A is for Ancestors




When I was a kid, I didn’t really think much about ancestors until it dawned on me that other kids had more in the way of grandparents than I did.

I had my mother’s mum, Nanna, and that was all.  My three other grandparents had all passed away long before I was born. Nanna was my only connection to the past.  She was the one who could tell the stories of grandfather who had been in the Merchant Marine and then a lighthouse keeper.  She was the one who, if my cousin and I had been especially good, would unlock Grandfather’s special room under her old Queenslander house and show us the treasures therein. Grandfather had collected all manner of interesting things.  There were great, green glass floats that were once used by pearl divers to mark their positions when they were diving deep to search for oyster shells. There were sea dragons, sea horses and little brightly coloured fish, all preserved in some unknown liquid, stored in large jars.  There were shark jaws and swordfish swords. There were hair combs and needles  Grandfather had carved from whale bones, that he had found on the shore near his lighthouse and..best of all…there were the ships in bottles.  Oh it was an Aladdin’s cave. Nanna would stand in the doorway and tell us the tales of wonder and we listened wide-eyed and imagined ourselves as seafarers.

42222c0f-b2ec-4da5-a2bc-5734e8d22cddNanna died when I was almost ten. She was very ill for a long time.  We kids weren’t allowed to see her for the last year of her life.   I remember not really understanding what had happened.

I remember feeling sad that there would be no more stories. I needed to hear those stores of the people who had gone before.  Somehow I recognised that whatever it was that had made them who they were was also part of me.  I felt a connection to the sepia pictures in the photograph albums that my mother kept in the sideboard cupboard.  I would look into the eyes of those people who stood stiffly, staring into the lens of the camera and try to figure out what they were thinking, where they had been and what they had done.

Nanna was the only one who had known any stories.  Being a child of curious nature, I began to drive my parents crazy with questions about my ancestors.  They gave me answers when they could but it wasn’t until the miracle of the internet that I was able to put together the pieces of my heritage.

And..there are no tales of great wealth or influence, just stories of ordinary people who worked hard and dreamed of a better future for their kids.  There are farmers from Warwickshire, seafarers from Essex, hotheaded Irishmen and strong-willed Irishwomen, policemen and nurses, soldiers and petty thieves, large families and many babes who died very young.  All of these are my ancestors.


I only know a fraction of the stories and I will continue to search out more.  It fascinates me.  Someone told me once, that it is by learning about the past that we can understand the present and create our future.

What do you think? Do you know the stories of your ancestors?


28 thoughts on “A is for Ancestors

  1. It always fascinates me how much can be discovered these days about our ancestors. I traced my family tree a while ago and uncovered scandals and mysteries that had been swept under the carpet for years – and which these days would be considered fairly ordinary. Time is a wonderful thing!

    1. I love researching my family. We are/were a wild lot. I have met relatives I never knew I had and discovered some wonderful little snippets of information. Thank you for visiting, Lynne.

  2. My maternal grandfather (my father’s parents had passed away long before I was born) was a strict disciplinarian with his children, nephews and nieces. His strictness vanished into thin air the moment he became a grandfather. I’ve seen many people make a similar transition from parenthood to grandparenthood, and always wondered how and why it happens.

    1. That’s a good question. I wonder if it has to do with the lessening of responsibility. They are able to enjoy the grandchildren without feeling directly responsible for them as they were with their own children.

  3. I completely understand this. Because my father was in the Air Force, we were separated from family for the longest times. I remember only seeing them for about 2 weeks every 4 years. I never got to truly know my extended family. It was always my mom, my dad, and me. I knew I had English heritage. But I didn’t really understand the history behind our name until AFTER we left England. Now, I wish I knew then, what I know now so I could have gone and seen my namesake’s Manor and really understood the story behind the tombstone in Westminster Abbey that had my name last name on it.

    I also have so much history I could have asked my German grandparents and my Hungarian grandparents. But now they’ve passed. Even when I was actively seeking information, their memories were lost to Dementia and Alzheimer’s so essentially they were gone before their time, before I could extract the stories that I could have recorded for all time.

    Oh the things we miss as a child. 😛

    Jamie Dement (LadyJai)
    My A to Z
    Caring for My Veteran

    1. What a shame, Jamie, that those stories have been forgotten. My father developed dementia too. It was a ghastly thing to happen to such an intelligent and dignified gentleman. Fortunately, I had pestered him, and my mother too, to tell me as much as they could remember about ‘the olden days’ when I was growing up. Your ancestry must be a fascinating jigsaw. Having a tombstone in Westminster Abbey with your surname on it is something very special. I hope you get to investigate that one day.

    1. And somewhat scandalous too, those stories! Not so bad these days I guess, but back in the 1800s they would have been pretty bad. Thanks for visiting, Shilpa.

  4. Ancestors particularly grandparents are very important in a child’s life. They provide a tangible link to the past and the child’s history. My mother in law is diligent about researching their ancestry and teaching the boys all she learns. This post made me think of her. Thank you.

    A-to-Z Challenge 2014
    Mighty Minion of Co-Host Nicole Ayers
    @Safireblade on Twitter

    1. Thank you. I agree with you that grandparents are very important in a child’s life. That sense of knowing where you come is a grounding element. Your boys are blessed in having the stories passed on to them.

    1. Hi, thanks for visiting. I have had a wonderful time looking into my family’s history. I have discovered and met cousins that I never knew about. Many of the photos I have now came through those newly found relatives. What a wonderful thing the Internet is!

  5. How wonderful that you had at least some time with your Nanna to develop that love of the past and those that had gone before. I was blessed to have 5 grannies and 2 or 3 grandpas. Sometimes I don’t think I appreciated that as much as I should have until they were gone.

    1. You were indeed blessed, Charity. I didn’t realise what a treasure I had until my Nanna had passed away. Sadly, I think that happens all too often. We don’t appreciate the wonders that are right there in front of us until it is too late.
      Thank you for your thoughts. 🙂

    1. I think you are underestimating yourself and those unborn children, Carrie-Anne. Make sure that you tell your kids the stories of your childhood or maybe write them down.
      Don’t let the stories be lost.

      1. You are probably right. I suppose my ‘present day’ doesn’t feel as rich as my ancestor’s history.

        My kids do love hearing about how I had to walk two miles, up hill, both ways, in the snow, just to get to school 😉

  6. Your blog is based on such an interesting topic. I remember when my kids were little and had to do family trees of my family. It was always so hard to get information because my mom’s parents were immigrants and she insists they never spoke of what happened in the old country. My husband’s mother was an immigrant herself and was too young to remember her childhood. Such a shame that too often these are the things that are missing from our lives.

    1. I agree. The advent of the Internet has made such a difference to our capacity to find facts, but the stories that surround those facts are what is important.
      When my kids were very little I asked my Mum to start writing things down about her childhood..just little anecdotes..whenever something came to mind. She did and it
      was lovely for my children to read those notes years later.
      Thank you for visiting. 🙂

  7. I so wish I learnt more from my paternal grandparents (my granddad on my mothers side died before I was born and my nanna died three years after I was born). But being born late, they were already in their seventies, and of the era where children were meant to be seen and not heard. I still loved them dearly, and the only information I learned, is that my ancestors were seafarers, and that’s about it.
    Thanks for sharing your history, and Happy A to Z travels. 🙂

    1. It seems to me that most people have a fascination with the stories of their ancestors. Those stories are our history, the tangible link with those who have gone before. There is something within all of us that needs to know where we come from. Thank you for visiting. Have blogging this month.

  8. In India we have big families, that too, closely knitted ones. So my mummy has 9 siblings. And my papa are a lot of 8. Except my maternal grandfather, i had the privilege to be loved by rest of the 3. Now with third generation producing babies, our family itself is a pack of 70-75 members. In a wedding or small party, we don’t invite guests for obvious reasons.

    Now my daughter too has her grandmother and great grandmother to dole out love. But now with more urban set up i guess i wouldn’t be able to give my toddler the kind of access to her grandparents as i did.

    Joint family up-bringing and the kind of values it instill in a child, is a luxury given the nuclear family structures and migration to metro cities for employment.

    Shweta B for Baby on the Way – Blush Blush !

    1. What a wonderful big family! I am glad you are all so close. You must have some great conversations when you are all together. I hope you pass on all the stories to the young ones.

  9. This gave me goosebumps! I love this and can totally relate. My great-grandparents lived through and, both they and my grandparents, had very vibrant stories about the Russian Revolution. I used to listen to these wide eyed and picture them in my mind like a movie. Theirs were stories of wealth turned to war, turmoil, extreme hardships, starvation, concentration camps, prosecution and eventual (albeit small) victory. I remember so much about my gr8 and grandparents, which is weird considering how young I was when I left Kazakhstan but I always thought it was because these stories made such an impression!

    Also, do you remember my adopted-Digger, Mr George Neylon? Going to his place was kind of like visiting your description of ‘Aladdin’s cave’ for me! He had so many old war photos, letters and memorabilia. Plus his late wife had SO much jewellery that he never brought himself to give away. Bless that sweet man! He let me touch, read, wear and play with anything I wanted whenever I came for a visit. He was always so patient and kind – even pretended to like the Anzac bikkies I made him once! I miss him.

    1. Oh yes, dear old George, he was such a lovely man as were all the Diggers we had in the program. You were blessed to have had such a great link to the past and to be able to hear all those stories. I hope you write them down someday.

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