Here are some photos of places I’ve visited while on location making my film. I’ve done a fair bit of lurking in graveyards; great fun for someone who was a Goth in a former incarnation!.But seriously, what better way to get close to your ancestors than to go to the place where they’re buried? One thing’s for sure – they’re not going anywhere! I just wish I could talk to them, and ask them all the questions I’d like answering!
This is my great-great grandmother, who had an illegitimate baby in March, 1863. She died the following year, so her son didn’t know either of his parents. He was brought up by his grandmother, who was born in 1819 – nearly 200 years ago! The stories she told him about who his father might have been have been passed down through the family. But in the space of just four generations, the truth has become clouded by anecdotes and speculation.
This is my great-grandfather, born in March, 1863. His mother was Sarah Moreton of Duffield, Derbyshire, but there is no record of the father’s name. The family story is that Sarah was in service and became pregnant by the son of the family she was working for.
The legacy of attitudes towards illegitimate birth in the 1860s.
There’s always one! One person in every family – at least that’s what I reckon – who takes it upon themselves to be the guardian of the family stories. Before me, it was my grandmother; she used to tell me some amazing tales dating way back to over 100 years before I was born, and I soaked it up like a little sponge!
With the help of other relatives, I’ve been building up a picture of my family’s Victorian past and trying to fill in the gaps. And there’s one huge gap; my grandmother’s father was illegitimate. This means that we haven’t a clue who his father was, so the family story hits a massive brick wall. But what I do know that was in the era he was born into, the term ‘father unknown’ would have created a huge stigma both for mother and child.
Working with the Local Studies library and family history experts, I’m currently exploring personal stories of generations affected by the conventions of Victorian Derby. I’m finding out about the vicissitudes of unmarried women’s lives and the difficult decisions that were faced by women struggling against prevailing attitudes that haven’t quite disappeared today.