Embracing my maternal side

Good news! I’ve managed to fill in a bit more of my tree after a chat with the mother. Oddly, it seems that the lack of knowledge about my maternal family extends back another generation for while my mum could furnish me with information about her own parents, what she knew about her grandparents (my great-grandparents) was quite limited. What she was able to tell me, however, has revealed that both of my maternal grandparents had rather unsettled childhoods.

My great-grandmother Ada died early on in my grandfather’s life, when he was only about 10 years old. Subsequently, it seems that my great-grandfather Jack found it difficult to cope and eventually handed responsibility of his children over to their uncle and aunt, disappearing from their lives. According to my grandfather’s reports, he and his sister effectively lived as cheap labour for his uncle’s bakery business. He escaped from this as soon as he could, signing up with the RAF as a mechanic when the Second World War started and serving in the Far East.

My grandmother also lost a parent prematurely as my great-grandfather George sadly died when she was around two years old, leaving his widow Lucy to bring up their two young daughters alone. The family apparently believed that George’s death was a long-term result of being gassed in the First World War, an event that had left him with a persistent cough for the remainder of his life. Prior to speaking to my mum, I had always believed that my maternal ancestry was rooted in Hertfordshire. However, it seems that my great-grandmother Lucy and her family originally lived around West Ham, being evacuated out to Ware in Hertfordshire to work as land girls at the beginning of the Second World War.

It’s quite shocking to think that my great-grandmother Lucy would have been the only grandparent my mum knew when she was growing up. Indeed, my mum has actually never even seen a photograph of her paternal grandparents, Jack and Ada. Quite incredible, really. As a result of this, she was unable to fill in much of the factual information about my great-grandparents (such as dates of birth, marriage and death) that are needed to start tracing my lineage back further. To confirm these, I will need to dive into the birth, marriage and death indexes available at findmypast.co.uk .

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5 Responses to “Embracing my maternal side”

  1. Ann Johnstone Says:

    Hi Amy,
    I suppose this is a bit obvious but do you not have any certificates, marriage etc for your Nan etc? I found it very useful to apply for these from the GRO site, £7 I think still.It will give you the names of both fathers in a marriage cert. so it’s a great way to ‘back track’. It’s much harder tracing your female line because of the change of name. Try Free BMD as although they don’t have all the info as yet they will give you a fighting chance to trace marriage partners. Good luck on your quest!
    Regards Ann

  2. Hugh Watkins Says:

    Genesreunited helped me find my Australian cousins
    my grandmother’s sister sent a family album out to them

    I nearly lost the photographs but got then back out of the email cache on an old computer

    Alfred & Blanche Watkins & Children

    I searched for JONES born Raglan
    on genesreunited

  3. Ann Macey Says:

    Getting those certificates is vital to make sure you don’t follow the wrong family. Oh, and remember to always document your sources. Even if it is your grandmother or your mother. Several years down the line (trust me I know this is true) you will look at your notes and your information and wonder where the heck you got the birth dates of your 3xgreat grandparents.
    Good hunting!

  4. Will Smyth Menary Says:

    Hello, Amy.

    What a splendid blog. Thank you! I’ve just read a few of your recent entries and they coax me to become less lazy. I’ve been leaving it all to others doing my surname research – most of ’em seem to be in Canada but also the U.S., New Zealand, Australia – from an Irish dispersal both before and after the 1840s potato-blight famine.

    I grew up without any living grandparent. I guess that’s quite unusual, as you seemed to imply. Furthermore, my own (Scottish) line of descent was much affected through the twentieth century by male deaths in war or relatively early death from war effects, although not acknowledged as such by the authorities in those days. You had mentioned a family opinion on a death likely hastened by WWI gassing.

    One wonders how many families experienced this kind of “extra” loss. Similar under-acknowledged loss would apply in all those cases of too-frequent industrial accidents. In that regard the newsletter article on the jet-mining and carving industry in Whitby, Yorkshire, was of great interest.

    Until I was adult I did not even know of any persons with the surname Menary other than my mother who was a Walker by birth, and elderly cousins (George and Mary, neither with issue) of my father James Smyth Menary who, with his two brothers, did not survive the two world wars. Through the website I learned that my paternal grandfather had a brother and by the mystery and magic of the Internet I am in touch with his descendants. A whole new piece of family!

    I’m in my 70s and live on my own in South Australia, but thanks to the efforts and the sharing of people such as YOU, people like ME can feel connected to a wider world and to our previously lost history.

  5. Amy Says:

    Thanks for all of the tips and for your kind comments, Will. I’m glad you’ve had success with your own research!

    @Ann Johnstone and Ann Macey: Certificates do seem to be the next step for me, thank you for highlighting this. I’ve managed to collect a few from my nan to make copies of and I’ve now ordered my first certificates from the GRO (please see my latest post, ‘Searching the BMDs’). Can’t wait for them to arrive!

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