Thursday, 19 March 2015

LIFE: A Tale of a Grand Carriage, An Adopted Baby & a Cathedral


Look deep enough and you'll probably find a family history mystery within your own genealogy. As a geeky teenager I use to love drawing up family trees and talking to my gran about her history and life (she did make it into the Durham newspaper in the 1930's for falling into the river after all). But there was always one side of the family tree that we could never fill, that of my great granddad on my mam's mum's side. 

The story that we know starts in early 1900's Durham, a small city in the North East of England. A smart, elegant and extremely rich carriage or so they say arrived in the city and dropped off a baby to a house in the shadows of the cathedral. For the first couple of years at Christmas and birthdays, cards with money would arrive, we presume from the mother and then they stopped. We don't know if my great granddad questioned his heritage, he knew he was adopted but how much he asked, or investigated we will never know. He was however caught as a late teen going through some papers, papers which revealed his heritage, grabbed by his adoptive mother and thrown into the fire before he could ever cast his eye over them. She had been sworn to secrecy.

This secret was one which would never be told. He came to work in the castle at the time when university life was was for the upper class, when they were waited on hand and foot and being Durham, it was closely linked to the Cathedral. Family folklore comes to state many a person, especially in the religious order stated "we should be waiting on you" as my great grandfather served and helped them. People in the church knew the tale, knew of whom his family really was, but none would ever tell. 

Durham Green

Tales of legitimate child during this era are rift, it's what period dramas love after all and we're lead to believe this is just one such tale. As he died in the 1950's it was put upon his grandchildren to try and discover the truth. I forget how, but there were records of the hotel somewhere down south in which we believe he was born in, the records were lost in a fire, everything, any documents were always lost to fire. Perhaps his mother was a maid, a street girl, lover, a mistress of someone too well connected to be seen having legitimate children paid off and sent away. Well that's what the family historian was lead to believe, he even made assumption as to who the father was - due to the presence and location of the hotel and other pieces of family folklore which I now forget. The assumed father's name has been suggested as one very prominent in London at the time, but either way there's no real proof.

It's a mystery that has always intrigued me because it's one that will never be solved, it's one that somewhat illogically effects me occasionally about knowing where I come from. Not one of the people who knew my great grandfathers heritage shared the secret, not one and many knew. That's the part that bugs me, that's what makes me think there's something a lot deeper that the clergy knew and were ultimately involved. 

Do you have any family tales to share?

No comments:

Post a Comment