Interrogating databases, retrieving information in which you have no vested interest beyond the parameters of your job description can be dull, dull, dull. I should know.
But when those skills
are combined with an innate and unquenchable curiosity, digging for
detail can become a labour of love. Some of you will already know about
my interest in family history. It’s an activity that can eat up time
like few others. A new clue floats to the surface and you’ve turned up
your collar, and left on the superhighway before anyone can whisper
This week, I received an email from
someone whose family, long ago, walked certain lineal lanes with mine.
He had uncovered some maritime records that included the name of my
three times great grandfather, Benjamin Hodges who died from yellow fever in the Dutch West Indies, in 1857.
records date from the mid 1840s to the mid-1850s, and they detail the
names of the ships he sailed on during that period. The SS Calcutta and
the SS Atrato. What is so exciting is the fact that I now have a
description of Benjamin. I already have a photograph of his son John
(1848 – 1940), but until now I could only imagine what Benjamin might
have looked like. The lad born in Henstridge, Somerset on 8th July,
1818, was 27 years old, 5ft 5 1/4 ins tall, had brown hair, grey eyes
and a fair complexion. He had no distinguishing marks. But the thing I
was most impressed with was the tick in the box that read, “Can Write.”
it be something if he had written letters? Wouldn’t it be mind-blowing
if some of them survived and rose to the surface unexpectedly, one day?
Hmm, hardly likely, but good detectives never know when they’re beaten.