I really love the BBC program ‘Who do you think you?’ in which a celebrity is taken back through their history to discover their family tree. Some have found amazing relatives who’ve done amazing things, some have found sadness and some have found rogues and criminals! I’ve always wanted to learn more about my family partly because I have an unusual name that I’ve not, until recently, met anyone else with the same. My name is so special to me that when I got married I didn’t want to change it as I would lose it so Hubbie and I both changed our names and took each others so we now have a poncy double barrelled name. Poncy to some but very special to me as my 3 sons now have my family name too.
I knew even before I started looking into my family tree that there would be no hidden millions, no inventers of amazing things, no ‘movers and shakers’ as my lot, the Currill lot, are just ordinary people leading ordinary lives. You know, the ones that are remarkable only in their family but not recognised outside as they lived in streets of terraced houses back to back with tiny gardens filled with children and lives of ‘just scraping by.’ There were thousands, millions of these families all over the country and my family were one of them…
I did have a few conversations with my grandparents about my distant relatives and they told me stories of puppies being sold and re-sold (my great grandfather was a bit of a rogue apparently and sold my grandfather a dog as a present for my Nan when they were courting. He then took the dog and said it had disappeared and sold it someone else, not telling my Nan. My Nan saw the dog a few weeks later and it ran over to her and the bemused person revealed to my angry Nan that she had bought it from a man named Mark Currill…) of birds sitting on people’s shoulders and my great grandmother being only 4 foot tall. I loved hearing these stories and would have listened for hours but getting ready for tea or popping over the road for the paper or having to go home always seemed to interrupt them and I was left, sometimes, feeling a little short changed. I wish I’d stayed longer. One day I remember Granddad mentioned that he had a sister who died of scalding and when I asked him for more information he said he didn’t know. He didn’t know her name, how old she was or anything about her. I thought this very strange but then at 10 years of age I didn’t know much of the leftover Victorian legacy of the stiff upper lip and not talking about emotions. I can imagine she just simply wasn’t mentioned. No wallowing (how it would have been seen) would have been allowed then I’m sure.
This has always stuck with me -the idea of the girl with no name living and breathing once but no-one knowing anything about her. It’s something I’ve wanted to find for years and I’ve had several goes at tracing my family tree and whilst I was always able to find her brothers (my granddad) and parents and I’ve even got my family traced back to 1786 with John Currill, I have never found any trace of my Granddad’s sister. She’s not on any census I’ve seen and the family only appear on the 1911 census anyway.
I had decided to have another go at the family tree and signed up for the 14 day free trial (MUST CANCEL AT THE END!!) to see if anything new had been added. Now I don’t know whether I was better at searching or the results had been refined or whether new information had been added but I clicked on a document I had never seen before and there she was, Winifred Currill aged 3 with a red line crossing her out.
Winifred Currill. So after 105 years and many conversations between and grandfather and his granddaughter I had finally found her.
I was surprised by the red line and didn’t really know what this meant but after a bit of ‘googling’ it could have been that they were unsure how the form should have been filled in (or the person filing it in) so they put all their children’s names rather than just the living -you can see they had 4 live births but only 3 children living. My Grandfather wouldn’t have know about Winifred necessarily as he wasn’t born until 1917, 15 years after Winifred was born and 11 years after she died.
In the transcribed version of this document Winifred doesn’t appear at all so this tends to back up that the form was filled in wrong but it gave me the information I needed to be able to search for her in her own right and I have found the registration of her birth and death and I found out that her name was Winifred May Currill who died just before her 4th birthday.
To say I was ecstatic with this information is a bit of an understatement. I wanted to tell someone, anyone. I needed to tell someone and say her name and make her real again. I phoned Hubbie (who answered the phone in his very stern ‘work’ voice) and excitedly told him. He was pleased for me but really wanted to get back to his work so we ended the conversation and I was left to wander around the kitchen.
I don’t know Winifred, there are no pictures of her and I don’t know what colour her eyes were or her hair but I do feel a connection to her through my granddad who didn’t even know her name. She didn’t get to grow up with the 4 brothers she would have eventually have in the run down house that’s since been knocked down. But the connection I feel, I think, is because I feel connected to them all, the Currill’s. You see if it weren’t for them living those ordinary lives in the ordinary streets finding times tough then I wouldn’t be who I am today as each generation shaped the next one after and there is a little bit of Winifred in me however small and now I’ve found her I don’t ever want her to be forgotten again…