Genealogical Surprises

OK, it’s winter, the daylight is weak and short-lived, and the weather is generally gloomy. Actually, the so-called summer weather has been generally gloomy in England for the last two years, but that’s another issue. Added to this, a large amount of hatched, matched an dispatched data, together with census results from 1841 (our first census) to 1901 (the most recent one made public), is now available online. So, one of our relatively new-found pastimes with which to wile away a few uninspiring hours every now and then is genealogy: the gentle art of rummaging around in the family closets rattling a skeleton or two investigating our roots. After all, one can now achieve a lot from the comfort of one’s own computer without all that previous inconvenience of having to drag oneself around countless, frequently distant record offices.

My parents' wedding from a stranger

Just prior to Thanksgiving, UK, I had discovered a “Curd Family Genealogical Forum” web site which, to my surprise, held a post requesting details of my great grandfather. The post was old, dating from 2003. Nonetheless I posted a response. My surprise increased as, the very next day, I was contacted by the submitter of the original post. He turned out to be married to another descendent of my great grandfather; his wife is my 2nd cousin. Surprise increased yet again when he managed to furnish me with a wonderfully historic photograph of my great grandfather, rejoicing in the name of Spencer Curd, born 1848. I was just a little gobsmacked when this hitherto complete stranger also sent me an atmospheric sepia-tinted photograph of my very own parents’ wedding. [Surprise #1.]

This was quite exciting and, as I said, just in time for Thanksgiving UK when we were joined by, amongst others, my mother and her companion Tony. Having just been given a photograph of my mother by someone unknown, I was anxious to show her. She recognized the picture, which she has herself, but cannot think how a copy of it might have come to be in the hands of this previously unknown branch of my father’s family.

After the UK Thanksgivers had done justice to half our bronzed, hickory-smoked turkey, Carol began explaining some of the genealogical investigations to Tony, who had expressed an interest. His surname, Hodsden, is also quite unusual. Carol had soon tracked down his grandfather and young father in the 1901 census living in Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire. According to the census, his family also had a lodger, one James Pearce, age 65, a sawyer. Alarm bells rang in my head. My mother’s maiden name is Pearce. Her family came from Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire, and I remembered having documented a James Pearce, a sawyer, born in 1836. This was my mother’s great granduncle. 1901 – 65 = 1836. Yikes, yes, it was the same James Pearce! His wife died in 1894 and he had clearly moved into lodgings. It seems that, utterly unknown to them, the association between my mother’s and Tony’s bloodlines goes back over a hundred years. [Surprise #2]

I want more census information to be released, it’s a goldmine. Never mind protecting peoples’ privacy.

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