It started with an ‘X’: How my family came to read and write.

My grandmother’s great grandmother, Mary Treeby, signed her name with an ‘x’ on her wedding certificate in 1794. Her name is from Old English meaning a curve in the river, dating from a time when people had toponymic names. She was marrying Joseph Daw a shipwright working in Devonport dockyard. I see from the records theyContinue reading “It started with an ‘X’: How my family came to read and write.”

‘Here was I living in Paradise and I didn’t know it’.

An American couple having enjoyed a Kit Hill moorland walk one sunny morning in the 1960s came down the footpath and into our farmyard where Dad was carrying on the business of the day and said, ‘You might want to know there’s a fawn in the gorse bushes over there?’ Dad realising they had mistakenContinue reading “‘Here was I living in Paradise and I didn’t know it’.”

Hiding in Plain Sight

From personal experience and my interviews with grandmothers, some things in families can be hiding in plain sight. Here is the familiar visage of the Sutton Hoo helmet. It has recently been in the news because of the film ‘The Dig’.  It was only pieced together after the war and the reconstructed regal anglo-saxon helmetContinue reading “Hiding in Plain Sight”

Grandma likes Saffron Cake

When I approach family history writing, like many people I am phased by the enormity of the task, and the question of what will treasured after I am gone.  Developing the strategy of thinking about a little moment has been useful. It usually leads to something else, which fleshes out the tiny memory and sets itContinue reading “Grandma likes Saffron Cake”

The Odyssey Years and an Active Old Age

David Brooks in his essay ‘The Odyssey Years’ describes the usual four familiar life stages: childhood, adolescence, adulthood, and old age. To this he says two have been added in the last generation. I suggest that both have resonances and relevance for us the grandmother.  One is the active old age from which we areContinue reading “The Odyssey Years and an Active Old Age”