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Blogging about things that matter to me. Photographing things I love - Instagram @debcyork. Writing about both. Only wine and chocolate can save us… You can also find me on Twitter (@debcyork) and Facebook. If you like four-legged views, try @missbonniedog on Twitter

Friday, 27 June 2014

Genealogy and the Bottle

My name is Deb and I am a family history addict.  There.  I have said it now.  A private hobby is now in the public domain....

I have apparently been interested in genealogy for even longer than I can remember.  I know this because when moving house a couple of years ago, I discovered two family trees which I had drawn as a child!  Clearly I had some idea of research methods as I appear to have interviewed my paternal grandmother at some point in the process.  And I know this because the tree contained her mother's maiden name - a name which my father swore blind he could not remember....

Anyway, over the course of the last few years, family tree building has become a real passion.  My rare free time is happiest spent poring over online services, visiting libraries and even (most indulgent of all) some child free time away to visit the British Library and National Archives.

As a child, I was aware that my father’s family were from India.  I could obviously tell that some of them were relatively dark skinned.  I knew that my brother and I tanned easily.  I was used to curry being served as Sunday lunch occasionally and I could tell that my grandparents and their siblings’ voices all had a particular sound to them.

However, I never questioned the family set up at all.  They liked Indian food, yes, they looked slightly Asian but they were all Methodists.  As I got older, I became aware that they all could be quite racist themselves.  They dressed in European clothes (in fact my grandmother was always immaculately turned out).  Their time in India was rarely referred to and if it was, it was in a kind of “when we were abroad” fashion.  They were all hugely patriotic and the Queen’s Speech at Christmas was a sacred time of silence if my grandparents were with us.
It was only as I got older that I began to look for answers.  This was when I first heard the term “Anglo-Indian”.  I suspect it was my mother who explained.  She herself was born and bred in England but I cannot believe that my father would have volunteered any information so I presume it was my mother who first explained.
I seem to remember the Anglo-Indians being explained as “not Indian and not British”.   I was told how various white folks had married (or so I presumed in my innocence!) Indians and had produced mixed race children.  The mixed race offspring had then begun to marry each other because neither the whites nor the Indians had wanted to marry them.  A child’s eye view of the Anglo-Indian situation clearly but as good a starting point as any.
The thing that began increasingly to interest me was the idea of when exactly the fully white people appeared on my family tree.  My father is quite dark skinned as was his father.  However, his mother was relatively fair skinned.  Apart from our tanning capacity, my brother and I looked very much like our cousins on our mother’s side – very blonde and blue eyed as toddlers.  And then there was my father’s cousin’s children – two dark and one like my brother and I, colouring-wise.  So how far back would I have to go to find this original “coupling” (to paraphrase Gwyneth Paltrow)?
My brother has asked how long our tree is going to take me to finish.  My answer? "How long is a piece of string?"....

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