Some three years ago, I became interested in learning more about my family history. My father, Daniel, having died when I was 17 years old in 1984, and my mother, Sylvia, some years later at the age of 65 in 1998.
I think as time goes on you become more aware of your past as you understand more about your future.
I knew very little about my mum’s side of the family save for aunts, uncles and grandparents. As regards my father’s I knew even less, in fact, nothing. So, apart from the aunts and uncles, all that was left of the family was my family and my sister’s, Anne. As far as Anne was concerned she was now the oldest member of the immediate family.
Since my father was Scottish and I live in England, at the time I found it very difficult to do any research. On the other hand, my mum’s side of the family was easy to trace with them having mainly lived in and around the Yorkshire and Lincolnshire areas for the past 300+ years.
Like most people, I suppose they came from an agricultural background and then moved into the towns and cities during the Industrial Revolution. Some remained behind and are there still. It is difficult to imagine what life was like back then and the hardships they had to face.
Some emigrated to the US and are known to be some of the first settlers in the area around Lake Michigan.
In fact I even found a whole website in the US listing some of the family history!
So, back to the search for my father’s ancestors.
I decided to employ the skills of a Scottish genealogist, Maggie, to help with tracing my father’s history. At first we started with searching for his parents but quickly came to a stop when she discovered that they had come from Northern Ireland originally before moving to Glasgow. I left things there for a while until I contacted Maggie later to ask her to find out about his siblings.
To my surprise she quickly cam back to me with a list of 5 sisters and 1 brother. Maybe I was onto something at last? Unfortunately, his brother, James, had died in 1975 and there was only 1 remaining sister.
As I read through the materials I noticed the second occurrence of a name – Robert Gardner. He had been married to one of my aunts and was also the informant at James’ death. As such it had his address. Immediately I rang Directory Enquiries who gave me the number – he was still alive!
I pondered for some time think whether to call or not. Eventually I did and explained to him who I was. He greeted me as though he’d known me all my life saying “We’d wondered where you’d gone to”. We chatted for some time, talking about the family and that one of my cousins was also doing some research and he said he would let her know so she could get in touch.
To my surprise he rang me the following day and said, “I think I forgot to mention that you have 3 half-brothers and a sister”. As you can imagine I was somewhat taken aback but since my dad was a lot older than my mum he had previously been married.
It took my sister some time to come to terms with the news. Since then we have met with them on several occasions, the first time with myself and my sister going up to meet the ‘new’ family in Glasgow. Take it from me, life can throw up some welcome surprises.
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