Stories and Memories for Family History

If you don’t recount your family history it will be lost. Honor your own stories and tell them too. The tales may not seem very important, but they are what binds families and makes each of us who we are. Madeleine L’Engle

A little while ago I was researching my great-great grandmother. She was born in 1838 and died in 1911. She, therefore, appeared in all of the available censuses for England & Wales. That’s from 1841 right through 1911. She was born in 1838, so it was no surprise to find her aged 3 in 1841. Even seeing her at age 12 in 1851 was not too much of a surprise. After all, the census of 1841 was taken 6 June, while that of 1851 was taken 30 March, and I was not certain of her exact date of birth at that time. But then I found her in 1861 aged 21. All of this was before her marriage in July 1861. I guess I should not have been surprised to find her aged 30 in 1871.

At this point I could see a pattern emerging and, sure enough, in subsequent censuses her stated age only went up by 9 years per census. And, by 1911 her age was given as 66. She died in December that year and, to my surprise, the person reporting the death correctly gave her age as 73, so somebody in the family (more likely several people) was aware of the truth. Even after her husband died in 1899, her age continued to go up by 9-year increments until her death.

So, some interesting facts there to help to flesh out her character. She was clearly concerned about what others through of her appearance, and was sufficiently dominant that her husband, and later her children, continued to pander to her.

Now, I suppose one could say that this conclusion is based on conjecture, but really, isn’t that what most storytelling is? You ask any football fan how a given goal was scored and you will likely get as many variations as there were fans attending the game. Besides, I really warmed to her after I saw what was going on, and it’s so much more interesting than just plain, boring, facts and documents.

At any rate, stories and memories should bring history to life. Don’t know much about a particular family? If you know where they lived you can always research the history of the area and show the type of work they were likely involved in and so forth.

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