… or more precisely Bristol and the wonderful archive of work created by ‘Uncle’ Russell.
Russell is not, as far as I can see, my uncle in the blood sense of the word but nevertheless we have a great deal in common when it comes to the quest for all things Densham.
I cannot put into words the truly wonderful legacy that Uncle Russell left, suffice it to say that I was in my seventh heaven when, one wonderful June day, I was privileged to set eyes on the wealth of genealogical research he had done over a 30 year period. Russell’s meticulous research, his attention to details and his thorough referencing are a lesson to even the most seasoned of researchers.
How on earth did I discover ‘Uncle’ Russell and how the devil was I so lucky to actually set my genealogical eyes on his unique legacy?
Well I, like many of my persuasion, have been given the annoying gifts of an inquisitive and tenacious nature, in others words ‘I’m like a dog with a bone’. I suddenly had a eureka moment whilst contemplating, for what seemed like the thousandth time, a couple of my obscure Densham documents acquired over my 14 years of Densham research.
I took a leap of faith and was put in touch with the current custodian of ‘Uncle’ Russell’s papers and the rest, as they say, is history.
I am now currently awaiting my second viewing of the research and will keep you appraised of mine and ‘Uncle’ Russell’s progress.
In less than a year both my Granny and her sister, my Great Aunt have died – not unusual I know, after all I’m 41 – ‘they must have been clocking on a little bit’, I hear you say and you’d be right. But to live to 99 in the case of my granny and 98 in the case of Ethel her sister, by anyone’s imagination is a long time.
Granny only had one husband – my granddad – who sadly died in 1973. Ethel on the other hand had two husbands and a partner all of whom pre-deceased her.
Granny had two children; Ethel had several dogs, handbags, shoes, clothes … …
You get the drift, their lives were on the surface so different, they were their own person with their own personalities, but they must have shared something?
Their excellent skin, their longevity, their quest to out do each other, their absolute stubbornness, this list of their similarities just goes on and on!
I’ve thought on and off about DNA in genealogy for sometime. There’s the Star ‘old’ gene; the Densham ‘skin tone'; the Sutcliffe ‘ginger’ hair and so one and I wonder what benefit I would really gain from knowing what my DNA looked like – could it really answer these most fundamental questions?
I suppose the answer is no, not really. Yes, it can say whether or not you are definitely related to the cousin you found unexpectedly in Australia or if one is of European or African descent – but to me, although those answers are important and yes, if I had the money I’d like to find out; they are not the most pressing of questions.
So I suppose I’ll just have to see if the ginger gene continues down our line through my sister’s soon to be born twins or if both my sister and I live to 100 – we’ll just have to see.
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!
This is my first blog – something I thought I’d never do. I’ve watched my family dip their toes into the sea of blog and swim away, leaving me well, stranded in my blogless world. Well I’ve taken the plunge and here I am.
My main reason for starting to blog is to record my family history triumphs and tribulations – I’m no expert, I’ve only been researching for 11 years – no time at all in the genealogy world and I seem to have amassed a whole range of paper documents, photos, certificates and memories that would keep anyone busy for a lifetime. I’ve even had time to do a full-time job, move twice, run the family home and edit a local family history society’s magazine. At one time I even started to catalogue births, deaths and marriages from the local newspapers – I think these might become a feature!
I’m lucky, I’m only 40 – a relative spring chicken and caught the ‘bug’ before my grandmother passed away aged 99 and 8 months! I was privileged to have the chance to share with her memories of a time long past how I wish I’d started 10 years before that!
Some of my lines of research are : Densham, Star, Downham, Dillon, Sutcliffe, Roadhouse, Gill, Allsop, Harrison, Hopkins, Morris(s), Heasman, Jeal, Labbett and Grubb.
Of course I could go for hours and hours but don’t you find its always so boring when someone only wants to talk about their family? Well sharing is what I hope to do so please come and share.
I have also recently found that my family have a passion for cup cakes, so you never know cup cake disasters could also feature – well, family life is what its all about.