This has always been a very difficult question for our family to answer, because it gets to the point where answering the question with any meaningful detail leads to eyes glazing over. And that’s if the kids can remember the details. It is a question that is asked with some regularity, though – when moving house, meeting new people, going to a new school, leaving home, going to university, changing jobs, talking to people on the internet – that style of thing.
Mostly we give up and go for the easy answer, which is that we live in Kent, England, and because we sound extremely English this all seems plausible and no further questions are asked, but how we ended up here is so much more complicated than that.
So, because my children have occasionally expressed the desire to have something they can point people to in answer to That Question, and because Stoshu nudged me into finally getting around to doing it, this is kind of where we come from.
I’ll start with my husband and his family first, because it’s relatively (!) simple.
He was born in Japan, of a father who was Northern Irish (born in Northern Ireland) although judging from my father in law’s height and very red hair there was always speculation that the family tree had probably got some Viking blood in it. His mother was half Welsh strict Chapel, quarter English and quarter Irish Catholic (but the Irish bit of her family was then in Liverpool, England, apart from the ones who had emigrated to the USA). My mother in Law, however, was born in Hong Kong. And there she lived until WWII when she was evacuated to Australia. Except then one of her Aunts died in Wales and her mother was so homesick they both made it through the U-boats back to the UK., where they stayed until the end of the war before returning to Hong Kong.
My husband’s parents met, married then moved to Japan for nearly 30 years, before finally returning to the British Isles.
My Dad’s Dad’s family doesn’t go back very far before you get the full stop of a foundling who was discovered and adopted in Cornwall, but his Mum’s family has more information. Her father came to the UK from Australia, his parents having emigrated there from what was then the Austro-Hungarian Empire. His mother had come from some small place that is now counted as Saxony, I think, and his father came from nearer what is now Poland. They met and married in Australia. So far as I know we still have family in parts of what is now Germany, as well as Australia. Apart from those who left Australia to come here, go to Italy, Cyprus, Hong Kong and possibly other parts of the world. I remember my Grandmother telling me, but to be honest I’d be hard pressed to say if there were any distant cousins anywhere else.
Her mother’s side of the family had come from the Scottish borders. Which side is moot as I think it was still changeable when they had to leave in a hurry. There were accusations of cattle rustling, which seemed to be quite a thing if you were a Border Reaver, and they felt, apparently that these were best dealt with by being well out of the way. In Canada.
My mother’s family is a weird mix. One side were landed gentry, until the eldest son (my great grandfather) walked out on his family and inheritance over his dog being shot, which seemed fair enough to me, and made his own way in the world. I guess there was more to it than that, but that is all I know.
The other great grandfather was orphaned young-ish, but was looked after by his elder sisters, until he felt so smothered by them he ended up running away to sea. After a career at sea he became an undertaker, working in Baker Street throughout WWII so my grandmother used to go dancing with SOE trainees who were based nearby. After that he left London and became a Master Builder.
I met my husband in a British University, which given the globe-trotting habits of our families was against incredible odds, and we have settled here, athough we did spend some time in London. And Tokyo. You know, just to liven things up a bit.
So that’s the bare bones of it, geographically at least. So, kids, now you know. Just be thankful I didn’t take as long as How I Met Your Mother over it 😉
I adore this history! What a fantastic story – adventure, love, loss, leaving it all behind. This is the makings of a swashbuckling film. Crossing seas, crossing continents–it has me crossing my eyes with the complexity of it all, but in a “hunger for more” kind of way.
And I’ve never heard of Border Reavers before. Does that refer to the cattle rustling?
Yes Reavers (or Reivers, you can spell it either way) were your general marauding types. It seems to have been a bit tit for tat, back and forth between neighbours, across the border wherever that was at the time.
Glad you liked it – and I didn’t even put in the bit about the Cypriot cousins having to permanently abandon their house in a hurry because it’s in the Green Line zone. They looked out of their windows to see the Turkish invasion…