I mentioned the other day that i am going to start another writing group, this time about family history, and how you can tell your own life story, or your parents, or your distant ancestors you’ve discovered on Ancestry.com or GenesReunited or whatever. I want to get people to think about how they pass on all they know to others, their children or grandchildren, or people interested in their village, or even their house!
I have very vague memories of my grandparents homes – I know these days with all the photographs we take it is easier to record things, but even so, looking at a photo of the room I’m in now – a lot of it would be a mystery to future generations… for a start it is a tremendous muddle, there are loads of things made of paper which might not be used in the future, there are CDs – which even these days young people don’t necessarily have, and there are all sorts of things which just seeing a picture of in twenty, fifty or further ahead would be inexplicable.
My maternal grandparents lived in a big house, which I only later realised was not theirs but rented. Were there carpets on the floor? I don’t remember… rugs? I don’t remember. There was obviously no central heating, but were fires lit in every room? I have no idea. There was a kitchen, and now I think about it a vaguely recall a kitchen table, a sink by the windows, shelves or maybe a dresser – but am I really remembering that or is it just an amalgam of other old houses I visited as a child? I must have gone upstairs, I might even have slept there, but I can remember nothing, or do I remember looking out of a back window across fields?
I never knew my paternal grandfather, he died a month before I was born, but I do remember the small terraced house where grandma lived, but not really in any detail, and again the memories fuse with others, and sort of shimmer and change as I think about them.
When I start my new group, old houses and buildings will be one of the things we will think about – it’s up to them whether they write about them or not!
My featured picture, by the way is of the Portland Arms Hotel in Cambridge, where my dad and his brother and sister grew up. I have been in it several times as an adult, and have many stories about it!