Archive for the ‘Newcastle-on-Tyne’ Category

I lost my mother in January this year and it’s sent me into a bit of spin on many levels.

Through just thinking about my mother and her family I discovered a half cousin in England. Waves to Christine! But it hasn’t stopped there.

I keep saying to myself I should be writing, but staring into space is quite a bit of fun. Or watching your entire collection of historical DVDs, including multiple copies of Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility and North and South, is not bad either. You might wonder why I’m not quite crazy. That does beg the question because I’m not entirely sure I’m not.

Work has been traveling on-some days hard and stress and others not. That might put my off writing but no more than usual. I can’t even pinpoint what my issue is. I tend to stay away from the laptop and just do the bare minimum like answering emails, responding to edits queries. How much time are we talking here since mum died. A month. What? It seems like ages that I’ve been doing nothing much at all. Maybe I should calm down and stop fretting.

So pondering the past the topic of my post. As I mentioned I found Christine, my half-cousin. Inspired by that I ordered a whole swag of certificates from the UK.  (In the past I dabbled with family history and stopped). They arrived this week.

My paternal side of the family hale from the North of England, around Newcastle-on-Tyne and Durham. Quite accidentally because Nana met Pop in Australia, but originated from quite near each other. Apparently my grandfather John Hanson was a Geordie and my Nana, who had a strong accent of her own, said he was hard to understand. So it was this side, which I didn’t know much about, that I concentrated on. Not to bore you too much, but the great, great grandfather who we thought was Norwegian is listed as Prussian on the Census 1881 and 1891. How can this be? Apparently Prussia encompassed parts of Denmark in the 1840s. Still not Norwegian, but maybe… I will never know. What was also interesting that Great, great grandfather John Hanson was a stevedore, master rigger and he died in an accident on the barque Pomona in 1894, of which there is a service history and painting as well as a coroner’s inquest and some newspaper articles. So I became fascinated by this family this past week. I had had the census listing for ten years but wasn’t certain it was the right family but now I know it is.

Now what’s wrong with all this? Researching family history for me is addictive. I’m up till late. I can’t sleep. I want to keep searching and searching. If I’m not crazy, I’m definitely obsessive. This is why I stopped family research before…because I can’t stop and I can’t write and sometimes I don’t sleep. Family history is my drug of choice! Oh dear.

So after doing a bit of digging, I start thinking about their lives in late Victorian Times in South Shields, with lots of babies, children dying in infancy, women dying in childbirth because there was lots of that. My Great, great grandmother Elizabeth was still having babies at 46!

I wonder how the family got on when great, great grandfather died because he still had fairly young children at home. I wonder if I met him would he be proud of where I am in my life and my achievements. I tell myself, yes, because this is all fanciful and typically writerish I believe. I imagine myself in that house on Long Row along the Tyne River, with the tall ships, cargo and seamen from all over the world. The streets would have been full of languages. Great, great Grandfather had Swedish sailors boarding with him and I’ve read there were many cultures mixing in that part of England at the time.

My partner, Matthew, said to me after mum died that it is duty to do better with our lives, to have a better life than our parents. I believe that is true. I come from a long line of peasants who had to survive a lot to get me here. I am one of the lucky ones.

I will be toning down the family history searches but I haven’t quite got it out of my system or my mind. I feel inspired to look into that time and place now, maybe with a story in mind I don’t know. I can definitely understand why looking into your family tree is so fascinating. And it looks to me that I’m going to head back to the UK one day, not too far away, and do some serious family research in South Shields. By the way, Nana’s family were in Washington (Harraton), sort of between Durham and Newcastle-on-Tyne, although her grandparents on the Dockerty side were apparently from Ireland.

Until next brainwave.

PS I did write over 20,000 words at the retreat over the Australia Day weekend so all is not lost.


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