Sunday, October 07, 2007

like a rolling stone

This afternoon I've followed the trend and googled my genealogy. It all started with a book I was reading of interviews with Kiwi veterans of Gallipoli in the First World War. When I read the account of a medic, I was suddenly struck by the sporadically recurring urge to know more about my paternal grandfather, whom I never met, who was a medic in the First World War, and was wounded at Bapaume in the Battle of Amiens, in the name of King and Empire.

I quickly typed in "Silas S------" and four pages of results appeared, none of which were my grandfather - however, there were several mentions of my great-great and great-great-great grandfathers who were also called Silas S------.

The younger of the two was the first S------ to come to New Zealand, and also the first surgeon at Christchurch Hospital, in 1862. I knew that already. He was mentioned in the lists of those coming through the Port of Auckland on ships in 1861. It turns out the elder was a physician of evidently some importance as his name is mentioned throughout London's medical periodicals around the 1840s to '50s. One medical journal has a letter from him detailing an unusual case of a twin birth he presided over, and he writes from Guildford St, Russell Square, London. Russell Square! That's in Georgette Heyer books! Automatically my great-great-great grandfather goes up a few cool notches.

I also found a website an American S------ has created centering around the S------ family branch of which I am a member, and he lists famous S------s. For example, a general in the US Civil War or explorer Captain John Gabriel S------ of Scotland - but most recognisable of all - make sure you are sitting down - none other than MICK JAGGER'S GRANDMOTHER was a S------!!! I am very tenuously related to Mick Jagger! Of course I'd prefer Bono or Jane Austen, but still, you can't be too picky!

This also makes me remember a very exciting day when I visited the main Christchurch public library and checked out the births, deaths and marriages files for family history. Among other things, I found my great-grandmother's marriage file and discovered that she was an illegitimate child. She had taken her mother's surname as a child, but it named her father as one John I----, and suddenly I realised in a flash why her son and my dad had the really weird middle name of I----! It was extra exciting because my dad had never known, and as his father was a very upright Brethren man it is unlikely he would have given his son that name if he had known either. So I was the first in the family to discover a slightly grey sheep. I felt very clever.

I am loving that you can find so many cool things on the internet now, simply by googling a name, things that we couldn't have known otherwise.


Sarakastic said...

wow who knew genealogy was so cool? My relatives moved to Canada when they could no longer be loyal to the queen in this country. Yes Canada.

slskenyon said...

Yes, I love picking up interesting bits like that from the Internet. You can find out so much now rather than just going without or having to go a long way to get it.