I have listened eagerly to friends telling me about the exciting discoveries in their family research.  It seems very romantic to find out you are descended from convicts or royalty or from an inventor, author, composer.  I have been hoping to find something as exciting in my own family research.  Not so, so far.  It is quite clear that I come from simple, working class stock.

As I searched back one generation after another I thought – ‘how boring, another ploughman!’  But as  my story comes together, I don’t see it that way now at all.  As I learn about my ancestors and get to know them a little, I find I admire them and respect them and….yes, it has to be said, feel a bit sorry for them.  They were all hard workers, that is clear.

The employment history on both sides of the family includes farmers, farm servants, domestic servants,  journeymen, cattlemen, agricultural labourers, blacksmiths, coal dealers, yarn winders, handloom weavers, soldiers and sailors.  I don’t think any of these occupations would be easy.  I had to google “journeymen” to find out that they were tradesmen who did not, for some reason, complete their apprenticeship.  I wonder why?  Could it be that they were not educated, or not ambitious, or perhaps couldn’t afford it – or maybe they were just never given the opportunity?  Certainly, there were a lot of journeymen in my family.

I think back on my own working life and it has been quite varied – secretary, pub manager, jillaroo, business owner, English teacher – to name just a few.  I have done what I wanted to do.  If I had been born in the 1800s and sent to work as a domestic servant, there would have been no opportunity for me to “better myself”.  No choices in life.  How the world has changed.

Having, so far, gone back five or six generations, everyone was born within a few miles of each other in Scotland and the only people to leave the country were my father’s Aunt and Uncle and myself!

I know the soldiers and sailors in my family are responsible for the freedom of choice my children and I have now enjoy in our lives.  I would like to think that some of the genes of my hard working ancestors have passed through to us and their hard, probably poverty stricken lives, were not in vain.  Certainly my promise to myself is that every time I start to complain about my work or my life, I will stop and think of what my ancestors had to endure, and remember just how lucky I am.

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