take one woman with low self esteem, but quite good hair
add one moronic illness
stir in some medication which causes hair to fall out
mix it all up and this is what you get...

Thursday, October 29, 2009


By the time I was nineteen years old, I'd lost all of my grandparents. I never knew my paternal grandfather, and can barely remember my mother's father either, who died when I was just four, a year after my own father had died.

I saw my two grandmothers regularly: one lived in West London in a 1930s block of flats, the other a stone's throw from the sea, near Bognor Regis in Sussex. Both had many stories to tell, but like most youngsters, I didn't think to really listen.

I lost my mother, my only remaining parent, when I was just twenty-seven. As I moved into my thirties, a time when I began to indulge in much philosophical introspection (the fact that I started blogging at thirty-one is no coincidence) I began to ponder my own history and wonder where I'd come from, but unfortunately had no-one to ask.

In the past few months, I have been inspired by re-runs on satellite channels of this, and with the help of the wealth of resources now available on the Internet (for a nominal fee and in some cases, free), I've been delving around in censuses and putting together my own family tree. Luckily, my grandparents were all old enough to appear on the 1911 census as children, so I was able to find out their parents' names, their siblings, where they lived, and the occupation of the father.

In my family, there have been booksellers, shopkeepers, wood labourers, police constables, mercantile clerks and station masters.

They have lived in Clerkenwell, Camberwell, Bethnal Green, Hoxton (before it was trendy), Stepney, Kent, Surrey, Hampshire, Devon, and Sussex. With the wonder of the Interwebs (most notably, Google Street View for the London addresses), I have even managed to glimpse some of the houses my ancestors lived in - where they have not been replaced by 1950s blocks of flats.

There are numerous Eleanors, Claras, Ediths, Thomases and Georges. One of my great, great grandfathers had a wife called Amelia, a daughter called Amelia and a servant called, yes you've guessed it, Amelia. Another had two sons called John, both alive on the same census.

One of my great grandfathers was one of nine siblings, and grew up just a few miles from where I now live. My paternal grandfather grew up in Sidcup and went to school in Chislehurst - a stone's throw from where I lived briefly with Big, back in 2004. His mother was born in Mottingham - one stop prior to where I used to get off the train from the city during those dark (but mercifully short) days of commuting.

It is all quite, quite fascinating.

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