I should dig for my roots, in spite of the fact that the roots might be fraying at the edges, roots of a weedy past growing haywire in the human history of me.
Oh, I have been there and done it. It was all the rage a few years ago to dive into the records of your past, chase through the census documents, beginning at the end of course, meaning I, me and myself. Yes, the publicity machine had found a new source of money. Buy your way through the research of your past.
Of course, I wanted to discover if I really was the fruity result of a past King of England that could not and would not marry his servant girl just because she was stupid enough to be in the family way. I decided this was probably not the case, as my family did not work in palaces, but mainly in factories. So I began my search. It was partially based on the famous words of my Aunt Lil who said we were descended from rich French wine merchants that owned a lot of property and the deed were burnt in a church fire. Aunt Lil always did have a vivid imagination. She even mentioned the that the name was “De Lu Cameru”. Armed with this family rumour of French aristocratic descent I took my first steps on the path.
I ordered my Family History software online, being a CD with a family history programme. Where to start? No problem, just put your name in and then your mum and dad. That is where the journey begins. The next obstacle is conquering further steps.
“Mum, when was grandad born?”
If you were lucky mum remembered that yes, her father was born.
“Did he have any brothers or sisters?”
“I think so” and so the third degree of my parents continued. I eventually discovered that my parents knew next to nothing about my ancestors. Further investment was necessary, and I signed up in a site called ancestry.com. And then, yes, I discovered the missing french aristocratic link. My grandfather maternal side had a mother who was married to his father and her maiden name was Camroux. Not quite “De Lu Cameru” but understandable, my grandfather no really knowing the correct french pronouciation of his mother’s name. His french knowledge was more limited to uttering various profanities.
Further steps in the Camroux line discovered that I was related to every living member of the Camroux clan in England, thanks to the ggg grandfather (or something like that) who decided to travel from his Huguenot exile in Germany to London, marry a Huguenot lady (yes I have a copy of the marriage certificate from the protestant huguenot church in London - in French) and establish my dynasty. Were they rich? Of course most of them were, but there are always exceptions. I was descended from the exceptions. The rich ones all emigrated to Canada. The rich wine merchant existed, but not for wine. He had a few ships and invested in other such lucrative business, but contact was never made. I do not think he even knew our part of his family existed. Yes, he was a snob.
Through the inspiration of having a Huguenot past, I joined a course for improving my French. I was sure that it was in my genes and I would be the best in the class. This was not the case, so I left the course after a year and decided that roots were not enough if these long lost relations had no interest in meeting me.
One problem with old census details was the the people sent from door to door to register the names of the people living in the houses, were somewhat analphabetic. They could barely write (this was in the 19th century). I discovered that the search for my grandfathers sisters and brothers was increasingly difficult. Granddad’s name was “Lay”, but the census containing Lay variations of Day and Say did not help and I travelled many entwining paths until I discovered his 7-8 sisters and brothers.
The paternal side of my family were not very much better. Gran had 11 surviving brothers. She originated in the country and they were mostly farm hands. My dad knew a few, but he put them into sections of “uncle X liked his drink” or “uncle Y loved a bet on the horses” showing that their qualities were not exactly on the positive side of life.
Eventually I gave up the circus of finding who I think I might be. It costs money, and I asked if it was worth it. I did find 6th cousin Marge in Canada and we now and again had a chat via Skype over the computer. Her mother was one of the Camroux clan.
So do you really want to know who you are? I found approximately 900 long lost relations in my search for fame and fortune. I was spending money for membership of the various ancestry groups. Now and again I might be contacted by someone that finds a thread on my cyber path, but do we really want to know where we come from? If I trace back far enough I am sure that I will find a lonely Neanderthal dragging a female Neanderthal by her hair into his rocky cave and deciding yes, this is it and there we have the real and true roots of my family. Or perhaps it was a wayward space ship that landed and I am one of the direct descendants of someone from Planet X243 on the right side of the milky way.
The only thing I dig today is my garden to find a few slugs and worms.