Sunday, 7 July 2013

He can write!

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 ‘Maltese Falcon’.

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.

The 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.”

Wouldn’t 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.

12 comments:

  1. Oh gosh, you never know what else you may uncover. Sometimes, I think it's like putting a puzzle together, (where you have no idea what the entire picture is) and with each new piece it's a link closer to the finish! If I had a crystal ball (that really truly worked, all the time) hehehehe, I'd say you will uncover letters, of his! Of course, you'll have to let us know what happens! Isn't the internet just wonderful for gathering folks and things?!

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    1. I just get the feeling that somewhere, in a drawer, in a box or filed away, there may just be something, Karen.

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  2. If Benjamin could write it's almost certain that he wrote letters home; I do hope one surfaces at some time and adds another layer to his character. Almost as good as a photograph!

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    1. I agree, Nell. In fact, as wonderful as photographs are, the unwitting testimony in a handwritten document takes revelation to a whole new level.

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  3. Ah forget gene testing and all that DNA stuff. If I had to sum up my mate Martin after reading his blog for many many years I would probably put down "wow, he can write". It must be your ancestor.

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    1. Yes, thanks Alan. As you know, it has crossed my mind what future generations will make of the words we've left behind. I doubt if Benjamin had the luxury of worrying about that sort of thing.

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  4. There is nothing like the thrill of getting new information on your ancestors. Nothing.

    I cancelled my Ancestry.com subscription a while ago (very dear) and am currently in one of my withdrawal states.

    Congratulations on these gifts.

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    1. Kat, I know what you mean. Family history research does appear to run in phases. I also decided not to renew my subscription on the grounds of cost.

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  5. That is very exciting Martin - fingers crossed you find some of his writings.

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    1. You never can tell what might turn up, Gabrielle.

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