Anyone dipping in and out of my meanderings on this blog and elsewhere might be aware that I am researching my father's life. Piecing together family history is very interesting, sometimes emotional, occasionally surprising and pretty frustrating too. But as I continue to delve into things, follow clues, ask questions and so on, I am more and more aware that over the years I should have paid more attention to my family's story. I should have jotted more things down. I should have kept letters, postcards and other mementoes.
The quest to discover as much about my father has the challenge of piecing together his life from 1925 when he was born until 1960 when he left our Belfast home, and then from 1960 to 1982 when he turned up dead, as it were, in London. The pre-1960 phase is relatively easier to investigate because family members have various memories and many documents are available to view to confirm birth, marriage and death facts, and other registered and archived information.
I was watching an edition of the BBC's Imagine called Listen To Me Marlon, based around hours of tape recordings made over the years by Marlon Brando. The tapes are a diary of sorts with Brando talking about life and acting and whatever else was on his mind. It is fascinating stuff. If only I had done that. If only I had written diaries. I have some family memorabilia and relatives collectively probably have a lot more buried in drawers and attics, and, of course, in their heads. So, I am confident I will find more and more as I go, particularly about the pre-1960 years.
Post-1960 is a bit more difficult, but not impossible. I know some things about my father in the last 22 years of his life. I know where he worked, where he ended up, the pub he frequented, the Royal British Legion club he belonged to, his last known address in Clapham and the exact location of his grave, unmarked by a headstone, but verified by a man from Lambeth Cemetery. I have letters, photographs and a few other odds and ends to consider and every now and then another snippets of information are uncovered. (Only last week, my sister Sheila spoke to my Aunt Sheila, my mother's sister, and gathered quite a few interesting details that I am working through. Thanks to both Sheilas!)
But, the point of this blog post is to encourage people to take an interest now because the present will soon be the past and memories may well fade. Things will be forgotten unless a diary is kept or a box file or a drawer or photograph albums. Computers make it easy to store stuff. So it's not hard.
I have written down a lot of things in the last few years and they will be available to any members of the family who might want some idea of their past, who feel an emotional connection to the way we were. This blog started in 2011 and it contains poems, memories and opinions amongst other things. I have recorded stories about my retail management career and captured other aspects of my life in books. So, anyone interested in me (you never know!) has a tidy pile of autobiographical material to wade through.
It is said there is no future in the past. Maybe not but there are many interesting things and a lot of surprises.