Meet the Family
Updated: Mar 28
Are you curious about your ancestors?
Ever wondered what they did and where they lived. What about where you came from and what happened in the past that may have shaped who you are? I am hooked on it.
I started my family tree over 12 years ago after being given a pile of photos and papers relating to my grandmother and her parents. The story goes that my great grandfather on my grandmother's side was a Swedish sailor, married to a Romany gypsy who was in touch with the spirit world.
For a writer and lover of a good story, this was tantalising information. I was given some trinkets too, including a couple of army cap badges belonging to my grandfather and great-grandfather, and my great-grandmother's prayer book dated 1861. My great-grandmother was quite a religious woman, stern too by all accounts, but after tracing back ancestors down her line as far as 1789, there is no sign of any other nationality other than English, and no one born outside of Yorkshire. I guess the 'Romany gypsy' title comes from her work on the fairground as a young woman and her apparent psychic abilities.
My family tree research ground to a halt for many years. It bounced back to the forefront last year when my youngest son moved to Sweden, the homeland of his great-great-grandfather.
Rekindled enthusiasm and a quest to find Swedish ancestors drew many blanks, unfortunately, but a determination to visit Malmo and Trelleborg, my great-grandfather's birthplace this summer.
Moving down other family lines, and sending off my ancestry DNA kit has my family tree as far back as 1717 now. While 75% of my ancestors were born, lived and died in Yorkshire and Co Durham, I've come across ancestors from Scotland, Wales and Ireland. I even found one who died in Russia, now that's interesting!
Is there a story in this?
Recently I was asked if I'd ever thought of writing historical fiction, given my fascination with the family tree. I never had, probably the thought of all that research. Still, I have to admit digging into the past to find my ancestors has thrown up some exciting stuff – the stuff that stories are made of.
There was a man in Ireland back in 1841, incarcerated for 14 years for 'being in possession of a forged note', leaving a wife and 8 children to fend for themselves. My grandmother worked as a parlour maid in a London house and once met Amelia Earhart. One ancestor's birth record says 'born at sea', in Robin hoods Bay - was his mother on a fishing boat I wonder?
As I write this, an idea is forming.
A young fortune teller falls for a Swedish sailor as she reads his fortune at the fairground. As World War One rages a young Florence uses her psychic powers to help worried mothers and sweethearts connect with their sons and lovers lost to the war. All the while struggling to raise her young family, longing for the safe return of her own husband who sails the treacherous seas.
What do you think? Does it have potential?