Thursday, October 28, 2010

Tell My Story

Magpie Tales #38

I knew that your grave was here somewhere.  The parish records showed the dates of your birth, baptism and death.   Carefully recorded by whoever kept the records at the time. Whoever did, had a neat hand which suggests an educated person. Maybe the sexton, maybe the minister.  Definitely not a woman.  Someone who knew you. Someone who knew the family.  How did the recorder feel when he wrote the words ‘date of death’ in the parish records?  Reason for death remains blank. Strange that!

When the family bible was returned to me (after much searching and incessantly nagging at relatives) I flicked through it just happy that it was back with who I considered to be its rightful owner – me.  After all, my paternal grandfather had inherited it and my grandmother had ensured that all the family births, baptisms, confirmations, marriages and deaths were recorded.

 I first heard of the family bible from my father when I was quite young.  He only knew that it had been in the family home and that his mother was the person responsible for it.  When she died, my father was serving abroad and by the time he reached England, relatives had ‘ransacked’ the house.  It wasn’t until a while later that my father (an only child) realized that the family bible was missing.  When he finally found out who had it, the person – his cousin – refused to return it.  He didn’t really want it. He just didn’t want my father to have it.

After my father died, I decided to pursue the family bible.  I wanted, thirsted for family history.  I wanted to know about my ancestors. I knew that my paternal grandmother was Irish.  I knew something of my English grandfather’s (he was one of fourteen of which eleven survived) family – one of his brothers threw something at the school teacher and promptly ran off to sea – last heard of in the United States of America!) Anyway cut a long story short, I now have the family bible which dates back to 1820. It was kept religiously until the year my grandmother died in 1948.  I was the last but one to be entered. She never recorded her brother in law’s death.  She got up from her sick bed to go to his funeral and three weeks later, died of pneumonia.

I fell ill and tired of Face Book, Blogger and Multiply,  went through my bookshelf. I found the family bible that I had sought for so many years and then just put on a shelf to gather dust. I began to read and the more I read, the more my interest was piqued.  Family trees are fascinating. Who married who, who was born when, who died when but never a mention of divorce. I was told many years later that my divorce was a first for the family. Would that have been recorded had the family bible still been active? No mention of Great Aunt Dorothy  – family lore has it that this southerner bewitched and snared Great Uncle Edward. It was only at the wedding that she introduced her fourteen year old son to the family by which time it was too late. 

After much searching I am here standing at the foot of your grave.  Why am I here? Why do I have such an interest in you?  Why you above all others between 1858 and 1948? Ninety years of family history and I chose you. Actually, I didn’t.  You chose me, a descendant on my father’s side.  It was only when I read the family bible that things began to fall into place.   The recurring dreams I’ve had since I was four years old. Dreams of a child. A very young child.  Dreams of a young woman watching the child. Dreams of a man watching the young woman.  Dreams of the same man holding the young woman.  Dreams of a woman crying. Dreams of the man berating the crying woman.  And then the awful indescribable dream of the young woman putting a pillow over the child’s face.  The dream of a funeral in which the headstone is already cracked. Grieving man, crying woman. The people of dreams past.  The parents. And nearby stands the young woman watching and waiting to console.

I know your story little one but what can I do about it now?  I cannot ask the scribe in the church what he thought.  I cannot ask your mother if she suspected your father’s affair with your nanny?  I cannot ask your nanny why.  What I can do little one, is tell that your father’s death is recorded in the parish records by the same educated hand and in the family bible probably by your maternal grandmother’s delicate hand.   Cause of death? Suicide.

Rest in peace little one. Come to me in dreams no more. I have told your story.

Barbara M Lake
October 2010


  1. Now that I know about stats I cannot let just my FB comment stand. Who knew there was a hotlink at the bottom of notes that led one to the original post?

    Rather like a Magpie prompt leading to this fantastic story. Very nice.

  2. My heart stopped and shuddered for a moment as I read of the ransacked house. The same thing happened to my mother when she was 16 years old. So much lost. So little saved. Each item now a treasure.

  3. I shed a tear or five reading this ... It pulled at anything that vaguely resembled a heart string or emotion.

    There's so much pain here - pain and vengeance. Your father's cousin is an idiot.

    I hope the little one does eventually rest in the peace deserved...

  4. nicely done- great read. Amazing what happens in each family that is not recorded anywhere.

  5. Surely a fine write and an intriguing story.

  6. heart wrenching to be haunted by some one you know you should but not quite sure if you can....

  7. Touching piece, well recorded for future generations.

  8. Truly heart wrenching and powerful too. I feel my breath try to catch it self reading through this and think of the little girl. Sigh. What a story,Bee. Amazing, than you for sharing with us.

  9. You are all very kind - thank you so much.

    Some of this is fact, some fiction. There was a family bible, all events relating to my father, his parents, his cousin are true. I have no idea when the recordings in the family bible started but I think they ended in 1948 with the death of my grandmother whose story here is also true.

    The bible was never returned to me! The first paragraph is pure fictions as are the dreams.

  10. This is powerful, Barbara. I have always loved going through family Bibles. In some ways they really are similar to personal diaries. I think those that don't tell the entire story are the best. It's all the questions, I suppose, that arise in one's mind.

  11. Yes Angie they are. Isn't it fascinating trying to piece it altogether?

  12. Thanks for the wonderful story, and I am sorry to hear your mean cousin retains the Bible.
    In this age of scanners could he be persuaded to copy some for you?

    I have been obsessed with my family history for at least 20 years now and it's like being a detective.

    All Souls is their day. Keep it up.

  13. who and what was before us lives on in us and even after. i love your long connections here to family and living, smiles and tears... life in all it's wonder and splendour, as well as heartbreak...

  14. Thank you Marshall-Stacks - glad you liked it. I think my father's cousin is probably dead although his son could be around somewhere - maybe in the same area. My father and his cousin never spoke again. Thirty six years later when my father died, the cousin's wife called - I suppose she saw the death in the national newspapers - and at the time I was too distraught dealing with my mother to really take in that she had. I think I also bore some animosity and my father always believed that she was behind his cousin's deed! That was 24 years ago. Maybe I should take a leaf out of your book and start digging!

    Thank you too girldaydreaming - you hit the nail on the head.


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