Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Who do you think you can be?

Where do you get your attributes from? Is it all in the genes? Which ancestors had the same talents; or the same opportunities? Will destiny shape your life according to the past, or are you in the driver's seat? Who do you think you can be?

While watching a couple of episodes of my favourite series on TV (Who do you think you are?) I am reminded of how important our family histories are in defining who we are. Our family has grown from humble beginnings; we don't have royalty in our history and we cannot claim any really famous figures in our ancestry - the Allery's were tailors, and came from strong and hard working stock.

Only recently, I was talking to my daughter about where the red hair in our family came from. This distinguishing feature was attributable to grandmother Harriet Priscilla Allery who married Walter Frederick Allery in 1896. We also chatted about the skill of tailoring and how that has come from our ancestors too - Grandfather Walter Frederick back to Great Grandfather Samuel John further back to Great Great Grandfather William.

When I think about the 'travels, trials and tribulations' of my Allery ancestors it also makes me think about how history repeats itself in many different ways. Change of location is a constant feature in my family - when I consider the number of houses my grandparents lived in and how my own dad helped us all to migrate from one side of the globe to another - then I understand the 'urge to travel' in me.

I look back at the lives of my father's ancestors and see that many were tailors or associated with the tailoring industry in the UK. Great grandfather Samuel John Allery was a master tailor who inherited his skills from his father before him, William Allery. His brother my great Uncle William Adrian Allery, was also a Tailor and a keen genealogist. They were born in Dartmouth, Devon and conducted their tailoring businesses in London. The tailoring business in London House, Coombes Lane, Kingston was handed down to my grandfather Walter Frederick Allery and later sold to his nephew Joseph Allery a short time before my grandfather's death. Two key elements in this ancestry for me: tailoring and genealogy!

Tailoring goes back four generations in my family and those skills, to a certain degree,  are inherited by me. I know that I was able to make my own clothes, and clothes for my own children because of the legacy of my Allery ancestors. However, I did not have an ambition to take my seamstress skills into employment like my forbears! The tailoring genes were obviously not as strong in me. Other attributes from my mother's ancestors influenced how I made my way in the world.

However, I have great Uncle William Adrian to thank for my interest in family history sleuthing. He himself spent many years, and a small fortune, tracing our Allery ancestors back to the 1700's to prove our claim to a famous piece of property, the Angell Estate! His adventures led him back to Devon, where, he claims, he found the missing marriage certificate that linked our family to the
illegitimate daughter of the heir to the Angell Estate. A tenuous link at best and one that has never
been proven. His character was such that he pursued his inheritance with inappropriate actions and these landed him in gaol. At the age of 84 in the 1920's great Uncle William Adrian took up residence in one of the properties owned by the Angell Estate and proceeded to gather the rent from its tenants as his birth right! This story was reported and published in the London Times.

I don't think I will pursue this claim - it was hotly contested by people around the world and is unlikely to be resolved! The Angell Estate consists of a township, 2 churches, a school and several dwellings - you can find details of the estate here: http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.aspx?compid=49771

Tracing my mother's family tree has been an exercise of discovery and intrigue. I used to love listening to the romantic story of how my parents eloped and were married in the registry office in
Kingston, Surrey in 1925. I even wrote my own version of that story as a creative writing exercise! I wanted to find out more about my mother's skills and the attributes handed down from her ancestors! What made her the woman she became? Who featured in her family history as influential?

This trail led me to my Welsh connection! Great grandmother Mary Ann Evans was born in Pembrokeshire, Wales in 1833. She became the link between the English and Welsh sides of my family? Mary Ann married George Robinson, my maternal great grandfather, in 1859 and moved to Croydon, England. Their daughter Mary Jane Robinson became my grandmother after marrying grandfather Charles Harry Newland Cutting in 1901 and giving birth to my mother in 1903.

It is from the Cutting line that I have discovered further business and trade attributes. Grandfather Charles was a Master House Decorator and he conducted a successful business in Kingston Surrey. My mother was an administrative assistant for her father's business and she was known for her
bookkeeping skills. Yes, I do have some of those accounting attributes and perhaps they influenced
my choice of university studies back in the sixties, majoring in Accounting! However I did not pursue a career as an accountant, I became a teacher. What did I teach? Commercial subjects such as Accounting and Business Administration. Destiny and synchronicity will sometimes shift your life plans in mysterious ways!

Let me take you back to the Welsh connection now - this is where my current family history research has taken me. It has taken a few years to trace my great grandmother's Welsh ancestry. I had reached a brick wall - too many possibilities in tracing the Evans name in Wales history back to the 1800's. I needed the help of local genealogists who could do the necessary leg work of researching the Parish Registers. We needed to first locate the marriage certificate of Mary Anne and George Robinson, to obtain the names of her parents. Once we had the document (and what a thrill it is to view the actual certificate purchased from the National Archives) we could begin the search from Mary Ann Evans,
back to David Evans and then to his wife Lettice Day, but that is another story!



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