Sunday, 15 January 2012

I got Friday back

Yep, that's right. Last week I got Friday back. Not all of Friday - just Friday morning. I hadn't lost the rest of the day. To tell the truth, I hadn't really lost Friday morning either, but last week Friday morning was back to what it used to be.

Friday is the day when the Dearly Beloved takes herself off to the MS Treatment Centre for an hour of breathing pure oxygen under pressure in a sort of land-based diving bell. She doesn't have MS but she does have a condition which, in many ways, is similar. It just has more letters - CBD - but not the pain of MS. All the same, the old love finds that her weekly high dosage oxygen treatment ameliorates her condition.

It was sometime in November that she developed a peculiar, well, what can I call it? Disease, condition, infection? We don't know what it was (nor does her GP) but it left her feeling light-headed and, as a consequence, unwilling to risk getting behind the wheel of a car. So on Friday mornings I drove her to Southwick, went on to Tesco's to do the shopping, and then had about 45 minutes before I had to collect madam. I used that time to explore parts of Shoreham that I didn't know and to take photographs. Many of them have already appeared on Stanmer and Around and I have more to come. But last week the old duck felt OK to drive and my services as chauffeur and personal shopper were no longer required. I had my Friday morning back.

Maybe it wasn't such a good thing. I got stuck into chasing down a few loose ends in my family tree and, as a result, spent far too much time at the computer. This is something I find almost impossible to stop once I get started. I find one new person and have to take it further. When were they born? Did they marry? If so, who? What about children? And so on. And then there are the puzzles that seem to be quite impossible to solve. They are rather like cryptic crossword puzzles where solving one clue can help with the next - but don't expect everything to fall into place at once! Take this little conundrum.

The Old Bat's great grandfather emigrated to Australia. In Melbourne he married an Irish girl and they had three children, one of whom died as an infant. The wife also died and the two children (my wife's grandfather and great aunt) were sent back to England to live with their grandparents. The boy, William Carstairs, grew up and married Helena Jones, a girl born in Liverpool to Irish immigrant parents. A son was born and was also named William but when he was only four, his father died. But he didn't die in London (where the son had been born) or in Brighton (where Helena had lived before her marriage, attending the same church as William's grandparents). He died in a small village on the borders of Leicestershire and Nottinghamshire and was buried there as there was no money to bring his body back down south.

Many years later, William junior and his wife (my wife's parents) were still very friendly with a family living in that little village - but nobody was able to explain how the connection had come about. Why did a young couple from Brighton visit a remote Midlands village? And how did a Liverpool girl come to be in Brighton in the first place?

As I implied earlier, I had traced Helena to Liverpool where she was born in 1878. Her parents and an older sister where living there at the time of the census in 1871 but there was no trace of the family in 1881 when the next census was taken. I eventually traced Helena's father and older sister to an address in London and saw that the father was described as a widower. There was no record, however, of the mother's death. Nor could I find any trace of Helena. I found her in Brighton in 1901, living with Mr and Mrs Hall. It was in 1902 that she married William Carstairs, their son was born in 1904 and William died in 1908.

How I wished there was a diary to tell me what had happened to Helena before her marriage. Eventually, I learned. An Internet contact told me she had been adopted by Mr & Mrs Hall after her mother's death. The Hall's lived in that little village, hence Helena's (and subsequently her son's) connection. The Hall's had moved from there, ending up in Brighton.

Helena had a tragic life. Not only had her mother died while she was very young, but her husband died after only six years of marriage. She did later remarry but her second husband mistreated her, attacking her with a knife on at least one occasion, and he committed suicide.

At least I did eventually learn about Helena. I'm still struggling with her step-daughter, Moira, who was last heard of in Paris just before the second World War and who is believed to have joined a nunnery but who I have been unable to find in any official records. I have found a record of Helena's step-daughter Johanna - of whom my wife had never heard. Was she Moira? I wonder if I shall ever find out.

1 comment:

Stephen Hayes said...

Interesting family history. When I looked into my own background I discovered that our family tree was a weed!