Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Family history, fact or fiction?

How much do your children know about you?
I don't mean now, or even recently, but all the way back, back to your childhood, your family and the generations you remember.
The reason I ask this question is because it struck me recently how little I actually know about my parents.
I don't mean day to day things, or even who they are now or during my own childhood, but how about their childhoods?
How about their family life? How about who they were?
I have started to have discussions with my dad over the last few years, strange really for a man who never seemed to have the time to sit and talk to me before that he now is opening up to me.
I am learning things about his past and about his life that I had no idea about. I don't mean about the really serious things, illnesses, etc these I have obviously known all along. No, I am talking about every day life back when he was a child, the reasons that my family did certain things in certain ways, I am getting an understanding now of where I am in my life and why i think the way I do on some things.
I have stated before in my blogs how my family were moved to a new town when I was a very young child leaving behind the extended family and only returning for a visit once a year at Christmas thereby I felt depriving me of really getting to know aunts and uncles even grandparents to any great extent.
I thought this was peculiar to my family and for reasons I didn't understand, I assumed my parents had made the decision to remove their small family from the extended family. I understood that dad had moved here with us in search of employment with accommodation, that had always made sense to me, also the fact that neither parents drove was always the excuse I made for us not having the contact.
But as he is opening up more and more when we have our 'chats' it seems there was more to it than that. I was already aware there were obviously two separate families within my dads family, there were his mothers side and his fathers side, Apparently one lot came from the East end of London and were a highly sociable lot who enjoyed their booze and parties etc.
This is the side of the family I had absolutely no knowledge of at all and the reasons for this only came to light recently. Apparently they always had their parties at my dads parents house, rowdy affairs including Christmas celebrations, dad said the house was always full of them day and night.
My mum came from a quiet family, her mother was from Scotland and her dad from Wales, this rowdy East end bunch must have been quite alien to them I should think. Dad said mum never approved of the drinking etc that went on and when my brothers and I came along his parents were given the choice of us visiting at Christmas or them! My grandparents obviously chose us and the rowdy side of the family seem to have found somewhere else to continue with their 'high jinks'
I am not saying this had any impact on us moving away from the family but does explain why dad now talks about people I have never even heard of.
This was the reason we took mum and dad to Southend yesterday, the cousin he was meeting was from THAT side of the family, apparently when he was a small child a maiden aunt of his used to take him (and later his brother) and this lady there on holiday, my dad had exchanged Christmas cards with his cousins mum
( his aunt) until her death some years ago and then her daughter, this cousin, had taken over. We worked out it was approx 76 years since they had seen each other.
A lovely thing to happen for dad and a glimpse into a side of my family I had no idea about until recently.
Last week whilst at my husbands dads house I was asking him a bit about his past and he was telling me that he never met his grandfather at all, his dad used to go and visit him regularly but he never took his family with him, there were 9 children mind you so maybe that played a part in his decision not to ever meet his grandchildren, he also told me that families just weren't like that, he had aunts and uncles in the same street as him but he never even knew who they were!
So was it simply that families weren't as close in the past as we have been led to believe? Or has information not been passed down through the generations because each new generation is too busy living their own lives?
Whatever the reason I am going to make the most of my special conversations with my dad as this new information I am getting is both entertaining and interesting, and of course it's part of my history.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad


Steven goodall said...

Very well written. Funny how different people talk about or hold back different things, a number of years ago I learnt some of our collective family history from Jack who had researched it spoken to some of the east Enders etc. I'd love to know more about the family history.

tinysuz said...

As usual an excellent thought provoking read. It is strange that my mother now aged 93 has recently begun to open up about things. I have 2 uncles and 2 cousins on my dad's side of the family who I would not recognise even if I passed them in the street. Indeed I do not know if they are alive or not.

My dad was one of 4 brothers who married and each of the wives could not get along so perhaps that explains the estrangement of my dad's side of the family.

Families can be wonderful loving units or quite the reverse.....