After years of work, checking indexes (in heavy bound volumes, or on microfilm or microfiche) of the birth, marriage and death records of the General Register Office (GRO), searching the International Genealogical Index (IGI), thumbing through old newspapers in the basements of libraries and tramping round graveyards trying to make out the inscriptions on decaying headstones, I think I may have reached the point of diminishing returns . . .
Here’s our family tree: look, there’s you and there’s me!
And there’s your Mum and Dad, and there’s mine –
Many past generations, and umpteen relations,
Laid out in a complex design.
It lists hatches and matches, and final dispatches;
There are dates, occupations and places.
But it’s never enough, for all of this stuff
Won’t bring back their voices or faces.
Our forebears weren’t grand: many worked on the land
Or in factories, railways or shops.
They were servants and sailors, taxi drivers and tailors,
Clerks, plumbers, night-watchmen and cops.
There were Black Country folk (well, you know how they spoke!),
And Cornishmen, mining for tin;
Some were black sheep (well, grey . . .); some did well, so they say;
But they all were our own kith and kin.
Hinton Ampner (in Hants), Chaddesley Corbett, Penzance:
These are all on our ancestors’ path;
And some lived a spell around old Clerkenwell,
While others chose Brighton or Bath.
I’ve long squinted my eyes at the minuscule size
Of the typeface on fiches and such
To get all that I can; yet, in terms of the span
From our Adam and Eve, it’s not much.
But I cannot spend ages extending these pages
By examining old parish papers
And illegible headstones which mark sites of dead bones –
I’m done with such frustrating capers.
So our tree’s incomplete. I’m admitting defeat.
It was just a one-off passing craze.
GRO, IGI, census records and I
Will from henceforth all go our own ways!