#Family #Mystery ‘The Carer’ by Deborah Moggach

At first I didn’t know what to make of The Carer by Deborah Moggach. She travels a fine comic line nudging towards simplistic or tasteless stereotypes. But then, as she did in These Foolish Things, the novel finds its stride. In two parts, Moggach takes her original portrayal of this family, shows it through different eyes, and turns it upside down. Deborah Moggach

In Part One we meet widower James Wentworth, OBE, 85, retired particle physicist, living downstairs in his home after breaking a hip; and his live-in carer Mandy, 50, from Solihull. ‘Mandy hummed show tunes as the kettle boiled. Blood Brothers was her favourite, about two boys separated at birth. She said she had seen it three times and blubbed like a baby.’ Mandy is fat, jolly, is a chatterer, and says it as she finds it.

Part One is told from the alternating viewpoints of James’ children. Unfulfilled artist Phoebe, 60, lives in a Welsh village in the area where she had many happy childhood holidays. Robert, 62, former City trader, is now writing a novel in his garden shed in Wimbledon, while married to a television newsreader. Our first impressions of their father, and of Mandy, are filtered through their middle class worries and prejudices. Both harbour resentments about their father’s absences when they were children when he travelled the world for work; resentments that straight-talker Mandy tells them they should have got over years ago.

Mandy is truly a catalyst of change, not just for James but for Robert and Phoebe too.

The situation is a believable one faced in today’s society as we all live longer. James in his eighties needs full-time care, his children are already retired. A succession of carers has come and gone, each unsatisfactory in one way or another. When Mandy arrives she seems an angel. Initially, Phoebe and Robert put aside the class differences as Mandy cares for their father so well. The daily walk to the nearby donkey sanctuary or trip to Lidl for pots of flavoured mousse, soon become day trips to Bicester Village and eating at Nando’s. Initially thriving under Mandy’s care with daily scratchcards and a chirping kitchen clock, James seems more forgetful so when Robert’s daughter sees the papers from James’ desk upstairs in a mess, they fear the worst. Why is Mandy looking in their father’s private documents. Can she be trusted. And what has prompted James’ sudden mental and physical decline. The twist which comes halfway through is masterful.

Part Two is James’ story, starting from his life as a young father and married to Anna. One day he attends a conference in Cardiff. What happens there affects the rest of his life, but in ways even he cannot have predicted. At the end there is one more twist, unexpected, that once again casts Robert and Phoebe’s understanding of their lives into a whirlwind.

At the heart of this novel is the question, can you ever really know someone. Whether with a stranger or a long-loved family member, don’t we all sub-consciously present different faces to different people. It is easy to assume we know someone because of the public face they present to the world, but the inner thoughts of other people, even our closest relatives – and often their marriages – are always a mystery.

Littered with throwaway quotes from Shakespeare, this is on the surface a quick, contemporary read (only 272 pages) which also casts a light on the prejudices, snobberies and problems of modern society. It is billed as a comic novel but it did not make me laugh. I was left feeling vaguely disappointed.
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If you like this, try:-
The Marriage Certificate’ by Stephen Molyneux
‘The Shadow Sister’ by Lucinda Riley
Hiding the Past’ by Nathan Dylan Goodwin 

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True #adoption story… @ZekeAnders #adoptionstories

Korean American filmmaker Zeke Anders stepped in front of the camera to document his own adoptee experience and challenge some of the stigmas of the adoption experience.

Zeke Anders

Zeke [legal name Andrew Erickson] was three when he was adopted in 1978 from a South Korean by an American couple from Detroit. ‘Anything before that point it’s really sketchy. The authorities found me on the street and they took me to an orphanage and that’s basically it. That’s all I know, that’s all my parents knew and it’s kind of crazy that way.’

The idea for his vlog American Seoul came to him when he acknowledged the curiosity of friends and acquaintances about adoption. ‘They would always say ‘real.’ As if the parents I have aren’t my real parents.’ He is keen to portray adoption as ‘normal, it’s great.’

Zeke Anders

Zeke held by his adoptive mother, Joyce Erickson, at Chicago O’Hare airport as he arrives from South Korea in 1978 [photo: Zeke Anders]

In one episode, he asks viewers to share the comments they find the most annoying when people ask about their adoptive experiences. For him, the most annoying thing is when someone says ‘I’m sorry’ after hearing he is adopted.

Read Zeke’s story in this NBC News article.
Watch a television interview with Zeke on Halo Halo about his adoption vlog American Seoul.
Listen to Zeke interviewed on Michigan Radio.
Zeke’s website

Zeke Anders

Zeke as a child in the early 1980s [photo: Zeke Anders]

If you like this true story, read:-
George Dennehy
Ray Victor Lewis
Brian Moore

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Was your relative a #gardener at a country house #familyhistory

We are all familiar with the life upstairs downstairs at a great house thanks to Downton Abbey and Gosford Park. What is less familiar is the outside job of gardener to a wealthy family. The life is governed by the seasons and has evolved from a menial task to a highly skilled and qualified position. Gardeners have been employed to grow fruit, vegetables and to manage sometimes huge formal gardens, since Tudor times. And many more intrepid men and women changed gardening into what it is we recognise today. For example, father and son gardeners John and John Tradescant [below] travelled the world collecting plant specimens. John the father sailed to the Arctic Circle and fought Barbary pirates on the coast of Algeria. His son John sailed to America. Father and son were both, in turn, appointed Royal Gardener. So, having a gardener in your family tree could be very interesting! John Tradescant

Where to search for your relative
Gardeners employed at large houses should be found in the wages books, garden accounts or the  records of estate management. Start first at the National Archives Discovery catalogue. Also try regional trade directories, the autobiographies of landowners and histories of stately homes.

Try local newspapers for horticultural news, at the British Newspaper Archive. This might include job vacancies, appointments, horticultural prizes won, local flower shows etc. Trade directories including lists of gardeners who worked at large country homes and suburban residences can be found at the University of Leicester’s Special Collections website.

Places to visit

The Lost Gardens of Heligan, Cornwall gardeners 1900

The Lost Gardens of Heligan, Cornwall gardeners 1900 [photo: heligan.com]

Start at the Royal Horticultural Society to get an idea about gardening, the seasons, and to find some gardens to visit. Also try the National Trust for more great houses with gardens in your local area. The Lost Gardens of Heligan at St Austell in Cornwall were abandoned in 1914 and restored in the 1990s [above: Heligan gardeners in 1900]. Read Tim Smit’s story of restoring the Heligan gardens, The Lost Gardens of Heligan.

Gardener's notebook 1890

Gardener’s notebook 1890 [photo: gardenmuseum.org.uk]

The Garden Museum in London explores and celebrates British gardens and gardening through its collection, temporary exhibitions, events and garden. Find out more about the Tradescants and see a gardener’s notebook [below] dating from 1890 including tips about propagating vines.

Further reading
For inspiring stories about women gardeners, read Gardening Women: their Stories from 1600 to the Present by Catherine Horwood BUY THE BOOK

For the life of a female garden designer, read about Gertrude Jekyll. She wrote more than 1000 gardening articles for Country Life and The Garden magazines. Read Penelope Hobhouse’s book Gertrude Jekyll on Gardening BUY THE BOOK

To learn about the 18thcentury gardeners who collected plants and seeds from overseas and changed our gardens forever, read The Brother Gardeners: Botany, Empire and the Birth of an Obsession by Andrea Wulf BUY THE BOOK

If you’re searching for relatives and want to search online safely try the Lost Cousins website, which matches you with other people researching the same ancestors. It’s worth signing up for the Lost Cousins newsletter too.

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

If you want to read more about family history research, try this:-
Commonwealth War #Graves Commission
Did your relative train as an apprentice
How History Pin puts your #familytree research on a map 

WDYTYA the Genealogy Handbook by Dan Waddell

Don’t know where to start investigating your own family history? Try Who Do You Think You Are? The Genealogy Handbook by Dan Waddell BUY THE BOOK

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True #adoption story… Betty Morrell #adoptionstories

The headline sounds like something from a film: ‘Woman, 82, finds birth mother, 96’. After 50 years of searching Betty Morrell finally met her birth mother, Lena Pierce.

Betty Morrel

Betty Morrell meets birth mother Lena Pierce with Kimberly Miccio, holding her own daughter [photo: Kimberly Miccio]

Eighty-two years after she was born to a teenage mother and put up for adoption, Betty Morrell finally met her birth mother thanks to the dogged research by her grand-daughter, Kimberly Miccio, over twenty years. Betty started searching once her adoptive parents had died but, as her adoption had been closed, it was ‘like hitting a brick wall.’

Born in Utica, New York State, in 1993, Betty’s mother Lena named her daughter Eva May. But Lena was a ward of the state and so social welfare officers took away her baby for adoption. Betty, as she was later named, grew up as an only child with her adoptive family on Long Island. Her childhood was happy. In her thirties she started to search. The first shock was finding that her birth mother had not died during childbirth as she had been told.

Betty’s grand-daughter Kimberly started to help her grandmother with the research when she was 12. ‘My grandmother had been looking for a long time. She had never tried through the internet, so we started going through different sites.’ Eventually, using Ancestry, Kimberly located one of Lena Pierce’s daughters. Betty then learned she had four sisters, two brothers, and that her mother was alive and well and living in Pennsylvania.
Read the full story of Betty’s reunion at US News.

If you like this true story, read:-
Kate & Tom Jameson
Eileen Heron
Dave Lowe

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Was your relative a #detective #researching #familyhistory

If there is a record of your early 20th century relatives serving in the police, don’t miss the accounts from 1902-1909 of Frederick Wensley [below]. A British police officer from 1888-1929, he was head of ‘H’ Division in the East End of London before becoming chief constable at Scotland Yard’s Criminal Investigation Department. If you want to know what the job of a detective in Edwardian London was like, read Fred Wensley’s notebooks.

Frederick Wensley in 1930

Frederick Wensley in 1930 [photo: Howard Coster]

When he retired in 1929, Wensley told his story including serialisations of his major cases in the Sunday Express in 1930. He also wrote his own memoir in 1931, Detective Days, retitled 40 Years of Scotland Yard [below] for publication in New York.

Frederick Wensley

40 Years of Scotland Yard by Frederick Wensley

While serving in Whitechapel, Wensley was involved in the investigation of the Jack the Ripper murders, a still unidentified serial killer in East London in 1888. The Ripper’s victims were women, female prostitutes who lived and worked in the slums of the East End [see the map below]. Their throats were cut and their bodies mutilated.

Whitechapel murders

The sites of the first seven Whitechapel murders

The Ripper case aside, Wensley’s notebooks are probably most valuable for the glimpse they give of life before the Great War. Crimes mentioned include murder, housebreaking, theft, running an illegal gaming house, stealing alcohol, street-betting and safe-breaking and the arrests of notorious East End gangsters.

Find Fred Wensley’s notebooks in The Wensley Family Archive at the Bishopsgate Institute. It contains two scrapbooks of cuttings and photos from Wensley’s career detailing all the cases he was involved in, plus diaries, certificates and photographs. In addition there are substantial records about his family, including correspondence and memorabilia. The library and archive at the Bishopsgate Institute [below] holds 100,000 books and pamphlets, maps, trade directories, oral histories and guidebooks about London. There is also a substantial archive about protest and campaigning, socialism, the co-operative movement and LGBTQ history.

Bishopsgate Institute

Bishopsgate Institute, Bishopsgate EC2

If you’re searching for relatives and want to search online safely try the Lost Cousins website, which matches you with other people researching the same ancestors. It’s worth signing up for the Lost Cousins newsletter too.

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

If you want to read more about family history research, try these articles:-
Researching children’s homes
Using maps
Understanding your relatives’ #babyname choices 

WDYTYA the Genealogy Handbook by Dan Waddell

Don’t know where to start investigating your own family history? Start with the Who Do You Think You Are? The Genealogy Handbook by Dan Waddell BUY

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
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#Genealogy #Mystery ‘The America Ground’ by Nathan Dylan Goodwin @NathanDGoodwin 

The America Ground by Nathan Dylan Goodwin is based on a fascinating piece of local history, indeed Goodwin’s own family history, and made into a historical thriller. On April 28, 1827, a woman is murdered in her bed. Eliza Lovekin is the second to be killed, Amelia Odden is to be next. This is the story of Eliza, her daughter Harriet and a piece of ground in Hastings, East Sussex, which for a short period of time was claimed as a piece of the United States of America. Nathan Dylan Goodwin

Forensic genealogist Morton Farrier is on the trail of his own adoption story, the identity of his birth father. But a visit to his adoptive father seeking answers sets him instead on the trail of a new mystery. The portrait of a woman from the 1800s: ‘Eliza Lovekin, Hastings, 1825’. Morton’s client is the proprietor of an antiques business who wants a potted family history of Eliza to add value to the painting before it goes up for sale at auction. Initially resenting time away from researching his own family, Morton is soon captivated by Eliza’s story. In the 1827 story strand, we follow Harriet Lovekin, teenage daughter of Eliza, as she longs to be treated as an adult. Unfortunately the day arrives when she is, and she doesn’t like it.

The build towards the climax is deftly handled, though the book starts slowly and I would have liked a more even balance between historical exposition and action in the first half. Originally I was unsure why we were following Harriet’s viewpoint rather than Eliza’s, but all becomes clear towards the end. The build towards the climax is deftly handled, though the book starts slowly and I would have liked a more even balance between historical exposition and action in the first half. Originally I was unsure why we were following Harriet’s viewpoint rather than Eliza’s, but all becomes clear towards the end. There is one point when, in order to maintain the secret as long as possible, the author goes back a couple of days; that jolted me out of the story.

I particularly liked Goodwin’s use of local dialect with a light touch: ‘a low fubsy moon’, ‘a-going’ and ‘a-hurting’. As a genealogist and local historian, he knows his East Sussex locations well. As the action moves around the county, I found myself wishing there was a map to refer to.

Morton Farrier is a great protagonist – thoughtful, brave but scared too, a bit of a geek who has a sharp edge – though as my father used to say about Jim Rockford, it’s dangerous being around him; everyone he knows gets threatened, murdered, attacked or abused. And Morton’s own adoption heritage story continues from book to book.
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Read my reviews of the first three books in the series, Hiding the Past, The Lost Ancestor and The Orange Lilies.

If you like this genealogy mystery, try:-
In The Blood’ by Steve Robinson
Run’ by Ann Patchett
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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True #identity story… @GeorginaLawton #mixedrace

The story of Georgina Lawton is not one of adoption, so much as identity. Racial identity. Georgina looks mixed race though her family is white. After years of brushing the truth aside, her father’s death prompted her to ask questions. Adoptees will identify with her descriptions of anger, isolation, denial and confusion.

Georgina Lawton

Georgina Lawton

Taught not to question her skin colour, Georgina grew up in London with her blue-eyed younger brother, British father and Irish mother. ‘Although I look mixed-race, or black, my whole family is white. And until the man I called Dad died two years ago, I did not know the truth about my existence. Now, age 24, I’m starting to uncover where I come from.’ Growing up, no one spoke about racial politics and Georgina assumed she fitted into the same cultural category as everyone else. ’The word ‘black’ was never uttered in reference to me. And I saw that blackness was an intangible and wholly culture concept that had no relevance to my life. But I always had questions.’
When her father became ill with cancer, he agreed to give a DNA sample. A year later, Georgina found the courage to send it for testing. It came back inconclusive.

Georgina Lawton

Georgina Lawton as a child with her father [photo: Georgina Lawton]

A second test was sent off, this time including her mother’s DNA. She was told there was no chance her father was her own. ‘Rage so strong it scared me coursed through my veins and hurtled towards my mother like a hurricane in our family home as I demanded answers.’ Her mother then admitted to a one-night stand with a black Irishman, her birth father.

Georgina Lawton

Georgina Lawton with her father [photo: Georgina Lawton]

For Georgina, the man who raised her, who she grew up calling Dad, is her father. She realises he must have suspected his wife, Georgina’s mother, of infidelity. ‘But they loved each other dearly and not once did any of us argue about it.’
Read Georgina’s story at The Guardian.
Georgina LawtonGeorgina’s memoir Raceless tells the story of her colour-blind upbringing and how we must strive to ‘build a future in which a mixed family is neither taboo, nor a talking point,’
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If you like this true story, read:-
Samantha Futerman
Jazz Boorman
Angela Patrick

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True #adoption story… Shaye Woolard #adoptionstories

Shaye Woolard has been trying to find information about her birth parents since she was in middle school. At 18, she applied to the agency she had been adopted from but was told she could only be given ‘non-identifying’ facts. It took 11 years of persistence, telephone calls and emails, before she learned anything new.

‘To finally know something as simple as what time of day I was born was amazing! The information also included my parent’s height and weight measurements, and the fact that my bio-mom was 16 years old when she had had me. That helped me understand why she did not keep me. Both of my parents were from religious families, but different denominations. My mom’s biological father was unknown to her, which makes me wonder if she ever felt or feels the way that I do.’

Shaye Woolard

Shaye Woolard

When Shaye asked the agency what else she could do to get information about her family medical history, ‘they told me they would notify me when my biological mother died. What a cold response. I hung up the phone and cried. This felt like a personal attack and reminded me of the awful remarks people used to make to me while I was growing up. Some called me “adopted trash.” It sucks knowing that some people just don’t care. I had reached another dead end—back to square one. Still, I took in a deep breath and decided to keep trying.’

Now she has children of her own, the issue has become a burning one. ‘I now wish to give my children as much information as I can about our side of the family and me, including our medical history. I have ongoing health issues. I see doctor after doctor trying to sort them out, and each time, I am asked the same thing: “What is your family medical history?” I answer, “I was adopted and I don’t know anything.” They look at me as though they don’t know where to start with the medical testing. Sometimes they even ask: “Is there is any way you can find your family history?” And I always reply, “I desperately want to know and hope to someday.”’

Shaye is a wandering adult adoptee, but who is now blessed with a family of her own. Having to deal with multiple health issues, she hates hearing the repetitive question: what is your family medical history? She feels like she is cheating her kids out of knowing where they come from, and she wishes she knew the same. Shaye was adopted in April of 1985 from Smithlawn Adoption Agency in Lubbock, Texas.

This article was originally published on the ‘Secret Sons and Daughters’ blog in June 2014.

Read Shaye’s story in full.
Follow ‘Secret Sons and Daughters’ at Facebook.

If you like this true story, read:-
Julie Wassmer 
Philip Sais
Brian Moore

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#Family #mystery ‘A Mother’s Secret’ by @RenitaDSilva #birthfather

What a tangled web some families weave. A Mother’s Secret by Renita D’Silva is a fragrant tale of mothers and daughters stretching from England to India. Gaddehalli is a tiny village in Goa but I could smell the spices, hear the wind in the trees, and see the buffaloes in the fields as if I was there. Renita D’Silva

This novel about identity starts with a young girl, Durga, who must stay with her grandmother in Gaddehalli after an accident to her parents. The ruined mansion where she lives, which is avoided by the locals as haunted and full of bad luck, is the centre of this story. The modern-day strand follows Jaya, a young mother in England mourning the loss of her baby son and whose mother Sudha has recently died. Sudha was an emotionally-withdrawn mother, but when Jaya discovers some of her mother’s hidden possessions, including diaries, she pieces together the story of Sudha’s early life. Jaya is looking for the identity of her own father; she finds so much more.

From the beginning, it is a guessing game: how is the story of Durga connected to Kali, Jaya and Sudha? Halfway through, all my ideas of the twist had been proven wrong and I was wondering if the storylines would come together. At times I got the girls confused, but I read the second half of the novel quicker than the first and the twist, when it came, was a big surprise. A clever novel about families and how the important, simple things in life can sometimes be forgotten because of pride, selfishness or shame.
BUY THE BOOK

Try another novel of family secrets by Renita D’Silva… The Orphan’s Gift.

If you like this, try:-
Fred’s Funeral’ by Sandy Day
Innocent Blood’ by PD James 
‘File Under Fear’ by Geraldine Wall 

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
The scents of India: A MOTHER’S SECRET by @RenitaDSilva #birthfather #identity https://wp.me/paZ3MX-f7 via #AdoptionStoriesBlog

Was your relative a #doctor #researching #familyhistory

The medical profession has changed out of all recognition since the 18th century and if you are searching for a relative who was once a doctor or medical professional, there are a number of useful sources to check which may lead you in an intriguing direction.

In the 18thcentury, only physicians were called MD, doctor, with the status of being a gentleman. They charged for their advice and remedies but did not dispense medicines. They were university educated in contrast to surgeons and apothecaries who were trained via apprenticeships. Surgeons did not give medicines to patients, instead they specialised in pulling teeth, lancing boils, blood-letting, and amputations. Apothecaries dispensed and sold medicines from a shop, charging for their medicines not their advice. There was ample opportunity for quacks. The turning point came with the passing of the Medical Act in 1858. This meant that in able to practise medicine, all qualified medical professions had to be listed in the new Medical Register, and also licensed by one of 19 licensing bodies.

If you are tracing a relative in the 19thcentury who you suspect worked in the medical professions in the UK, the two places to check are the Medical Register, from 1859, and the Medical Directory, from 1846. Both list full name, address and date qualifications attained, but include different additional information. It is worth checking both. The Medical Register was published by the General Medical Council and all practising medical professionals had to be registered in it.  It states where each individual was registered. The Medical Directory was a non-compulsory commercial enterprise that is a useful source as it provides different information from the Medical Register, including additional posts held, lists of previous posts, and papers written for medical journals. However it was up to the individual to keep the entries on both directories updated, so be wary of misleading information. The Medical Register and the Medical Directory can be viewed in large city libraries and specialist archives such as the Wellcome Library. Selected records are also available online at Ancestry, The Genealogist and Family Relatives. Some editions can be viewed free on the Internet Archive.

If your ancestor was an army surgeon, check the Army List [from 1754] and Hart’s Army List [1839-1915] at the Internet Archive or Google Books. Read more about your medical ancestor’s service record at The National Archives. For naval surgeons, check the Navy List [from 1782] and the New Navy List [1841-1856], available at large reference libraries. Some editions are free online at the Internet Archive or Google Books.

If your ancestor worked in a hospital, check the staff records at the Hospital Records Database at The National Archives, and for Scotland look at Clinical Notes.

The Lancet

The Lancet, issue dated July 6 1872

British Medical Journal

British Medical Journal, issue dated October 30 1948

If your ancestor was a GP, try your local newspapers or at the British Newspaper Archive for mentions in obituaries, letters to the editor, inquests. Specialist medical journals are also worth checking for articles or letters written by your relative, obituaries or appointments. Search the British Medical Journal archive, back copies of The Lancet are held at the Wellcome Library.

If you know where your relative trained, trace the location of the medical college records by searching Discovery at The National Archives, or for Scotland check the Scottish Archive Network.

Elizabeth Garrett Anderson

Elizabeth Garrett Anderson, 1900 portrait by John Singer Sargent

Apothecaries Hall

Apothecaries Hall, entrance on Blackfriars Lane EC4

For information about apothecaries, check The Worshipful Society of Apothecaries. Elizabeth Garrett Anderson [above], for example, was the first woman to gain a medical qualification in Britain. She created a medical school for women, having herself studied privately with physicians, finally obtaining her medical credentials via a loophole with the Society of Apothecaries.

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

If you want to read more about family history research, try these articles:-
Using photographic archives
Understanding your relatives’ #babyname choices
Was your relative an apothecary 

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
Was your ancestor a #doctor #familyhistory https://wp.me/paZ3MX-82 via #AdoptionStoriesBlog