I was fortunate enough to be invited to give a talk to the local family history group about how to write your family stories to make them interesting and accessible to others, rather than a whole load of dates and information from census returns. I have written various episodes of my own family history, using my imagination to ‘flesh out’ the few facts i know of my ancestors.
In my Radwinter novels, my main character Thomas Radwinter does genealogy for other people as a side-line; in my next novel he is exploring the family tree of his wife, Kylie. Her father is from Tobago so Thomas hasn’t the resources to pursue that, but he can follow her mother’s line and comes across some very intriguing mysteries. Kylie’s grandmother was called Marie Lesesnes and she was French, and she was looked after by her sister Azurine.
Here is an extract, a little preview:
“Do you know where she’s buried?” Kylie asked. “Where Azurine is? Maybe there’s something on her tombstone if she has one which would help…” This wasn’t just a casual comment; four years ago when we first got together, we eventually found the gravestone of my however many greats-grandfather, the original Thomas Radwinter.
“The girl’s a genius!” I exclaimed and turned my head for a kiss.
Thanks to the enthusiasm for genealogy these days there is loads of material now recorded and on-line, including the inhabitants of many graveyards. Reflecting on how dull I was not to have thought of it myself, I found the local site and put in Azurine’s name, her real name not Irene, and blow me, it popped up! I called out to Kylie who was now curled up in an armchair catching up on stuff on her laptop.
“She’s in Easthope! She’s here, just down the road!” if we hadn’t had the children I would have pulled on my coat and set off now in the dark but it would be something for me to do tomorrow, after I returned from Castair with Bethan. But there was Azurine’s name on the list of graves in the small catholic church cemetery.
Sometimes with family history research it seems as if you’re stuck and can progress no further, in a complete and utter dead end, and then for no reason you can later remember or even work out, something clicks into place and bingo… in this instance it was me with a stuttering finger.
I was googling ‘Lesesne Easthope’ and I somehow mistyped and put in ‘Le Sesne Easthope’ and up bobbed a link to a report in the Easthope Bugle, a now defunct and little known newspaper. It had been published between the wars and occasionally I had found stuff in its archive which an ex-editor’s granddaughter had shared.
Tragedy at Farholm
At the Coroner’s inquiry into the double drowning fatality off Castle Point Farholm, it was stated that Madam Azurine Le Sesne and her son-in-law Monsieur Antoine Finch drowned after getting into difficulties when the engine on their small cabin cruiser failed. The boat was caught in a cross-current and Madam Le Sesne, her daughter Marie Finch, and son-in-law Monsieur Finch were thrown from their launch. Local fisherman Patrick Ramsey, who was setting nets nearby heard their cries for help. Without divesting himself of his clothes, he made a gallant effort to rescue the family, but Mme Le Sesne and M. Finch both were drowned. Madame Finch was rescued in an exhausted condition. The Coroner’s finding was one of accidental drowning.
I was shocked… how very sad… after all they had been through, and I only knew part of it; after all that, Azurine of the lovely name and Antoine had died, poor Marie… Sombrely I called Kylie to come and look.
“What a tragedy,” Kylie remarked in a low voice. “Now it’s not going to upset you, is it, Thomas?” I do get very involved in the people I investigate, I do get caught up in their lives and they do become real to me.
“I’m ok,” I replied. “Poor Marie, losing her sister and her husband… and then Patrick dies and widows her again…”
Kylie sat up with a bit of a jerk.
“Sister… look here, it says that Antoine was Azurine’s son-in-law… she must have been Marie’s mother!”
Good heavens! When I’d first come across all of this I’d had the dreaded thought that Azurine might have been Marie’s young mother, but dismissed it…
“Maybe they are mistaken…”
“A Coroner’s court wouldn’t make a mistake like that, would they?” Kylie reasoned… No I don’t think they would…
Here is a link to my Radwinter books – if you haven’t read any then I hope you enjoy them!