Category Archives: Genealogy

Invisible bonds

I’ve talked about my family before, I’m sure, but this week I’ve found myself thinking about extended family as a form of identity, all over again.

My granddad, with two of his younger brothers
My granddad, with two of his younger brothers, outside their house.

My granddad was the eldest of six children, which meant that my dad grew up in something of a clan – he had two siblings, and ten cousins on his dad’s side of the family, to say nothing of a stack of cousins and second cousins who were from his mum’s side. Families in those days had a lot of proximity about them. They all lived within a few miles of one another, in North Liverpool, and the ones who didn’t, didn’t go too far – Aunty Gwen lived in Parbold, Uncle Alf moved to Rainford, but mostly, they were less than ten minutes apart by car. Also, those of them that held on to the faith of their childhoods, tended to stay in the one church.

My dad’s generation, of course, were the baby-boomers (he only discovered this about himself recently, I can’t imagine where he’s been). They were the ones who did the 11+, and saw driving their own car as less of a privilege than a right, and would move towns for a job, and be the first in their family to own a house. My dad’s cousins were much more geographically disparate. We lived in various bits of East Lancashire when I was growing up, and Tim moved from Southport to Altrincham, and Phil spent about fifteen years in London, which was as close to the edge of the earth as made no practical difference to the rest of us.

Some of the cousins lost touch, at that point. There are at least four or five whom I know I would not recognise if I met them in the street – although one of that group is my “friend” on Facebook, and lives ten minutes walk from my house. I’ve not been round, though. A core, who stayed in Liverpool, also stayed in the church, and helped to create a kind of home base there, that the rest of us came back to, periodically. My grandparents and two of their children went for a communal living approach, pooling their resources to put three generations into a lovely big Victorian house in the suburbs. The house became another sort of base – there was always someone in, there, and when you arrived, you instantly felt part of the big family, probably just because a good proportion of the family were there already.

That house is where the Christmas parties were held (Boxing night, every year), with all the little traditions, including the one where Father Christmas arrived, and handed out presents to everyone (for hours…) in return for a rendition of Away in a Manger. One year, my granddad stood in for Santa by appearing in drag as a Christmas Fairy – drag isn’t something I would ever have associated with him, if I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes, and as far as I know, it has never happened before or since. Increasingly, for me, part of generation number three of the ever more separated, and ever more numerous family group, the Christmas party was the only time I ever saw most of those people. We have less and less in common, and less and less to tie us together.

And yet, we are still tied together.

I heard a story, today, of one of my dad’s cousins, who’s immediate family had drifted away from the group, and who, now in her fifties, is missing her family, to the point of feeling quite resentful about it. It touched me. I don’t know this woman from Eve, but if she has discovered a need in herself to reconnect with the Family (that makes us sound like the Sopranos, and nothing could be further from the truth), then I’m pretty sure we have space for her. Why not? She belongs with us. She should have been here all along.

My great-grandma, with her grandchildren at Christmas
My great-grandma, with her grandchildren at Christmas - the generation before mine!

For various reasons, the Christmas party did not happen last year, and isn’t going to happen this year. It remains to be seen whether two years out will mean the end of it, forever. I’m really not sure how much effort is reasonable to expend, in an attempt to bring together a group of people who otherwise get along fine without each other. To bring any real substance to those relationships, I’m pretty sure we’d have to meet more frequently than that, and I’m equally sure that if someone were to do something off-the-wall, like host a family open house once a month, nobody would show up.

The fact is that our family is too big, now. Including spouses, there are knocking on for fifty living descendants of my great-grandma. So, it’s hardly surprising – the family is losing it’s structural integrity, because in modern life, when we live so far apart, and have such busyness to contend with, it takes all our energy to maintain our closest family links. The second cousins once removed are just once removed too far.

That kind of makes me sad. I’d like to find a way to fix it, to make it possible for the group identity to continue, because it’s a key part of my own sense of identity, and I suspect, I’m not the only one. I’m just not sure that it’s possible.

Our family

Yes we admit it (well i do anyway), we’re a bit faddy and it has been a while since we did any real work on our family tree.

Well we haven’t had any major breakthroughs but we have put it all on-line. You can now look at the family tree on this very website! you have to be registered to see any recent parts of the tree (you can request to become registered over here).

We currently have 606 names in our tree spanning 228 years; there’s loads of information and we are currently in the process of uploading all the certificates and stuff we have. so if you’re in the slightest bit interested in our family tree then you should go look at the Jump Family Tree.

I’ve been to Cockshutt!!!

I’ve been very excited, today – I’ve been to the tiny village in Shropshire that my Granddad’s granddad came from. It was lovely – very small, and with about twice as many 20th century houses in as older ones. The church is very odd, because the plain brick makes it look like a 20th century building – and probably catholic at that – but it’s actually 18th century!

I took lots of photos of cottages and things – pretty much any building that looked like it might pre-date WWI, and discovered a row of cottages that were built in 1857, and the village school which was built in 1856 (someone throwing money about in the 1850s, apparently…). And I talked to a couple who live there, who said I should go when the post office is open, and talk to Sue who knows everything about everyone, and Dean, who’s writing a book. And they were terribly friendly and nice, and I came away feeling all warm and welcome and fluffy and nice.

That’s two villages that I’m from – Cockshutt, and Haskayne. I’ve been to both, and whilst both are in country that’s a little too flat to be beautiful, I think I could get used to village life. Plus, compared with Liverpool, houses seem to be very cheap there…