. In 1881 he was living in Manchester with his wife Elizabeth and family. The reference about Cheshire and my Grandfather became fact as I discovered the census entry which located him as living with a sister, Minnie, at their own Grandparents home, in Somerford, a farming hamlet close to Congleton. My mother’s maternal side were as yet undiscovered. [ Her mother was born after 1881]. The search for my father’s maternal line was a little more successful. His mother Minnie Mangnall, lived in Manchester as did her parents and siblings.

“A journey of a thousand miles begins with but a single step” and my first tentative step had taken two years and was merely an ill defined scratch on the surface of my quest.

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2 thoughts on “A QUEST FOR THE HOLY GRAIL

  1. Information of all sorts are exploding these days, whatever subjects it comes to. I just read a report saying: the total volume of human knowledge is doubling itself every 2 to 3 years nowadays!

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