Monday, January 11, 2010

The Best Part Of Genealogy

Janet ~ 1932

When I began researching my family history over forty years ago, I was very sure I would never be bothered with reunions and living relatives.  I was concerned only with the DEAD.  Tracing the names, dates, places of those who went before me--that was my only quest.  It was much easier to "like" skeletons with their quirks than it was to tolerated my eccentric, flesh and blood kin!

Was I ever wrong.

Over the years, I have learned to love the living as well as the dead.

My greatest discovery in 2009 wasn't a headstone in far away place. It wasn't the marriage record of a forefather in 1729.  My greatest discovery was my second cousin, once removed who is alive and well in Scotland--or to be more specific--it was her discovery of ME!

Janet's grandmother (Sarah) and my great-grandmother (Mary Ann) were sisters.  Her grandmother stayed in England while my great-grandmother immigrated to America.

Bryden Family in England circa 1895
Youngest child -- Janet's mother is on Janet's
grandmother Sarah's lap

Eardley Family circa 1908
My Great-grandmother Mary Ann - far right
with her five children

Janet is not only my cousin, she has become my best friend.  We are so blessed in this era of computers to have become acquainted through E-mail.  Janet is a very computer savvy seventy-nine year old, who is writing her life story, as well as researching her ancestry and best of all, she shares it all with me.  We have many interests (and illnesses) in common.  She's spunky, optimistic, spiritual and loves life, even though she is nearly disabled.  She is a survivor who has experienced many heart-wrenching tragedies in her lifetime. 

Though we may never met in person in this life, I'm sure we'll have lots to discuss when we get to the other side.

Janet's family - 1932 - in England
Brother, Grahame (1924-1996)

Janet writes:
"There was another incident which had a profound influence on my life. In the early Summer of 1939, when there was a War threatened, and Conscription was beginning to gather boys to the Army, I awoke one night by a torch [flashlight] being flashed onto my face. Catching a glimpse of a white shirt, and then feeling a ‘bump’ underneath my bed, I called out for my Dad to come, ‘There’s a man under my bed!’. It took him a little while to get the message, trying to persuade me that I had had a bad dream. At my persistence he finally, looked under my bed, and sure enough…!
My visitor turned out to be the 17 year old son of a farmer friend, from some miles away, near Canvey Island, who had absconded. He had come for Dad’s help; seen a front window open and climbed in. Not knowing whose room he was in, he had shone his torch onto me to see whose bed it was. He was very sorry for upsetting me, but….. to this day, I am frightened of the dark, and will not go out alone if I can help it. To get into bed, I would take a running leap, in case someone was underneath the bed."
Janet found her true love while she was a nurse and he was her patient.  They married in 1951.  It was a match made in heaven.  She describes it this way, "We were as one person, and never exchanged a cross word."

Sadly, their time together was very short.  They had one small child and another baby on the way when her husband was killed in an explosion at I.C.I. Powfoot, on 11th February, 1954. "A twisted end of a pipe was packed with explosive, and it went off like a cannon, killing both the worker, and Walter. The explosion was heard for many miles.  At the age of 22 years (23 in six weeks time), I was too young for a Widow’s Pension of 10s. per week (50p) which was paid to widows under 60."

How sad is that?

I've learned so much from my cousin and she continues to inspire me and give me advice.

Thank you, Janet.

Just when I think I have nothing left to learn about genealogy, it surprises me again.


Taylorstales-Genealogy said...

How lucky are the two of you to have connected and share your family history! I have a similar story. My cousin was doing a google search of Neckargemund, Germany and came across my blog. Little did I know I had a relative who lives less than 10 miles from my home! Imagine that. We have gotten together a number of times and shared stories and pictures. Absolutely the best gift is friendship! Thank you for sharing your wonderful story!

Travelin'Oma said...

This is such an inspiring story on every level. I've sometimes thought it's easier to love dead relatives than live ones. (I'm not proud of that.) Thanks for sharing what genealogy is all about.

Jillian said...

Thank you for your comment in reply to my inquiry (about your Charlotte Budd Johnson post). That was so kind and helpful of you... thank you!

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