This is my one year old self in my dad's arms. 1958, 10 Newfield Square, Craigbank, Glasgow, Scotland

This is my one year old self in my dad’s arms. 1958, 10 Newfield Square, Craigbank, Glasgow, Scotland

I have thought a lot about Su Leslie’s blog in which she talked about how invisible she might be to future generations.  Su realised while researching her family history that she, herself, would be quite difficult to find due to her lack of official paperwork.  It made me think about what my great-great grandchildren could find out about me.  Having worked through all the “evidence” of my life – birth certificate, Australian Citizenship papers, passports, marriage and divorce papers and so on, I felt comfortable that I would be one of the easier ancestors to follow.

It wasn’t until my friend’s father passed away recently and I read his eulogy that I realised, of course,  that finding relevant “evidence” of someone’s life is not the whole story.   The eulogy gave a brief story his life with a chronological report of his birth, school, employment, marriage, children and so on until his death.  But he was more than a series of dates and paperwork and his eulogy reflected this.  There were lots of little stories about funny times, sad times, important occasions and so on.  Yes, there were the facts but there was also a reflection of the person he was, his achievements, the mark he left on the world: “the meat on the bones” as my friend, Lorraine, likes to call it.

There could be gaps in my life.   My husband could tell lots of stories about the person he knew; my children would have plenty to say I am sure and my friends could add lots of meat to my bones – that is assuming they all outlive me and still have their minds in working order!  There would be evidence of people who are important to me and fun I have had – from photographs around our house and on my Facebook page.   I have a couple of friends in Scotland who knew me in my teenage years, a few who met me when I first came to Australia in my early twenties; people who became friends when I moved to Western Australia in my early thirties; some I met through my work and children in my mid thirties; those I met through my second husband in my forties; and others who have recently come to know me since moving house in my fifties.  The gap comes from birth to sixteen.  I am estranged from my birth family and so that time is empty except in my own mind.  I don’t even have many photos to show for that time.

More and more I am coming to see that the family tree is not only about putting names and dates on the branches but about finding out as much as we can about each person – putting meat on the bones and putting blood in the veins.  It is exciting to find out little details of their lives but we are left putting the pieces of the jigsaw together and imagining what kind of people they were.

So, the legacy I can leave my own children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren is to write down my stories and organise my photos.  A friend has suggested a few times that I should make a scrapbook album just about me.  Perhaps I will add that to my very long bucket list!  After all, knowing I was born in Glasgow, moved to Australia, married twice, had two children and three step-children says something about me but certainly does not tell the whole story.

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