13 Sep

My father, who died three years ago this week and who I still miss terribly for his humour and wit, only noticed in the last ten years or so of his life that the date of birth on his birth certificate was somewhat less than seven months after the date on his parents’ marriage certificate!

This didn’t bother him in the slightest but following that discovery he would include the following in any discussion about family history:

“I come from a long line my mother should never have listened to!”

Mind you I’m mighty glad that my paternal grandfather WAS being “a bit of a lad” in the spring of 1926 because if he had been blessed with more self control my father would not have existed and, therefore, neither would I. And that would have been BAD – not only for my daughters but for you, my readers, who would have to find something else to do with your time!

Regrettably it was only in the last couple of years of Dad’s life that we both obtained sufficiently fast internet connections to make a start with on-line researches into our descendants. This did not proceed terribly quickly as the only source available to us then that did not involve spending a fairly substantial sum of money on annual subscriptions or “credits” with other sites was the official Public Record Office site for the 1901 census.

I knew where to start with Dad’s side of the family because one of the few family folklore stories that we had, concerned my great-grandfather who had left his Cambridgeshire village in his teens, joined the army and served in Burma. He ended this career back in Ipswich where he then got a job as a Warder at Ipswich Gaol.

My father described his grandfather as “a screw; one of three holding up a door hinge” – I sometimes think Dad spent a little TOO much time listening to Spike Milligan!

In later records such as the 1901 census and my grandfather’s marriage certificate great-grandfather was described as “labourer” and “net-mender” respectively so he plainly wasn’t exactly ascending the social scale as he got older – I suppose a career spent firing a rifle “up the jungle” didn’t really prepare him for ordinary toil in Edwardian England!

Incidentally, I’m getting confused over exactly who is whose grandfather now so I’m going to adapt my paternal ancestors’ true names as follows:

I (as you know) am called Little Alfie for reasons that have already been stated elsewhere in these articles.

My father (whose real name WAS Alfred) becomes “Big Alfie”.

His father, my grandfather (for variety) shall be called “Jack the Milkman”. Mainly because that’s what his name was and that was what he did for a living! There will be more about HIM in a later posting!

My grandfather’s older brother (after whom MY father was named) who doesn’t figure anywhere else in this tale, has to claim “Bigger Alfie”.

And finally, HIS father, the soldier turned “screw” can then become “Biggest Alfie” because I haven’t subsequently found any earlier Alfies to outdo him.

I’m really glad we sorted that out – it’s all much clearer now. Isn’t it? Good!

At the point when Dad left us to join the Cosmic Overmind in 2006 I had ascertained that Biggest Alfie had been born in Comberton in Cambridgeshire in 1847 and I would probably not have got much further without it costing me!

One of Dad’s cousins, however, (he is descended from Jack the Milkman’s sister “Florrie”) recently went the extra mile and shelled out some money on obtaining a duplicate certificate for Biggest Alfie and, because we have him in common as an ancestor, let me know the outcome.

It transpires that Biggest Alfie’s mother was not married! No father’s name is mentioned which means that under the patronymic system in traditional use my surname really shouldn’t be what it is but rather that of this anonymous sperm donor!

Unless, of course, there wasn’t an earthbound human father at all!

It isn’t of course the first time this is supposed to have happened now, is it?

And, because as you may have gleaned from my previous posting, I regard “blasphemy” as one of the more ludicrous “sins” created by mankind, I have no hesitation in referring to her whenever necessary as “The Virgin Edith”.

The awkward thing about it is, of course that it means that one whole line of my sixteen great, great grandparents cannot be followed up at all.

I just hope that the missing man was local to that area because my other tentative researches so far show my ancestors as coming from various parts of Cambridgeshire, Suffolk and North Essex, which makes me (until some interloper appears) pure East Anglian. Not British, not English but a member of a kingdom much older than both of those!

Because the main difference between Genealogy and family history is that the former is a collection of Birth, Marriage and Death facts and figures, while the latter looks at HOW those people lived, I have been getting out and looking at my old home villages.

Just recently, Faith and I took my Mum, wheelchair and all, around Kelvedon in Essex, and Lavenham and Long Melford in Suffolk – some of her ancestral places. I don’t think it would have meant much to her if we hadn’t been able to tell her that some of the grandparents she actually remembered from childhood were born in those places. Still, as I pointed out to her a couple of times, they were MY ancestors too and just as important to me as the Alfie line.

Oh, and I’ll remember Long Melford for other reasons too – I got stung by a bloody wasp in the “Cock & Bell” Public house (excellent pub, great food, just missing one of those blue light wasp zappers!) and had to hike about half a mile up the main street (it’s called LONG Melford for good reason) to find a Chemists’ shop!

When you are doing this Family History stuff it is obligatory to root around the graveyards of village churches looking for surnames you recognise and, in my case, photographing the gravestones. So far no-one has leapt out of the grave shouting “no pictures!” but I live in hope. In fact I haven’t found that many relevant graves at all yet – I have however, found a really great irrelevant one!

In the churchyard at Comberton (where Biggest Alfie’s ancestors are presumed to reside) there is a tomb bearing the following inscription:

“In memory of Joshua Mann who fell jumping over St. Ives toll gate at midnight July 25th 1809, the 33rd anniversary of his birthday.”

Bloody loony! If that’s the kind of person The Virgin Edith’s parents or grandparents were associating with it’s hardly surprising she turned out a single parent, now is it?

I shall keep on trying to find more pieces of the genetic jigsaw puzzle that is me and would really love to make some progress down the lost line of Biggest Alfie’s father. It would be rather nice to find a bit of noble blood in amongst all the railway workers, grooms and agricultural labourers I’ve found so far!

Just as long as he doesn’t turn out to be from Norfolk! Or, god forbid, Scotland! I think a spot of incest would be preferable to either of THOSE possibilities!



Posted by on September 13, 2009 in Uncategorized


4 responses to “Roots!

  1. Mike

    September 13, 2009 at 9:16 pm

    I was sorry to hear about your Dad – been there – done that – not nice.

    But the story of your investigations into your ancestry reminded me of mine.

    As I knew I would be ESCAPING the over-priced, soggy misery of the Uke soon, I decided to check out my roots while it was still possible.

    Thus me and Dad visited various churchyards and Hatched, Matched and Despatched departments (which is where I found out about what happened to The Lord Of The Flies) with that intent.

    The result was a tree that a stiff breeze would have little trouble knocking over. I.e., it’s LOP-SIDED!

    What I mean is, my Dad’s side of the tree was HUGE and went back CENTURIES – but my Mum turned out to have been the result of a union between “a nice, older man” who, having knocked up my Granny, Ada, came round for a couple years, bringing money and toys for my Mum, then “went away to Sea and was never heard from again.”

    Damn! I’m 25% illegitimate!

    There’s more on Ada somewhere in my scribblings – it made quite a story. But whilst illegitimacy is hardly a big deal these days, I must confess to being CURIOUS about this bloke.

    He appears to have been white, probably a Londoner – and that’s IT! The family tree I constructed has about fifty people on m’Dad’s side – but only five on Mum’s.

    I wonder what the hell number six was like…?

  2. littlealfie

    September 13, 2009 at 10:23 pm

    There are probably guys like your missing grandad in every family. I remember my father asking HIS father who a rather “spiv-like” chap was in a 1930s photo.

    “Oh that was the bloke who was knocking off your Auntie Rose”, was the reply.

    And that generation deplored OUR behaviour in the 60s and 70s! Bloody hypocrites!

    It might even have been the same guy!

  3. Lala

    October 3, 2009 at 2:09 pm

    “I just hope that the missing man was local to that area because my other tentative researches so far show my ancestors as coming from various parts of Cambridgeshire, Suffolk and North Essex, which makes me (until some interloper appears) pure East Anglian. Not British, not English but a member of a kingdom much older than both of those!”

    i kind of really hope he turns out to be northern. it would be funny and also offer some explanation as to why i keep insisting on running away up here


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