'I never knew anything about my mother Jean's family (1933-2000). She died a number of years ago, and there aren't any photographs.'
If you're born at the tail end of a decade, like me, it's not that hard to look back. We've been talking about the family pub in Cornwall forever and that was actually the 1850s. Here we look at different times we've employed faith in family history.
Postal faith. I made sure to tap the friendly red postbox on the head as I rounded the bend this morning. When I finally put a letter in this box to find Eva Walker, I knew I'd get a phone call from her family in a day or two. I did, and I'll see them again tomorrow as a direct consequence of this.
Finding Faith. I waited 8 years from spying Louisa Smith's marriage in Castle Cary, Somerset, to finding her daughter, born 12000 miles away: her name, Faith. So they did have children! And I went on to have elevenses with Faith's niece, in London, some years after that.
Exquisite faith. Very rarely in my own family history is the hunt ever seriously 'on'. From the moment I learnt about this baby girl born 1921 (no name given), I knew I was going to find her.
Undeniable faith. You have a woman born 1751, with 8 children or so, and one of them had a youngest child who continues her line until 1992. It's implausible to deny that the original female will have family, somewhere. Again, it's an eight-year wait, till I reach them in Knighton, East Wales.
Solid faith. I have always adopted an indefatigable attitude regarding my Smiths. Although there were 12 Ellen Smiths born in Norfolk 1853, I can spot mine a mile off. Let's not even begin to think how many shared her brother's name, born two years earlier. We needed another tactic. I tailed his movements in Norfolk closely, finding a marriage in Garboldisham, which fitted securely. And my solid faith he would rejoin us brooked no doubts. I would select and eliminate William Smiths in the USA, knowing he had a wife Anna. Blind faith or cupidity took me straight to his door, always-open, in Jamestown, Western N.Y. I was the only family member to visit him in 130 years. No longer just a name: I had stayed solid, to find the man.
Hungry faith. My appetite was unassuaged. Three Dibben girls born 1790-1796 needed finding. I focussed my attention on Rebecca. Whatever persuaded me to search for her marrying at age 40, I cannot now recall. Ridiculous to imagine that having failed to find a first marriage, I'd lumber straight into a second.
In fact, this lucky find was Rebecca's fourth marriage! The bridal marriages of all three Dibben girls are entirely missing and you can really only locate them in the census. Once one had shown amid the undergrowth, my hunger spread to find the others. So I ravenously entered all the Gunville, Dorset folk with 1790s births into Ancestry's census index and so chomped my way through to all the sisters and their seven marriages.
Family faith. From the moment Mary Jenkins arrived in Tonypandy in 1881, she was somebody's sister, daughter and niece. But who's to say she was our Mary? Ah, but we're reckoning without the family, who knew about the Williams and Price marriages in subsequent generations. While Ennis and I sat waiting for Mary's birth record to finally arrive, we both already knew the outcome: Mary was ours, 100%.
Fearless faith. With every year which passes, somebody dies. Nowhere was that more true than with my father's Irish cousins. We stutter from the pre-arithmetic progression of his 'one' first cousin, straight to 18 Irish second cousins, and that's just on his father's side. Of the 18, eight were in America and at least half unaccounted for. We had a bit of time as you can't hide three red-head Irish cop brothers well, and a great-uncle had made 92, so perhaps others might too? I never thought for a second that I mightn't find them. Reading cousin Babs's will and the names of her 8 children, who'd all left Ireland, I've harassed, stalked, jogged round peninsulas, got on planes and swam upstream to find them, and I'd say 17 out of the 18 have responded well. I need to decide if the 18th has changed gender before writing my final letter. I'm gonna reach them. I have faith.
See: luck in family history, persuasion in family history, determination in family history, inspiration in family history