Memories and my own family history
When my brother and I started our family history over 10 years ago now, my mother proved to be a real goldmine of information. She remembered her grandmother, Lucy Strangward, very clearly as she was already 11 by the time her grandmother died.
We instantly got the names and birth years of Lucy’s 10 children, which ones died young, which one ran off when he got a girl into trouble and was never heard of again, the marriage partners of the others, and, in most cases, their children and grandchildren.
Not only did my mother remember lots of family detail that must have been fairly common knowledge in her childhood, she seems to have remembered the vast majority of family stories and information told to her by her mother. And quite a lot of the content of conversations overheard between my grandmother and her older sister!
She knew that she was vaguely related to other Wilcock families in Pontefract, although she didn’t know the relationship. Not surprisingly, as the link was five generations back, but this was an incredibly good lead.
She had heard about a couple of suicides, one of the wife of a Wilcock great great uncle, which led us to a newspaper report in 1888, telling the full tragic story. A young woman, recently married and pregnant had drowned herself in the brickpond near her home one cold December night.
Apparently, as was the convention of the time, she knew nothing of the facts of life. The activities of the wedding night and afterwards had been rather a shock, but her expanding waistline and the movements of the child inside her had been terrifying. Not able to work out how the baby would find its way out, and without any reassurances, she fretted herself into mental decline.
Shortly before her baby was due she ran out of the house at midnight while her husband slept and threw herself into the cold and murky brick pond, killing herself and her unborn child.
I can’t say that we were exactly happy to find the story; it was a terrible thing to happen and it still has its impact over a century later, but this sort of detail about individuals is rare. We were pleased to fit together the facts as reported in the newspaper with my mother’s own recollections of her grandmother’s memories.