I wish I’d listed more closely to my Gran back in 1992 when I was putting together a photo album for her – my first project in the world of genealogy, my last for her. The little information I did take in though is precious to me for two reasons:-
1. It came from my Gran, and
2. It planted the seed of the Family History tree.
My Gran told me that my Great Aunt Grace had had the Densham family researched and that a tree had been produced. The other piece of information that stuck was that we had French ancestors. A picture of a small aristocratic French family fleeing across the English Channel at midnight to escape the revolutionaries came to mind … …
Anyway, as the elusive tree was nowhere to be found I had to start again and my journey took me from Nottinghamshire, up to Middlesbrough, down to Bristol and on to Devon.
It is clear that the ‘Densham’ name was fairly common in Devon but luckily for me in the beginning, not so common in Nottinghamshire or Middlesbrough areas. So my baby steps were initially fairly straight forward and followed the path I’d been led down in 1992. Although unexpectedly it did result in a small windfall for my dad, his siblings and all their cousins – but that’s another story.
When at last I found myself in the village of Morchard Bishop, Devon the trail became more overgrown and the curse of the family lore took some getting over. My family wanted to know why I couldn’t find the French connection – ‘sacré bleu’ they exclaimed, ‘it’s definitely there, it was there in the tree!’. But try as I might I just couldn’t justify a birth on the 23 April 1813 on the Channel Island of Alderney as French.
What my Densham family were doing on Alderney in 1813 is down to Napoleon and the 82nd Regiment of Foot, again a story for another time – although this time not so romantic and definitely English!
The Denshams have taught me many new and interesting skills – how to find and search for militia records in the National Archives; how to systematically refine, record and document all the individual Densham families – why did they all use he same Christian names! But to tell this story of pain and heartache would be too boring without the elusive Eureka moment!
For now I have to be content with Matthew Densham marrying Sarah Fury on the 7 June 1777 in Lapford (not Morchard Bishop – they didn’t make it easy for me you know). How much further I go back now is down to hard graft, money and those detective skills I’m constantly refining. But these skills would be nothing without the guidance and goodwill of some really kind and generous people – Bob Pope and Richard Knight!