Sunday, June 11, 2006


The theme for today's Sunday Scribblings: Mystery

The mystery I would like revealed is the mystery of my ancestors. That's not really one mystery, it's enough mysteries to last a lifetime. If they could be revealed a little at a time it would make me very happy.

I have been researching my family history intensively for the last few years and I think that I have solved most of the mysteries that are solvable. More answers may come unexpectedly, but I know that there are many more that will remain a secret. for instance, my greatgrandfather who stated on his marriage certificate in 1860 that he was born in Glasgow where his father was a lamplighter. I thought I would find him on the 1841 and 1851 census, when it became searchable on the internet, but now that I have searched it is as if he sprung fully formed as an adult - the family is nowhere to be found. (Perhaps Thomas senior was too busy lighting lamps to answer the census questions).

In other lines I was able to trace back further, but the earliest ancestor, however far back, is still a mystery. Where did they come from? But it is not just a search to get as far back as I can. I want to know about their lives. My greataunt told me for instance, that her mother remembered when she was a girl in Scotland, writing to her Uncle James in New Zealand. I know that she also wrote, after she emigrated, to relations in Scotland, England, Australia, and the United States, and received letters from them. What was in those letters? They were all destroyed, so I will never know. And then there are questions like what did my ever-so- many-greats-grandmother wear, in Scotland in the 1600s (the costume books I can find are not very clear on the matter, showng only clothes worn in England) - what did she believe? how did she spend her days? The few hints I have from surviving wills are only a tantalising glimpse.

I think these questions have a hold on me because they are part of who I am. Seventeenth century Scotland may be remote, but each generation influences the next.

The mystery I have no desire to see is the mystery of the future. What will happen? If I were to know, I don't think I would believe it. There would be a part of me that would believe I could change it (for the better, of course). Or that I don't need to change it, because it will never happen that way.

I remember once when my elder son was small - about three years old. We came out of church and there was a huge vicious-looking dog in the car park. Before I could stop him, he walked right up to it, pointing. It's mouth was hanging open. He got so close that his finger was actually in its open mouth. I was thinking "Oh no, it's going to bite him!" but it backed off and slunk away. Given more time to think about a dreaded event, I would always believe that somehow what seemed inevitable was not going to happen. It's the things we don't think of ever worrying about that knock us down unexpectedly. And it's the surprises that we don't ever expect that delight us.

Past, future - both mysteries - and then there is the mystery of time itself. What is time? Another mystery that I will probably never quite understand.


Tracie Nall said...

How sad that all of those letters were destroyed-what a great piece of family history. My mother's family is notorious for throwing stuff away, so beyond my still living family, I know nothing. It is sad to not know about your past. It sounds like you are still finding out a lot of great stuff, though.
Here from Michele's!

Annie Jeffries said...

I so identify with lost family history. My mother lost almost everything. I suppose that might explain why it is so hard for me to get rid of things.

Colorsonmymind said...

I too wonder about the mytery of my ancestors. What did they wear, what was their life like?

I guess at times I have wanted to know the mystery of the future but you make some valid points. I too may not believe it or woul want/think I could change it.

I did take that photo-thank you.

Kay Cooke said...

Well put indeed. Great reading - thank you.

paris parfait said...

Such a lovely post! My mother has spent a lot of time researching family history, as has my husband. It's a fascinating subject and wonderful to be able to pass that information along to future generations.

Madeleine said...

It is so important to know where we came from. I think that family to so crucial in our search for our identity, be it our immediate family or ancient ancestors.
I would love to find the family tree which wa researched by my great-grandfather. Very interesting.
Interesting post :)