Every Voice Matters

As family historians we are accustomed to telling the stories of our ancestors and breathing life into the historic documents that we discover, whilst researching our family trees. Many of us are natural story tellers and the way in which we tell those stories is different for all of us. The important thing to remember is that we do try to tell those stories.

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We all naturally gravitate to the more interesting characters on our trees, it’s their stories that captures our imagination and inspires us to want to discover more about the lives of our ancestors. We shouldn’t, but we all have those ‘favourite ancestors’, for many different reasons we are drawn to certain individuals, or their stories resonate with us that bit more. Sometimes you can’t put a finger on these things, but you just make a ‘connection’ with an ancestor.

Throughout my blog pages, you will see that I regulalry mention making a ‘connection’ with an ancestor, or I might write about an ancestor and their story is close to my heart, or an ancestor might cross a path that mirrors a similar moment in my own life. I am sure that you also have ancestors and stories that make a connection with you. But what about those ancestors that you don’t feel that magic ‘connection’, the ones that are just a set of facts and figures on the page in front of you? What do you do about those ancestors?

It’s an easy statement to make, but “Every Voice Matters”, however much or little, your ancestor appears to have contributed, they all matter, each and everyone of your ancestors. In different ways, they all form a part of the fabric that makes you who we are today. Therefore it’s our job, as family historians and story tellers, to ensure that EVERY voice is heard. Without us telling their stories, who else will bring these ancestors stories to ‘life’?

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We need to recognise these individuals on our trees, identify with them, get to know them and try to piece together their stories, whether they are cut short by tragedy or they live to a ripe old age. These ancestors need a voice, you are that voice, it’s up to us to ensure that whatever their circumstances, we ensure that their stories are told.

Let me tell you a short story that will highlight why every ancestors voice counts and why we should try to tell the whole story of our family tree and not just what we consider to be the ‘good stories’.

When I was a “novice” Family History Researcher, at the start of my Family History journey I made the classic “schoolboy error” and actually missed one of my close Ancestors completely!

Let me explain how and why…….

Like a lot of people, when I set off, all those years ago, I initially followed my Direct male line and with a surname like mine, “Chiddicks”, it was quite easy to get back before Civil Registration had started (1837) and stretch into Parish Records. I then expanded my direct line, by including all the sibling’s and before I knew it, my tree was growing quite nicely. Several years later, more than I am embarrassed to admit, whilst carrying out another search on the Free BMD site, I found a birth for a Louisa Alice Chiddicks, born in South Ockendon, Essex in 1897, a further search quickly revealed a death for poor Louisa in the same quarter. I noted both details down, but couldn’t find a suitable “fit” into my family, although it was exactly the right area that my family had lived. Eventually curiosity got the better of me and I ordered the Birth Certificate, boy was I in for a surprise!

Louisa Alice Chiddicks was in fact my Grandfather’s oldest Sister and the first born child of William Chiddicks and Caroline Rosina Chiddicks, so how did I miss her I hear you all shout!! I made the classic “schoolboy error” of finding William and Caroline’s Marriage, dated April 3rd 1897 and counted forwards 9 Months before I started looking for their children! Poor Louisa Alice Chiddicks was born 20th August 1897. I will let you do the Maths on that one!

So that’s how I completely missed poor Louisa Alice Chiddicks and how she was “Nearly Forgotten”.

Louisa Chiddicks Birth

(Louisa Chiddicks Birth Certificate) 

Louisa Chiddicks Death

(Louisa Alice Chiddicks Death Certificate)

Louisa was buried at St. Nicholas Church in South Ockendon in Essex on 16th September 1897, so although her tragic life was so short, just 23 days, I can at least say her voice has been heard.

I still have a real soft spot for Louisa and she will always hold a special place in my heart and now her story will never be forgotten.

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14 thoughts on “Every Voice Matters

  1. A very beautiful and moving story. To me, such early death has a universal connotation, which I never feel at the death of a person, whatever their fame or accomplishments or abjectness, who lived to a mature age. Thank you, Paul!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Paul, you have reminded me to return to my records and finish the details of siblings of my paternal and maternal lines, so I don’t overlook anyone on my tree. I have tended to focus on the principal characters in the union and often miss colourful stories of their siblings. Next stop – research the siblings of my great grandmother Eliza Goats. B: 1844 M: 1868 D: 1930 from Essex, UK; then those of my great grandfather Alfred Thomas Wright B: 1841: D: 1890.

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    1. It’s always a good practise to go back and review your early work, especially as more and more records become available. Essex is my old stomping ground, what part of Essex are your ancestors from Carole?

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  3. Reminded me of my own ‘rookie error’ many years ago. At least I have the excuse that it was before the days of online BMD indexes and family tree ‘hints’!

    I obtained the birth certificate of an ancestor and searched for the marriage of his parents prior to his date of birth, as his mother had her husband’s surname and her maiden name was given. I unsuccessfully searched every quarter of the GRO marriage index microfiche for both names over many years prior to the birth, back to before the minimum legal marriage age of 14 for a male and 12 for a female, eventually concluding that the couple had in fact never married, or the marriage was missing from the records for some reason. The child was born in London, many miles from the birthplaces of his parents.

    Years later, when online indexes became available, I found the marriage – two years after the birth of their eldest child, and just three weeks after the bride had turned 21! Clearly, she did not have parental consent to marry, but was afraid to go against her parents’ wishes even though she lived a long way away and was happy to lie about her marital status when registering the birth of her child.

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    1. This falls into the category of Dave Annals wonderful talk entitled was my ancestor a liar? If you’ve not seen it I highly recommend it. Lists the various reasons why our ancestors deliberately lied or shall we say misled the authorities

      Liked by 1 person

  4. This was really thought-provoking to read as I’ve been delving into my own family history but also as I’ve been writing about Indigenous communities in Canada and America that are trying to reclaim their children (the recent news about the residential school discoveries). It’s a privilege to be able to access our ancestor’s stories and it just reminds me how important connections really are. Thanks for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Thank you for posting this. I always encourage everyone to research siblings and wives etc to discover their stories. I have found some astonishing stories in this way which I would have completely missed out on. It took me 25 years to solve two of my brickwalls though. Who had impregnated great grandma in Armagh and who were the real parents of my adopted grandmother in Brussels

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Your post has made me stop and think Paul. I’m guilty of putting my attention to those ancestors with interesting stories. You’ve reminded me that we all have a story and I now intend to seek out the story of those quieter ancestors

    Liked by 1 person

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