The thing that hurts the most

I’ve spent the past few weeks going through my DNA results looking for clues into who my great grandfather might be- Rosalind’s father- and I’ve come up with nada.

My mum and I talked about it when we were in Shetland and she told me about a story she knew. She wasn’t sure if it was a story she had heard, or one she had made up, but it was a beautiful story involving a pregnant woman looking out to sea, knowing she had lost the father of her child. It is entirely possible that she heard this story, she also heard a story about the Barclay family, and that turned out to be true. Perhaps my great grandmother met and loved a man, they were intimate, they couldn’t wait to get wed, and perhaps he was doing as many fishing trips as he could to get the money to marry her. Then maybe the sea turned rough, the boat capsized or a wave knocked her beloved overboard, and then he was no more. She was left a single mother, unable to name him on the birth certificate and alone to raise a child by herself. Or maybe it was just a visiting sailor who got lucky one night then sailed off to the sunset, or a married man or a whole host of other possibilities?! We will never know unfortunately, and it infuriates me so badly!

Amongst all the things my mum and I talked about when we were away, we talked about Gracie the most. It is weird to call this woman Grace. Grace is the name of my fathers mother. Gracie has always been Marion to me, my grandmother’s sister.

Everyone knew her as Gracie, but I didn’t know her at all. If I’m honest, I never even gave her a second thought.

That ignorance, that is the thing that hurts the most.

Gracie and Ernies Golden Wedding

This, I think, is the only picture of me and my great grandmother. I am on her lap, wriggling to get away, and behind her stands her daughter Rosalind. The young girl next to us is my cousin Danielle and the lady the other side I think is Gracies second daughter Lillian. I think my grandpa is standing beside my grandma, and possibly Ernie is the other man with the carnation buttonhole but it might be Lillian’s husband, it is hard to tell. I think the hand reaching towards me belongs to my mother, I can just make out the profile of her face.

So there it is, the only photo we have featuring 4 generations.

When we had our family reunion after our Shetland visit, I overheard Lillian say to my mother that Gracie had told her the truth when she was 16. My grandma found out when she joined the Navy, she must have been about 17. Still, all those years it was kept a secret. I don’t want to keep going on about that though, but as I make sense of the feelings, I understand why it hurts so much, for me anyway. It is because I completely dismissed this woman. I never knew her, she died when I was 1, likely not long after this picture as they married in the autumn and she died in December. I never asked or enquired about her. I asked about Rosalind, I asked about Rosa and Andrew, who I thought were my great grandparents. I asked about Chrissie as she was Diane’s mum and I knew Diane. I asked about Charlie and his adventures at sea, but I never asked about Gracie. I know I was a bridesmaid for Lillian’s daughter and I know my mum was close with this line of the family but I didn’t know them at all. The distance meant that I never really, truly understood how we were related. They were just cousins of some description. My own ignorance admittedly.

I can not blame anyone, I was just a child, how was I to know? I’m not angry at myself, I am just sad that it could have been a different way. Not just for me, but for my mum.

Mum told me that it would have changed her relationship with Gracie when she was alive, if she had known. They were close but she said she would have made more of an effort, especially in her older years, and she’d have made more of an effort for my older brothers to see her and know her.

I guess it goes to show that you shouldn’t let the seemingly tenuous links of family slip by because they aren’t ‘close’ family. What does ‘close’ family mean anyway, close in distance? Close in how frequently you contact each other? Close in the way you’re related? In that respect, my brother lives on the other side of the world and we email each other two or three times a year. Why should I be upset about a great grandmother I never knew, when I barely know my own brother?

Rambling thoughts I know, not much of an interesting blog post on genealogy. It just makes me think about the definition of family, and why I am so interested in finding out more, especially on this branch. I thought visiting and finding out more would settle something in me, but it has just raised more questions, and I will never know the answers.


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