I’ve had another moment of bibliographic grace. You know. When the right book arrives at the right time. This time the book was called It didn’t start with you. Even the title gave me a little taste of unwinding. The author is Mark Wolynn and is readily available by which ever book buying method you prefer. (I’m a paper girl).
i read it from cover to cover on Monday night, and it prompted a fresh surge of genealogical activity. It’s been a while since I visited the biological family tree and with the speed at which material is being digitised, I hoped I might find photographs. I’ve never seen any photographs of any of my ancestors beyond one picture of my maternal grandmother.
I found one. Not who I was hoping for, but nevertheless a 100% improvement on where I was. My great uncle was a pretty handsome guy actually, and his pre-embarkation photo made me weep for what lay ahead of him. A fit and attractive young man who would be discharged from the army with neurasthenia, a difficult condition to describe. It’s modern day equivalent in former soldiers is PTSD, but as I understand it, it’s not quite the same.
Perhaps worse was to come. James was a twin, and in a few years time, his sister, my great grandmother, would take her own life. I discovered that Gertrude had killed herself only after her daughter, the only person who could have told me anything about her mother, had died. That’s how adoption works you know. So many secrets, and such destructive silence. My great grandmother’s death in 1923 is still reverberating four generations down the line.
I hope that by trying to reconstruct this branch of my biological family, to tell Gertrude’s silenced story, I can bring some peace and healing, not only for myself but hopefully for them too.