Vague Plans

It’s a new year. I’m not about to say happy. Nor am I about to make any predictions about how this year will be better than the last. I’ve been caught out by that before. I think what I’d like to wish you all is more peace in yourselves and a lot of whatever gets you through the day/week/month. That seems fair.

I don’t really make resolutions. I certainly don’t make any to do with diet or giving things up. I don’t really believe in giving things up and I really don’t care how fat or thin someone is. I threw my scales away last year and now work on the principle that if I can get my jeans done up, everything is fine. I have to confess after two weeks of constant grazing they’re a little on the tight side, but it’s nothing that can’t be solved by staying away from the cheese drawer in the fridge for a bit.

There are some things I’d like to do in 2017, so I thought I’d stick them down here so that this time next year I can see how many of them I ignored in favour of doing something else.

I’ve decided that I’m keeping up with the family history stuff this year. It soothes me. I like piecing together the stories. I like unknotting little mysteries or filling in blanks or finding out something I didn’t know. Yesterday, for example, my mum told me about how my great uncle Albert shot down a zeppelin using a rifle whilst patrolling the beaches of Norfolk during World War II. I have no idea if this is true or not, but it’s a great story and it’s going in the family tree. It certainly sounds eccentric enough for Albert, who when he was in hospital for the last time, got a very gentle form of dementia which involved him having an imaginary rabbit living on the end of his bed.

I’m doing the tree on Ancestry, which is a great, if somewhat easy to bugger up tool. What I might do as I go along, is write a few blog posts about some of the things that don’t always fit the forms on Ancestry so that the memories don’t evaporate. I realise that family trees get less interesting the further back you go, as people’s stories and characters fade and there’s nothing to hang onto but dreary birth and death dates. It’s the social stuff that brings people alive and that’s what I want to focus on this year.

One of the other things I think I might like to use the blog for this year is to write about Leicester. I realise, as I chart the family tree, that both sides of my family are inextricably entwined in this city. I’m probably related to every other person I pass on the street here, and just like family fades as time takes them away, so do the streets they live on and the places they inhabit as builders and developers move in. Leicester used to have the strap line: ‘Leicester it’s not far from anywhere else’. That’s very true, and for a long time one of the only decent things about the city was how easy it was to go to those other places where more interesting things were happening, but in recent years it’s developed a bit more of a buzz, and it seems a shame not to celebrate that. In the immortal lines of a Twitter feed I follow. ‘Lestah. It’s not that shit.’

So along with the usual campaigning and railing and day to day detritus of my life, I plan to do both these things. Whether they will happen or not, I have no idea. But it’s nice to have a plan.

9 responses to “Vague Plans

  1. Hi Katy, I started following you during the build up of the big F***k-up Brexit thing, and you have often expressed just what I wanted to say but an unparalleled sense of humour which matches mine. Thank-you. Anyway now that I know you are a genealogist sleuth too, I felt a even sure connection (nothing like an addiction to strengthen the bonds). I agree that all the social stories bring the people to life, and I use the ancestry tree to document and share such findings, but I also use a private GED to store absolutely everything, private or not. Newspapers on find-my-past are great for the social history side. It was wonderful to find out that my teenagers got their high spirits and delinquency from their fathers side as clearly documented in the IOW journals of the late 1900’s, before that he blamed my side of the family.
    Looking forward to your posts
    Best wishes

    • It is loads of fun to find out little snippets that clearly carry through family lines and link you closer together isn’t it? It seems clear that my own family is not the only one in my line who liked a dramatic life!

  2. Oddly enough I’ve been thinking about family history and Leicester, though I’ve never been to Leicester and it’s one hell of a long way from anywhere I’ve lived :-D. But my mum’s cousin lived in Leicester and he died suddenly a few weeks ago. He was researching his side of the family tree and a while back gave me a CD-ROM with what he’d got so far. I’d never actually got round to looking at it, for annoying techy reasons, but now I feel I should. What is it that’s awkward about Ancestry?

    • Ancestry is fine but you have to be careful to check that the original records they point you to have been transcribed properly. I’ve been caught out by that a few times, and also that the links in other people’s family trees are correct. I added a whole load of data to mine from other family trees and only over time and learning a bit more about how it all works, realised that not all of them have been put together properly.

  3. Great last sentence, Katy. I also have felt a bit reluctant to say HNY this time so, snap.
    My lovely daughter Louise started ‘doing’ the family tree several years ago an uncovered lots of deliciously interesting bits from the past – she went back to the 1500’s on our French side – but at age 37 she got sidetracked by her BA Hons Contemporary Art degree (got a First😊) So the family tree lost out – she did send me a link to it, but not being too great on the computer front, I lost it! I think though, as you do, that winkling out the social family stuff is soothing and worth it so I too will be looking at ways of retrieving it and passing it on.Thank you for the inspiration.

  4. I’d dispute that family trees get less interesting as one goes back. I think they get more interesting as you start uncovering things you never knew or suspected and stuff to do with the way we lived in earlier times. Yes, if all you can get is the bare names of a set of aglabs on your tree it isn’t great, but witnesses to marriages can spring surprises and if there are wills then these too often bring surprises. And if you start doing delving into the laterals, not just your direct line, you can find all sorts of curiosities — for instance I would never have guessed that my 3rd great-uncle Willson Gates Nowers (1828-1922) emigrated to America and became one of the most senior elders of the Mormon church! I dearly want to get some line of my family back to Tudor times!

  5. What makes you think I don’t sit behind a screen as well? 😉

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