True #adoption story… Tom Pickard #adoptionstories #true

Tom Pickard is an English poet who writes with lyrical beauty and erotic edge about his life in the North Pennines. In Fiends Fell, his 2017 book combining journal entries with poetry about a single year living on a bare hilltop in the border country between England and Scotland, Pickard writes about his childhood and the mystery of this birth.

Tom Pickard

[photo: Charles Smith]

Adopted by his great-aunt Katie at the age of nine months, Tom acquired the surname Pickard. He was christened as McKenna, Katie’s maiden name. In Fiends Fell, Pickard doesn’t dwell on his beginnings, but he does explore the gaps in his knowledge, understanding and memories. As a poet he is fascinated by language and, trying to recall a word in the local dialect, he says, ‘There is no memory of its currency in my childhood, which is the first place you’d want to look for a word you knew but had forgotten you knew and which had spontaneously recurred to mind.’ Later, attending the funeral of someone he had known since childhood, Pickard says, ‘His widow Pauline… was someone who knew the history of my – to me – mysterious origins… All I knew was that I knew nothing outside of being illegitimate and that I had a ‘brother’ with the same name.’ Could it be this brother who would unlock the mystery of Tom’s birth?

This is a book about life on the edge, of isolation, of poverty, of love of nature. It is not a book about adoption, rather it is an adopted man’s love of the life around him, his struggle to get by. Read it for the poetry and the descriptions of birds. Beautiful.

Tom PickardBUY THE BOOK

If you like this true story, read:-
Ray Victor Lewis 
Esther Robertson 
Laurence Peat

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How to use British trade directories #researching #familyhistory

The earliest known trade directory was probably a list of merchants in London published by Samuel Lee in 1677. The Little London Directory [below], searchable online at Archive.org, has ‘A collection of the names of the merchants living in and about the City of London. Very useful and necessary’. Merchants mentioned include Theodore Trotle whose address is listed as ‘near Fishmongers Hall, Thames Street’, and Anthony Depremont, of Austin Friars. Directories are a glimpse into another world, offering a chance to locate a relative and learn more about a specific trade. More recently, paper directories switched online and are still relevant for today’s workforce.

The Little London Directory of 1677

The Little London Directory of 1677

The directory business blossomed in the 18thcentury when trade directories were joined by local town guides and tourist guides, all useful sources of information for family history researchers whether looking for specific people, local history or background information about lifestyle at a particular period in time. With the Industrial Revolution, these directories became more professional, covering whole counties and included advertisements.

Kelly's Directory of Bexhill 1966

Kelly’s Directory of Bexhill 1966

Trade specific directories also started to appear and publishers updated the information every few years. Information included businessmen and their addresses, businesses listed by category, maps and classified listings. In 1836, Frederic Kelly bought the Post Office London Directory from the Post Office and went on to publish county titles, paying researchers to visit street and update information. Kelly’s Directories [above] continued publishing into the 20thcentury [below]. Read more about Kelly’s at The Genealogist [below].

Trade directories

Assorted directories [photo: thegenealogist.co.uk]

With the coming of the telephone, specialist directories soon appeared listing phone numbers. The national archive of British Telecom directories is held at the Holborn Telephone Exchange in London while Ancestry has digitised directories from 1880 to 1984.

To trace all trade and telephone directories, try the British Library, the National Library of Scotland, the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland, as well as your local library and county archives.

This post is inspired by an article in the December 2018 issue of Who Do You Think You Are?’ magazine.

For more articles about researching family records, try:-
Genetic map ‘People of the British Isles’
Researching European records
Did your relative train as an apprentice? 

WDYTYA the Genealogy Handbook by Dan Waddell

 

Don’t know where to start investigating your own family history? Try the Who Do You Think You Are? The Genealogy Handbook by Dan Waddell.
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‘File under Fear’ by Geraldine Wall #genealogy #mystery #dementia

Second in the series about probate researcher turned genealogy detective Anna Ames, File Under Fear by Geraldine Wall takes off running from where the previous book left off. This is a well-written, page-turning series that combines family history, crime, family and secrets. But for me, the touchstone that makes it special is the sub-plot of Anna’s home life and her husband Harry’s dementia. If you haven’t read book one in the series, I suggest you start there to see the full emotional depth.Geraldine Wall

Anna’s new contract sounds boring: to write a business report on Draycotts, the company which makes Drakes lurid orange and green drink, analysing how the family members coordinate together to run a successful business. But there is a secret element to her contract, to locate a missing person for CEO Gerald Draycott. This case sees Anna physically and emotionally intimidated and encompasses bullying, illegal smuggling and rape. An intense story with red herrings and wrong assumptions made about family members, the actual crimes being committed and in which Anna questions who to trust. Backing her up are her very likeable family and the multi-talented more-than-workmate Steve. Some of the resolutions fall into place a little conveniently at the fast-paced ending, but this is a satisfying tale.

What makes this series so different, and adds the emotional depth in spades, is Harry’s illness and how the family and friends cope. Sometimes they struggle but ultimately they manage the reality of their life with compassion, humour and love. This series is maturing nicely.
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Read my review of the first Anna Ames novel, File under Family.

If you like this, try:-
Beside Myself’ by Ann Morgan
Hiding the Past’ by Nathan Dylan Goodwin
Deerleap’ by Sarah Walsh 

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
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A fictional #orphan… Harry Potter #adoptionstories

Probably the most famous orphan in the literary world, Harry Potter is taken in by his aunt and uncle when his own parents are killed in a car crash. JK Rowling’s first novel, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone [Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone in the USA] establishes Harry’s downtrodden life with the Dursleys who would prefer to deny his existence. In a typical ‘hero’s journey’ story, Harry escapes the stifling and neglectful world of Privet Drive to find his own birthright and defeat the darkest wizard of all time.

Harry Potter

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone – one of the earliest covers

Harry Potter

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by JK Rowling – the current edition

The story
From page one, it is clear that the Dursleys don’t want anything to do with Mrs Dursley’s sister. ‘The Dursleys had everything they wanted, but they also had a secret, and their greatest fear was that somebody would discover it. They didn’t think they could bear it if anyone found out about the Potters.’ By the end of chapter one, the Potters are dead and the Dursleys wake to find baby Harry, their nephew, on their doorstep.
Downtrodden and lied to, Harry is eleven when he discovers his parents did not die in a car crash. They were wizards, and were killed by a wizard so evil no one speaks his name aloud. Leaving behind his adoptive family [though at no time is it clearly stated that the Dursleys formally adopt Harry] Harry learns how to use his magic, at the same time as learning about his family’s place in wizarding history. There is, throughout the seven novels, an inevitability that Harry must face He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. These are children’s books with universal themes about family, identity and belonging.
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Harry Potter

Harry Potter Complete 8-Film Collection

The films
The Harry Potter films are produced by David Heyman of Heyday Films, the screenwriter is Steve Kloves. Rowling had initially been hesitant to sell the film rights because she ‘didn’t want to give them control over the rest of the story’ by selling the rights to the characters which would enable Warner Brothers to make none-Rowling written sequels. Rowling admitted she was ‘really ready to hate this Steve Kloves’. Later she recalled her initial meeting with Kloves, ‘He said to me, ‘You know who my favourite character is?’ And I thought, You’re gonna say Ron. I know you’re gonna say Ron. But he said ‘Hermione.’ And I just kind of melted.’
Watch the trailer.
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Searching the bastardy records #foundlings #orphans

Trawling through records is difficult enough, but when you are trying to trace an illegitimate relative it can become disheartening. But now more bastardy records are available to search online.

Family tree

[illustration: @SandraDanby]

With the introduction of civil registration of births in 1837, the birth certificates of illegitimate children usually show only the name of the mother, who is the informant, though the name of the father may sometimes appear. From 1875 the registrar could not enter the name of the father, unless at the joint request of the father and mother, when the father also signed the register. When an illegitimate child marries it may leave blank the space for its father’s name, but it may then reveal the truth, if it has been learned in the meantime.To complicate things further for modern day searchers, it was all too easy to register the birth of an illegitimate child as though it were legitimate by inventing the name of a father. A woman may have invented a man with the same surname as herself (so that she is “Smith formerly Smith”) and given him her own father’s forename. A birth registered late by a woman may indicate that the child was illegitimate, particularly if a marriage cannot be found or if her husband’s surname is the same as her own.

More than 14,000 bastardy records held by the West Yorkshire Archive Service have been indexed and made available online at Ancestry. The records start from 1690 up to 1914 with documents including the maintenance of illegitimate children, bastardy bonds, and warrants for apprehending errant fathers who tried to escape responsibility for their children.

For more articles about researching family records, try:-
Find missing births
The #paternity question
Where to start your #familyhistory search 

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#Identity #Mystery ‘Beside Myself’ by Ann Morgan @A_B_Morgan

Beside Myself by Ann Morgan is a novel about identity, about identical twin sisters. Do you recognise what is fake and what is true? One sister is prettier and cleverer than the other, and she is unkind to her twin who seems downtrodden, bullied, teased and not so bright. Then a childhood prank goes wrong which affects the two girls for the rest of their lives. Helen and Ellie play a cruel trick on a neighbour, they swap clothes and re-do their hairstyles appropriately (Helen wears a plait, Ellie is in bunches) and act like the other one does – Helen assertive, Ellie cowering. It is Helen’s idea, but when it is time to swap back Ellie refuses. Beside Myself is thoughtful, at times creepy and disturbing.

Ann MorganThe story is told from Ellie’s point of view, that is Ellie who used to be Helen.
Hellie – Ellie who became Helen – is now a TV presenter.
Helen – who is now Smudge/Ellie – is struggling with mental health problems.
Confused, I was a little.

After the switch, both girls seem to be accepted without question by friends and family, despite their obvious personality differences. Their mother has met a new man and is not taking much notice of what her daughters do. Even so, the mother’s blindness is a little hard to believe. There is a soggy section in the middle of the book with stream-of-consciousness rambles which I could have done without. I also admit at times to pausing and double-checking which girl I was reading about.

Without giving away the conclusion, it is pertinent to say there is a dramatic turning point which makes the girls revisit their childhood, the swap, and other family memories; and so as adults they make sense of who they are today. Many things are explained and, though I didn’t find either girl particularly likeable, they are much more alike than either appreciate.

This is a psychological portrait of sisters, identity and mental illness, rather than a thriller so don’t expect dramatic action.
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If you like this genealogy mystery, try:-
Deerleap’ by Sarah Walsh
Hiding the Past’ by Nathan Dylan Goodwin
File Under Family’ by Geraldine Wall 

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
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Researching children’s homes #foundlings #orphans

Lost children weren’t always adopted, as happens to Rose Haldane in Ignoring Gravity. If she had been born a century earlier, she may have been taken to one of many children’s homes in London. In 1739 London’s Foundling Hospital opened, a basket placed at its door to allow infants to be left anonymously. In the late 19thcentury poverty in London’s East End was notorious and this is where, in 1866, Thomas Barnardo established his first boys’ home. Lampson House Home for Girls [below] opened in London in 1894. If you are tracing a relative who was in a children’s home, the records may be held in a variety of places.

Lampson House

Lampson House Home for Girls, London 1894 [photo: hiddenlives.org.uk]

Most children’s homes were privately run so the survival of documentation is inconsistent, records identifying individuals are widely held closed for 100 years. A useful website is The Children’s Homes which lists the location of existing records for many former homes. Other records which give an insight into lifestyle conditions [below] in children’s homes – such as reports of inspections, dietary diaries – can be found at the National Archives.

Records for workhouses can be found in the appropriate county/metropolitan record office where you may also find records for workhouses taken over by the local council, and for later council-run homes dating up until the 1980s.

If your relative disappears from the records, it is possible that the child was moved on. An institution only had so many places, so in order to accommodate new arrivals some of the existing inmates were boarded out/fostered or have emigrated. If the child was older, it is possible he/she trained for an occupation. Below are girls in the sewing room of a children’s home, in 1900.

Sewing room, children's home 1900

Sewing room 1900 [photo: hiddenlives.org.uk]

This post was inspired by the article ’Focus on Children’s Homes’ in the February 2016 issue of the UK’s Who Do You Think You Are? magazine.

For more articles about researching family records, try:-
How #adoption became a legal process #UK
The #paternity question
Commonwealth War #Graves Commission 

family history

 

When Rose Haldane starts to research the story of her own adoption in Ignoring Gravity, the private nature of her adoption means available records are minimal, so she applies to see a counsellor. First in the ‘Identity Detective’ series. BUY THE BOOK

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True #adoption story… George Dennehy #adoptionstories

When baby George was born without arms, his family in Romania could not cope. They took him to an orphanage where he was given little chance of survival. Twenty five years ago, a doctor attached a death certificate to his crib, part-completed, with the exact date and time of passing not filled in. But baby George lived on. And then a family from America arrived, wanting to adopt him.

George Dennehy

George Dennehy now

George, now 25 and a youth pastor, father and musician, does not remember his time at the orphanage. “I was neglected and abandoned,” he says. “Not taken care of. Not given good treatment or love or nutrition or anything like that.”

George Dennehy

George Dennehy as a baby

Musically gifted, George learned to play musical instruments with his feet. Now a cello player, he is the only known person in the world to play a classical stringed instrument with his toes. He tours the USA sharing his original music and is an advocate for the child sponsorship programme run by Holt International, where a sponsorship plan of monthly gifts can enable a child like George to stay with their birth family.

George Dennehy

George Dennehy with his son Landon

Listen to George sing Not Abandoned and here, playing with the Goo Goo Dolls.
Read more about Holt International’s child sponsorship programme.

If you like this true story, read:-
Jenna Cook
Jazz Boorman 
Laurence Peat

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#FamilyHistory #Mystery ‘Fred’s Funeral’ by Sandy Day

None of us have the luxury of hearing what is said about us after we are dead. In Fred’s Funeral, Canadian author Sandy Day tells the story of one soldier, returned from the First World War, who felt misunderstood and sidelined by his family. Only when he dies in 1986, seventy years after he went to war, does he observe his own funeral and find out what they really think of him. Sandy Day

Fred Sadler has lived his post-fighting years in one institution or another. Clearly he is suffering from some form of shell shock or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder but this goes undiagnosed. There are periods of living in boarding houses, his family is unwilling to have him live with them, until his behaviour deteriorates and he is sent back to hospital. Now dead and trapped as an unwilling ghost, Fred observes his funeral presided over by Viola, the sister-in-law he always disliked. As the mourners sit around and share memories of Fred, he watches, frustration mounting, as he is unable to correct their observations. They portray a ‘Fred Sadler’ which he does not recognise. I kept expecting something to happen; a true memory of the war, an event, which would explain Fred’s illness and set the record straight with his family. But it didn’t come. The story is told in linear fashion; the anecdotes of Viola and the remaining family are interchanged with Fred’s reaction to these stories plus a few flashbacks to the war. Clearer signposting of these sections would make reading easier.

Day clearly captures the time and place of post-Great War Canada, a subject which is new to me. However I found the repeated digressions into the extended family history and details of the lifestyle a distraction from the main story [so many cousins, great-great grandparents and houses]. I so wanted to cut some of these unrelated sections to allow a stronger novel to push its way to the surface; simpler, more powerful. The inclusion of so many family details makes me wonder if the core of Fred’s Funeral is a memoir, inspired by a real family, from which the author feels unable to cut some relations and take the leap into pure fiction.

The portrayal of Fred’s experience at Whitby Hospital for the Insane is heart breaking, as is the disinterest of his family. For them, Fred is an embarrassment. It is a sad indictment of our treatment of soldiers returning from war and our ignorance that the effect of fighting can last a lifetime. It is easy to assume that in the 21stcentury this has changed, but the modern day strand of Day’s story suggests it hasn’t. It is as if Fred’s life has paused. “He banished feeling anything long ago. He feels timid. He feels tentative, like every step he takes is on a thick layer of ice and at any moment, he might crash through into a frenzy of drowning.”

At the end of the novel, there is no ‘reveal’, no surprise, and I felt a little let down. Overall, this is a thoughtful examination of how family tensions, petty jealousies and misunderstandings can spread down the generations. Gossip and guesses are transformed into ‘truth’.

Day also writes poetry and this shows in her neat turn of phrase. For example, cousin Gertrude puts on her eyeglasses which “magnify her grey eyes like two tadpoles in a jar”.
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If you like this genealogy mystery, try:-
Hiding the Past’ by Nathan Dylan Goodwin
Deadly Descent’ by Charlotte Hinger
Blood-Tied’ by Wendy Percival 

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True #adoption story… a letter to Sarah, the mother of my adopted son #adoptionstories

Four years after adopting, the father of an adopted baby puts pen to paper and writes to his son’s birth mother. The original letter appeared in The Guardian. It is an emotional read, partly because you quickly realise the birth mother has died. And, as you read on, you realise the two adoptive parents are men. “In fact, you will always be his only mother – as we are both men. And I cannot help but wonder how you would feel about the fact that David has two Daddies and I hope that you would be accepting of that.”

[photo: Maria Lindsey Media Creator/Pexels]

The letter writer and his partner read the file of a baby boy on a September morning. It was a difficult story to read, “Yours was a story so far removed from our own that it took every ounce of imagination to understand what you must have gone through.” And then came the phone call to say the baby’s mother Sarah had died.

“Suddenly, we knew what we had to do. There was never any doubt. All I remember was an overwhelming desire to protect this little boy, to give him the love and care he deserved. And really that was that; as far as we were concerned, David was now our son. There were further meetings, questions, paperwork, panels, decisions, arrangements and preparations. Then, two months later, we met him for the first time. I hope the fact that I call him ‘our son’ does not offend you. Sarah, you will always be his birth mother. But I make no apology in referring to him as our son.”

The relationship between birth parents and adoptive parents can be an awkward one, but for these two fathers the challenge is different. It does seem strange writing to someone I have never met, but part of me feels that I know you so very, very well.”

Read the full letter to Sarah at The Guardian.

If you like this true story, read:-
Philip Sais
Annie from New York 
Amy Seek

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