Like many people, I have become very interested in my family background and have begun to do some genealogy. I have some excellent software to help me build a “family archive” and I am starting out by just talking to all my older relatives and recording everything that I can extract from their memories. I have barely started, but it is already fascinating and I was amazed at what I could uncover.
The oldest relative, whom I have ever met, was my great grandmother Jessie – my father’s father’s mother. She lived into her 90s and died when I was a child, so I can clearly remember meeting her. I entered what I know about her onto my family tree, which included her profession, which was a dressmaker. This sounded quite mundane as, 100 years ago, women commonly made their own clothes. But a discussion with one of my aunts yielded a great surprise.
Jessie was not just an amateur dressmaker, she was one of the court dressmakers to Queen Victoria! My aunt showed me a patchwork that had been made of snippets of material used in making dresses for the Queen.
This direct connection with history is what my project was all about, but I was amazed to “strike gold” so quickly. I can now get very boring when I insist that people talk with their older relatives and find out what great stories they might have to tell.