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Interesting Family Discoveries 19th April 2007 Family History
Although I research my family history on a broad plane, I have placed special interest in my mother's maiden name of Folker. This was partly due to the fact that much information was already available along with many keepsakes. We have good information going back six generations but, as always, there are some notable gaps, and two of these were put right one evening in a casual search of the internet.

There had been in the possession of my grandfather, Sydney Folker, a carved wooden figure called a 'Tappee' which was reputed to have been brought back from the Caribbean by his great great grandfather, Samuel Folker. Apparently, the figure was a naked male fertility symbol, and this offended Sydney's wife Vera, so she had made a leather apron to cover the offending parts. My mother told me that Vera had eventually given it away to a museum.

If there were to be a moral to this story, it should be 'never give up hope'. It is always worth going over old ground as information can take on a new light after being left for a while. Also, so much new information is becoming available, that these little snippets can suddenly fall into place. Searching is the excitement - discovery is the reward.

My grandparents were living in Osterley at the time the figure was given away, so over a period of years, I made casual attempts to locate the item but never found a trace. Then, one evening, after writing up Sydney's biography, and just before turning off my computer, I made a search on Sydney Folker and BINGO !!

The search brought up a result with both his name and that of Samuel Folker in connection with a carved ancestral figure in Kelvingrove Museum in Glasgow. As often with stories passed down through the family, some of the details were incorrect, however, the basic story was true.

The word Tappee is a misnomer, so that is why I had not been able to trace it. The figure was actually a Maori carving which told me that Samuel had been to New Zealand, a detail which was unknown to us before.

Samuel had been 'pressed' into naval service in 1777 and spent the next two and a half years in the Caribbean.

The three years after that, he sailed to Nova Scotia then America, being discharged in 1783, beyond which not much was known about him.

Having been in touch with the museum, my wife and I visited it soon after the discovery to see the figure for ourselves. It was quite a sobering moment to feel a tangible connection to my ancestors.

The second discovery to come from that same search related to my grandfather's time as an actor in the silent films. I had been told that he appeared in a set of cigarette cards but had never been able to find any information. The story that grandpa is said to have told is that they could not find anyone significant whose name began with the letter F, so they chose him. Anyhow, I found details of the set which was published by BAT in 1928, but it is not one of the more readily available sets, so I am now on the lookout.

Malcolm Smith

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