Sunday, 17 August 2014
Blessed are the Bookbinders
I wanted to "take a post" to comment on how utterly entertaining Who Do You Think You Are? was this week. Brian Blessed was a human demonstration of the usually private emotions attached to finding out about your ancestors. His reactions were almost toddler like in their "up" then "down" qualities! Bookbinders! Stationers! Paupers!
I didn't blog about the episode as soon as it was shown because well, I felt that many far better qualified to comment people would be doing so. However, having now discussed the show with friends and relations, I think it has been very interesting to see how "the subject" (i.e. celebrity) can really make the show worth watching.
We all will have heard about celebrities feeling the pressure to cry at the discoveries that are put before them. A ten year anniversary show for Who Do You Think You Are?, shown a couple of weeks ago, again talked about this. And indeed, hats off to any subject matter that can bring emotion out of Jeremies Paxman or Clarkson. And for sheer boring reactions, I suggest watching some of the US episodes - a series of "oh really" and "oh wow". No comments about Botoxed faces please....
The fascinating thing about Brian Blessed, though, was his sheer joy - not just the sadness. And he was so overwhelmingly grateful to everyone that he met on his journey (even if he did comment on one of the vicar's weights!).
Family history can be a joyful experience! It is not all about early deaths, destruction and other assorted disasters! Yay! Brian Blessed even made the best, Pollyanna-style, of his Great Great Grandfather having been in the workhouse - he celebrated the boy Blessed's ingenuity in escaping - albeit briefly - by focussing on what a character the lad must have been. And don't get me started on his pride in the "randy" man with thirteen children - no thought for how the poor guy clothed and fed them all!
Maybe this is the way forward for genealogists. Reports should show five positive facts before reporting the doom and gloom! I have sometimes thought that Who do You Think You Are? has tended to make us think that we should be looking for sad family history from which we can take serious lessons. "look how far we have come", "wasn't that [insert disaster] awful for them?" etc etc.
Maybe we should focus on the positives as little more. I have a four times great grandfather, Solomon Major, who was a British soldier in India. When I found him, it became apparent that he had had a child with an Indian woman and had then left India with his regiment. Who knows whether he ever had any contact again with his Anglo Indian son. So far, so glass half empty.
Clearly there was not joy for the family left behind in India - in fact, most probably not for Solomon in leaving them. Yet if he had not gone to India, I would not be here. His Anglo Indian descendents survived and thrived.
A further check into what happened to Solomon, though, revealed that when he left India, his regiment were sent to St Helena - to guard Napoleon in his island jailhouse! This in turn led to the discovery that Solomon was granted Chelsea Pensioner rights because of his service on St Helena. He returned to Bristol and had quite a large family, from a first cursory glance at the records. A story worthy of positive thoughts, in my view at least.
Glass half full is a good life motto. Or if you are Brian Blesssed, glass brimming over!