Thursday, 14 May 2009

Treading in the footsteps of ancestors

An exciting family history day today! We took the bus out to Aughnacloy, where Gran's gran (so my great great gran) was born. It took about 2 hours from Belfast (via Dungannon), and we nearly missed the stop because it's such a small place, really just a high street with a few junctions running off it. We had a prowl round the Church of Ireland churchyard of St James's and found a possible relative, but still no Jacksons.

Then serendipity stepped in - the warden at the former Jackson almshouses (no relation - a well-to-do doctor while our lot were labourers) directed us to the high school to ask after the old headmaster, a local historian. We made it as far as the primary school and popped in on the off-chance; a teacher there rang her brother-in-law, lay preacher back at the church, and ten minutes later we were digging through the baptism records in the vestry.

We found the 1878 entry for Elizabeth, my great great grandmother, as well as 9 of her brothers and sisters, her parents' marriage in 1860 and her father's burial in 1905. None of these records are held at the Public Record Office, or indexed; without the kindness of others we would have found none of it.

More than that, to stand in the church where the family were christened, married and buried was something really special. Dusty paper records are all well and good (and I wouldn't be a librarian if they didn't get me weirdly excited) but you can't beat a bit of real life to make it feel tangible.

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