The wee Pickles – John, Mary and Donald, my Dad and his sister and brother, as depicted in this drawing by John, age 9, from 1931. I have to confess that I’m not totally sure that the above picture IS of John and Mary and Donald; maybe it was just three bunnies that appeared in the garden on Easter morning! But the photo was tucked away among lots of others from those far-off childhood days, so why should it not be them?
One of the great pleasures of writing this blog – and it’s been going for just over a year now – has been the endless rooting around in old papers and photographs in order to try and weave together something approaching a credible account of the past. If you’re lucky there are captions or clues in the photographs themselves, but often there are no notes, nothing to tell you who the people are, what they are doing, why there are there. And then occasionally you hear a throwaway remark or come by some new fact which enables another part of the jigsaw to fall into place. I suppose it’s a lot like detective work.
So why am I telling you all this? Well, by the sheerest luck, I happened to come across one Steve Bentley one day when I was fiddling around with my family tree on Ancestry.com You can examine other people’s trees as well as your own. My attention was drawn to Steve’s when I noticed that we had various ancestors in common, namely my grandma Beatrice’s Bentley relations. I was aware of the existence of her brothers Laurence and Donald – they both appear in my Dad’s old address book, and I seem to remember Christmas cards being sent and received for some years – but I’ve never written about them before, as my knowledge of them was more than sketchy. But suddenly, thanks to Steve, I now have a photograph – albeit faded – of the three siblings together, some time round 1920, either just before or just after Beatrice married. (See my post “Beatrice and George” for that story.)
Turns out Steve and I are third cousins – Donald Bentley is his grandfather – and we’ve spent the last week exchanging photographs and trying to catch up on over 100 years of shared family history! It’s all very exciting, but also confusing, and more than a little mind-boggling, as you can imagine. One of the best things was discovering that we had a few photos in common, which serves to confirm the connection and has enabled both of us to put names to some of the faces which were previously unidentified.
I’ll be coming back to this particular jigsaw once I’ve had more time to work out how everything fits together. In the meantime, as a little taster I can show you photographs of Laurence’s and Donald’s weddings. First Laurence, who married Hilda Asquith in 1927, when he was about 27 or 28. That’s the happy couple in the middle, with Donald third from the right and their mother, Alberta Bentley next to him. I don’t know who the others are, but I’m thinking the girl on the left will be Hilda’s bridesmaid, and the older pair on either side of Laurence could be Hilda’s parents.
And then we have Donald, who was about 30 when he married Doris Glover in September 1932. Donald and Doris are in the middle and I don’t know anyone else – perhaps Laurence, Hilda and Alberta were in other photographs. Steve tells me that the bridesmaid to the right of Doris is named Queenie Eaton, and she and Doris remained friends for the rest of their lives.
Finally, we have this 1919 portrait of Beatrice which beautifully captures her at a moment just before she would marry George and eventually become the mother of the wee Pickles.