MY 'ADVENTURES' IN FAMILY HISTORY Pt1
by Robert Hina
This article was originally published in the August 2010 edition of Soul Search, the journal of The Sole Society
My family history papers contain my earliest stab at my family history at the age of eight when I was in Mrs Turner’s class in the first year of ‘Juniors’. It is a booklet containing notes on my Mum, Dad, Aunt, and little brother.
My booklet contained only these individuals, as ‘Uncle Arthur & Aunt Hettie’ hadn’t been visited for a while and I wasn’t able to specify just what relation, if any, they were. I was particularly jealous of John, my next-door neighbour as he had a whole series of aunts and uncles and those more mysterious individuals, cousins!
Time went by, Junior school was exchanged for ‘Seniors’ and eventually, at the end of the second year, the woodwork project loomed. “Dad what are your families’ coat of arms?”
No hesitation on my father’s part, “Three crossed hammers on a shield.” The project duly returned home, although three hammers were set vertically as to cross them would add another element of difficulty that our workshop time could not accommodate. The plaque still has pride of place in my Mothers hallway, thirty-three years on!
School and summer holidays had come and gone, with my Aunts’ visits ensuring a re-telling of tales of the Blitz and the doodle-bugs. There were also tales of her mother’s friendship with Isadora Duncan, whom my aunt had been named for. As there was also a family connection with Heinrich Heine, the German poet, it eventually dawned on me that there were other individuals in the family. The telling of tales extended into the stories of their childhood with my aunt recounting tales of the mistreatment of my father by foster parents, following my grandmothers emigration to Canada just prior to World War One.
It began to dawn on me that I may well have cousins of my own but any efforts to expand the knowledge only produced snippets such as my great-grandfather being one of twelve, his father being a Yorkshire Coal-Miner(?), the fact that my father and aunt had elder siblings whom accompanied their mother to Canada, that my grandmother was first married to a Dutchman before marrying the German, Heine. There was the assertion that my aunt was “…from Surrey, don’t you know?” and occasionally the photos of my dad and aunt and grandmother would be pulled out, along with some photos of my aunt as a young woman and with some purported ‘cousins’.
However, my suggestions that I should look up certificates or queries as to the whereabouts of originals were always met with evasions or changes of subject and I would let the subject go.
As is usual with family history, ones sources are not immortal, and the sudden passing of my father concentrated my mind and efforts on finding sources and connections to expand my knowledge of my family history.
I started going to St Catherine’s House in London in 1993, and also the local Mormon Family research centre. I also queried my mother as to ‘Uncle Arthur’. She wasn’t sure as to his actual connection but thought that the surname was ‘Soll’ and that his son was Ted. My check of telephone directories in our local library (so 1994!), revealed a couple of Solls’ but none appeared to be a Ted, although there were a couple of Sauls’.
My aunt by this point had finally moved out of the bungalow in Chingford, to Stevenage and I caught up with her in mid-October. During my conversation with her, whilst doing the washing-up, it emerged that Arthur’s surname was Saul, and that he was her and my fathers cousin, his mother being my aunt’s aunt.
Unbeknownst to me, this was to be the last face-to-face conversation I was to have with my aunt and the only occasion that I can remember where she expressed her regret at not having had children of her own.
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