For much of this year I've been dipping in and out of my family tree research. Often it's been a frustrating and seemingly futile search where I have felt I am repeatedly banging my head against a brick wall, but sometimes, oh sometimes, it has been a heady roller coaster ride full of ups and downs, twists and turns, humour and intrigue and fascination.
After a particularly depressing time of constant dead ends, leads which lead nowhere and an ever growing pile of confusing paperwork I took myself off to bed one night feeling especially despondent. And then a thought cascaded in from nowhere...I'm a witch, what was I doing spending all my time neck deep in census returns when all I had to do was ask? Durrrrrr! I can be pretty dense sometimes. I work with my ancestors (the ones I know) all the time and yet it had never occurred to me to go looking for the ones I was searching for.
I sat that night in my bed, wrapped in a cloak of darkness, and simply asked the question 'who are you?' I knew nothing of my paternal Grandmother, my Dad lost touch with her years ago and for some as yet unexplained reason, it is very hard to get him to talk about her. All I knew was her name and where she was born. I had a feeling there was Irish blood in the mix somewhere although I had no reason for that other than my own intuition, and my pull to discover this unknown family was almost overwhelming.
I could not honestly tell you if I fell asleep, or if in trance I slipped between the worlds. It didn't really feel like either but I found myself walking through underground caverns past familiar faces who stepped out from the rocks themselves to greet me and see me on my way. I stopped for a while to talk with my maternal grandparents before I was lead deeper, down less populated passage ways by my guide, a child I knew now full grown. Then suddenly he was gone and I was alone in a cave with a crystal clear pool, lulled by the sound of distant cascading water. In the shadows I could make out the shadowy form of a man and I knew he was my Great Grandfather.
He seemed a little surprised when I told him who I was, 'How did I miss you lass?' he asked. His accent was northern, a warm lilting sound I recognised from childhood holidays. He wore a flat cap, and a brown jacket over a pullover, his trousers were tucked into his boots and although his clothing was rather worn it was clean and obviously cared for. He told me his name was Charles. His accent was quite strong and I couldn't catch the name he said was his wife's but I thought Amy/Annie/Edie? It wasn't clear. he told me he'd met her on a train and that she was very beautiful.
I had so much I wanted to ask him but suddenly I was pulled away and the sweet smell of grass filled my nostrils. I stood in that rolling, green landscape before a small, wiry man with dark, wavy hair and twinkling blue eyes. He had that weathered skin of one who works outdoors. His voice was rich and belied his size and definitely Irish... but sleep overwhelmed me and I woke the next morning convinced it was all a dream.
It was several weeks later when I finally had a little money spare and ordered my Grandmother's birth certificate. I stood staring at it for quite a while, hardly daring to believe what I saw.
Her parents names? Charles and Annie!