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    I was born in 1939 BC.
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    World War II, The London Blitz, Rationing, and worst of all… Archbishop Temple’s School.




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Who do I think I am ?

Posted by Big John on January 18, 2011

Anyone who is familiar with my posts from a couple of years ago will know that many of them were on the subject of my family history since the late 19th century. In fact they were stories based on my own memories and tales from the surviving members of my large family.

Some of those tales told to me by grandparents, who were born during the ‘Victorian’ era, got me to wondering if I could trace my family history back to earlier times, so I started down the internet geneology trail and came up with some interesting finds. Everything from madness to murder !

I did not have a lot of luck tracing my mother’s ancestors (only as far as the 1750’s) as her’s was a fairly common English family name, but I was able to confirm some facts gleaned from my grandmother, such as that my great-great-grandfather had been a Lambeth “coffee house keeper” during the 1850’s, and that later the family had ‘fallen on hard times’ with some of my great aunts being put into an ‘orphanage’ and one great uncle being commited to an ‘insane asylum’. My great-grandmother is shown in the census of 1891 as “a widow living on her own means” … “at home … washing”.

When it came to following the direct line of my father’s family things became a bit more interesting for I was able to trace parish and other records back as far as 1635 to a family of “yeomen” in the county of Sussex, and probably to a family of wealthy landowners of the mid 1500’s,  possibly even to descendants of a Norman who fought at the Battle of Hastings (1066). Even the 1415 muster roll for the army of Henry V at the Battle of Agincourt shows … “ John —– , Yeoman Velettus – Archer”. Records also show a lawsuit of 1763 in which my ancestor is described as “a yeoman who possessed a large stock of corn, hay and cattle”.

Most of my ancestors had very large families and many lived long lives. One exception was a ‘John’ born in 1792 who only had two sons, one of whom is officially described as both an “idiot” and an “imbecile”. The other son met an untimely death in 1876 ..”being thrown to the ground by George Armstrong”. He is the last family member to be shown on record as a “farmer”, for I suspect that they became ‘victims’ of the ‘Industrial Revolution’, because my great-grandfather’s family moved from rural Sussex to the poorer outskirts of London, and from then onwards their occupations are recorded as .. “labourer”… “drover” … “porter” .. etc. One ‘John’ is on record at a ‘Quarter Sessions’ as .. “being charged with larceny : sentenced to two months hard labour”. A later workhouse record shows .. “that he had died from injuries received on the railway”. It appears that the poor sod was drunk at the time.

So no famous generals, industralists or politicians then, just ordinary working class folk  …. or were they ? …  Another branch of the family tree tells of a link to …

…   Well that’s another story.    😉


3 Responses to “Who do I think I am ?”

  1. Isn’t it interesting to find out about your ancestors? I have been dabbling in genealogy for a long time. It is difficult because on my mother’s side of the family, I can only go back one generation in America before I find myself in Jolly Old England, and before that, Ireland. I found a cousin who lives in Wales who has given me a lot of information, but I can’t seem to go back any farther than my great-grandfather. Grandma always told me that she could trace her family line back to William the Conqueror, but I have come to realize that it is possible that Grandma kissed the Blarney Stone at one time or another. Much as it pains me to admit it, she seems to have embellished on her stories a bit. But, I keep trying.

  2. Big John said

    Your grandmother was probably right about William the Conqueror Betty, for if you count back 11 or 12 generations and double your grand parents each time you will find that we all have around 400 million ancestors, so you are probably related to Attila the Hun as well. 🙂

  3. You have some interesting stuff there.

    It is often said that history is the biography of important people. That is a view I repudiate because it is the ordinary people who are the substance of history. Kings and generals may cut the jacket, as it were, but it is the people who are the cloth from which it is made. Their lives are far more interesting than the privileged lives of the famous and titled. Harder too and more deserving of record.

    I hope you find out more about your forebears and bring their lives out from obscurity.

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