Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Taking my Dad on a Who Do You Think You Are Tour

 Last weekend I got to take my Father back to where his patriarchal line originated in Bradford on Tone and Taunton in Somerset England.  It was such a privilege to get to show him around and help him experience some of the lives of his ancestors.  We stayed in a Yalland's bed and breakfast farmhouse near Taunton.  The room we had actually existed at the time our ancestors were there.  I'm still having a hard time wrapping my mind around the 1600s and the 1700s. 

I took Dad out to my favorite place, the Somerset Heritage Centre and he agreed to be my assistant for some research there for a couple of days.  The people there were so kind and generous to us.  Phil Hawking was very attentive when we had questions and did lots of work to help us uncover more information about our ancestors.  We came home with scores of images that I now get to go through.  When Dad's grandfather first wrote the Vicar in Bradford on Tone around the turn of the century and the Vicar started sending him information about his family from the parish records there, he wrote that a "most enjoyable pastime" ensued as he tried to piece together the records of his family.  I know just how that must have felt. 

Dad came face to face with the wills and deeds I found last year of his 5th and 6th great grandparents.  It is so mind boggling to see the signatures and wax seals on these documents that you know where signed before the Declaration of Independence and Constitution of the United States were signed.  It makes everything so real.  Even that old.

Dad helped me go through the parish registers that hold the records of his patriarchal line.  We digitized several years of records off the microfilm with Dad running the microfilm reader and me running the computer.  It was nice to sit together with him and fun to hear him say, "There's a Carpenter, there's a Carpenter."  We found the marriage records and christening records for many of his ancestors and we're going to have fun going back through and documenting and piecing together the siblings and the families.  Though my university administrator Dad knows how to research, you couldn't call him a genealogist, but I think he had fun. 
 We went to the church in Bradford on Tone where all of these parish records were created.  Here he is with the christening font in the church.  I don't know how old the font is but this is the place where generations of his family were christened.  It is amazing to think this is where they went to church. 

We had a wonderful dinner at the White Horse Inn again.  The people there have been so gracious to us when we have visited and the food is wonderful.  It has been really nice to visit there as many times as I have.  I feel so blessed to have been able to take my children and my father there now and it is so fulfilling to have been able to have been able to share this trip with my family reaching up and down.  
We went to High Street in Taunton where Dad's Great Grandfather was born and where his Great-Great Grandfather had a grocery store.  I haven't been able to figure out where exactly they lived but they lived somewhere on this block that is now a nice pedestrian mall.  We had a nice walk in the morning around Taunton. 
 We visited the churches in Taunton where some of Dad's ancestors were married.  I lucked out this time and every church we went to was open.  It was so exciting to go in and see where these people were married and where they went to church.  We found a Congregationalist church that was built when Dad's Great Grandfather was a young child just down the street from where his family lived.  He grew up to leave the Anglican church and become a Congregationalist minister.  So I'm wondering if that new church had something to do with his going into the ministry.  More research to do.  :)  Here's Dad in front of St. James church where his fifth great grandparents were married just over 250 years ago. 

And as a final treat, after we came back into London, the next day we went out to find the plot in the Gravesend Cemetery where many members of this family came to be buried.  I hadn't scoped this site out before so when we walked in and found this fantastic tombstone it was a great surprise for me. It listed the seven family members buried there including Dad's Great-Grandparents and Great-Great Grandparents. The tombstone was in wonderful shape and had a wealth of genealogical information on it.   Such a fantastic find.

So on my way to speaking at the Who Do You Think You Are Conference this year, we had our own who do you think you are tour.  It was fantastic.  Simply lovely. 


Debbie said...

Wonderful and amazing. You will always treasure this time. BOTH of you. Just wonderful.

Family Curator said...

Lucky you, lucky Dad, to spend time together hunting down ancestors. What wonderful memories to share with each other in the years to come. See you soon, Janet! ~ Denise

Unknown said...

Sounds like you had a fantastic time! I'm sure it was special for him.


Janet Hovorka said...

Thanks Debbie. You are right. It was wonderful.

Unknown said...

It sounds like you both had a wonderful time! So wonderful to be able to visit the area your family is from AND take your father with you. :)