Going back in time

This week was the annual remembrance of all those who had died in the wars of the last century, and now even further back as some of the major battles of the First World War pass the hundred year mark.

My great uncle Harold died in the Battle of the Somme and we recently found some of our family history on a war memorial website (http://chelmsfordwarmemorial.co.uk/first-world-war/chelmsford/nevard-harold-percival.html)

What was particularly interesting was the information about the rest of his family. An older brother was mentioned, which we knew nothing about (and are still not convinced about) and my Grandma was listed as a possible younger sibling (which we, of course, knew she was).

She dictated her life story before she passed away a number of years ago so we have something a lot more interesting than the bare facts of names and dates, but the inconsistency in the information we found last week, combined with the 100th anniversary of Harold’s death earlier this year, set me off to find out more about the family.

When we were first married and on honeymoon, we spent a couple of days doing some family history, including meeting part of my new family who lived in Canada. That yielded a tour of their fruit farm, meeting some of the Kelman clan and a visit with an elderly relative who died shortly after we met her. She was able to tell some of the stories behind the names, reinforcing the value of recording those stories when you can.

In those days, family history was still a labour intensive activity, often including a lot of travel to the actual places distant ancestors lived and searching for gravestones which might include information on parents, children, or other family members.

How things have changed now.

I set off on Friday evening (as far as my desk) with two goals.

The first was to figure out our German connection (which we thought might have been a Polish one). Not that far back we had a Poduschnick in the family, but we didn’t know where they were from or when they arrived in Britain.

Now we do. Thanks to the power of the data now digitised and available on the internet, within less than an hour, I had found George Edward Poduschnick, born in 1847 in Saxony, whose first two names look remarkably anglicised so was probably originally Georg something. Not only that, but I had a photo of his gravestone:


The other goal was to see how far back I could go over a weekend (not, I hasten to add, spending all weekend on it.)

And here is the answer – 1510, back to my great great great great great great great great great great great great great great grandfather:

Mr. Turpie (1510 – )

14th great-grandfather

Alexander Turpie (1533 – )

Alexander Turpie (1555 – )

Thomas Turpie (1585 – )

Alexander Turpie (1600 – )

James TURPIE (1639 – )

Alexander Turpie (1676 – 1748)

Thomas Turpie (1698 – )

Robert Turpie (1725 – 1773)

Grizel Turpey (1766 – )

Alexander Duncan (1797 – 1869)

Catherine Duncan (1824 – )

Janet Duncan Durie (1859 – 1914)

Alexander George Duncan Durie McHaffie (1885 – 1945)

George Grant McHaffie (1920 – )

David John McHaffie

Jonathan McHaffie

On the other side of the family, we have multiple generations who lived on the Isle of Wight (total surprise to me), going back to 1545.

They are almost all just names and dates, I know next to nothing more about them. However – we are going to a class play at school tomorrow evening, A Man for all Seasons, about Sir Thomas More and King Henry. More was the lord chancellor while Henry was trying to get a divorce from Catherine of Aragon and when Henry established himself as ‘supreme Head of the Church in England,’ More resigned and triggered events which led eventually to him being executed in 1535.

This was when I realised that our ‘Mr Turpie’ lived through that whole period, albeit in Scotland rather than England. And my 11th great-grandfather John Hayles, born on the Isle of Wight in 1545, was born just a few years after that establishment of the Church of England.

Quite something. And all done online thanks to the dedication of countless numbers of people (some of whom I know) who have spent years digitising archives and many others who have used that information to create links back into the past.

I’m afraid I have not come across any rogues in our past (I think they are much preferable to royalty, even if connecting into the latter would make 1510 feel like just a hop into the recent past). That would add some colour to the exercise.

And I think I really ought to be keeping a journal again. Coincidentally I found one yesterday from around the time Abbi was born and it brought back a lot of memories.

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