Help & advice

If only

If only I could remember half the things my mother told me about her life. Did she say that she’d had a mental breakdown during the war? Did she say that she worked in a cigarette factory in Kingsway called Carreras and that she’s been in the Personnel Department. Had the pressure of that job led to her breakdown?  What did she say about her mother’s family? I can’t remember a word of it. Mind you, they weren’t close and I rarely saw my grandmother, or grandfather as a child. Did she say that she had been so malnourished that she had been taken into care?

If only I had really listened, if only I had written it down, if only she had written it down. Now it is too late. There is no-one left to ask.

Why do I care?  I really don’t know why it matters so much, or why my desire to know more about her grows with the years.

Of course I know that she was a fantastic mother. I know that she loved me and my sister and would do anything for us. I know that she would have been proud that I started a business at the age of 60. I know that she had a fantastic sense of humour and that she was a talented writer and an enthusiastic painter. I know that she was a great lateral thinker and that I miss that quality of thought because I am a very pedestrian thinker in comparison.

Until doing her probate I didn’t even know that my parents were married on Christmas Eve in 1947.

There was so much to her. She came from a very poor background and as an adult mixed with princes and the cream of society. She became managing editor of one of the great magazines of her time. But how she managed to climb out of poverty into society is a mystery to me.

And so, I am going to try and see if there is any way for me to find out more about this remarkable woman, and if my research produces any useful information for my readers I will pass it on, because this will be my first real forage into family history. But to all you mothers (and fathers for that matter) out there, please think about your children and if they are like me, how much they would love to know about your life and times.

Step one. I need to find her birth certificate and see if that tells me anything.

I find a file that says ”Mummy’s hair and stuff”.  Inside is an envelope with a clipping of her hair that I took after she had died.  I always intended to put it into a locket but never got round to it. Maybe having found it again, I will do it – I have a locket that would be perfect.

But apart from one of her magazines the only other thing of interest is a difficult to read poem she had written.


Look at a flower, a bird or a tree

That could be me

Pick a grass blade, chew it thoughtfully

That could be me

Breathe in the breeze carrying seeds

Just one could be me

The ingredient is life, interdependent

Even fish in the seas

One of a shoal

That too could be me


Then there is another line but it is impossible to read. Like so much of her, it is another thing that will remain a mystery.

I’m off to search for her birth certificate. I will report back when I’ve found it and any information that might be useful to you on family history. But do please remember your family history starts with YOU. 

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