I love scandals in the family – preferably in past generations, of course.
My dad’s cousin, always known to me as Auntie Bessie, was supposed to have traced the family back to Cornwall in the 1600s whereupon the two distinct family lines were said to split into pirates and lunatics. At that point she gave up.
At least that was the story, but I never got the chance to talk to her about it before she died. Sadly it doesn’t appear to be true. I’ve done a lot family research myself, but there’s no Cornish connection – though the family goes back to Dorset and Somerset.
I’m reminded of the standing quotation from the TV show, ‘House’ – ‘Everybody lies.’
My Great-Great-Grandfather, Fletcher Fletcher, (so good they named him twice!) came from New Hall in Staffordshire, close to Burton on Trent, but his son, Benjamin James Randal Fletcher moved up to Castleford (Yorkshire) to work in the mines in the 1870s and told everyone he came from St Ives in Cornwall. It’s even in the family bible – though in a slightly different hand as if it’s an afterthought.
A cousin suggested that since Staffordshire miners had a reputation for strike-breaking, no one looking for work in a mining community wanted to admit that’s where they came from. If I could grab Benjamin’s spirit in a seance I’d really take him to task for that one. It took me ages to track him down. You wouldn’t think there would be many Fletcher Fletchers in genealogical/census records – and there aren’t, only 6 in total anywhere in the country – but, of course not one of them in Cornwall, so I was looking in the wrong place for years!
Benjamin did well for himself. He married Emily Robinson, daughter of Samuel Robinson who was not only a colliery viewer (a mine manager) in Castleford, but also ended up with his own pub (The Victoria) and a rather large and impressive tombstone as a monument. Possibly as a result of who-you-know, Benjamin ended up as a undermanager in a colliery, though neither he nor Emily made old bones, and the Fletcher children were brought up by their oldest sister, Mary, who married Sam Bullough shortly after her parents’ deaths. Kudos to Mary for keeping the family together, but as a career teacher (yes, even in the era around the First World War) it was Sam who did most of the bringing up after he got back from the trenches. Sam and Mary had only one child who survived and that was Auntie Bessie (a career teacher who never married and who literally wrote the book on new methods of teaching music and movement in the heady days of arts teaching after the Second World War). Bessie’s photos came to me after she died. Sadly, though we looked through all her papers after her death, there was no trace of the family research she was supposed to have done. Did she do it? I can’t imagine she’d have thrown it away if she did. Are we back to the ‘Everybody lies,’ thing?
The more I dig into genealogy, the more I realise that stories come from everywhere, and family history can be just as good a source of inspiration as anything else.