Here is some of what I know about my ancestors. They were from the area around Horsham, in Sussex and were a family of farmers. In the early 1850s, a few of them left England and sailed to America. From what I could get out of my research, farming wasn’t going so well in the UK at that time, so they set off to see if they could do better elsewhere. There were several brothers, and William, my third great grandfather and his brother Thomas, went together. I suspect that the leading reason they went was for love. They sailed with some neighbors, the Johnsons, who happened to have two daughters. William married one and Thomas the other! Of course I don’t really know this, maybe it was a coincidence and they happened to sail on the same ship and fell in love on the long journey over. I mean what else was there to do really? At any rate, they sailed to New York and then went on to Southern Illinois, to the small town of Grayville. Maurice, another brother stayed on in Billinghurst and this is who Claire is related to. So, as far as I can tell from the time William and Thomas left the family home, we are the first generation to have gotten together again.
We left the hotel in Hayward’s Heath to drive back to Chichester. It took us about two hours to get there. I am so excited to finally get a chance to meet Claire. I’ve been corresponding with her now for months and the day is finally here. Of course we had the same problem in Chichester as before, the one way traffic. After a couple of times around we get the brilliant idea of parking in a public car park and taking a taxi in. The taxi driver thought it was hilarious, but said he understood and when he started driving there is was horrific to learn the system. We felt a little bit vindicated.
We were the last to arrive, but as soon as we walked in I recognized Claire’s son and husband from photos that she emailed me. There, in the corner was Claire, holding court at her laptop. Finally, we meet and hug and laugh together. She told Marcie and me that we were the “stars of the show”, having come the furthest. We were actually the first American’s from the family to visit.
There was Claire, her husband and son, and also her maternal grand mother, Marjorie. This is the one that has the same maiden name as my father’s grand mother. She is a hoot! At the time she was 77 and said really fun English phrases like “I’ll be jiggered”. We have got to visit with her several times since and she came to California to visit with us once. Marcie and I both adore her and she, thankfully is still going strong!
Another cousin that I was corresponding with is Matthew. He is also really involved with the genealogy. I find this surprising because my daughters are not at all interested in the family history, even now. At the time, Claire was only about 24 and Matthew was only 25. It’s so great to finally put a face on him as well and get to know him a little bit. His mother is also there and very nice.
There is a 70 year old gentleman named John, dressed in a plaid suit and British to the core. I took a good look as I was talking to him and got very teary because it dawns on my how much he looks like my late father. The blue eyes, the hairline, shape of his face, everything. The only thing really different is the clothes. My dad grew up on a farm in Illinois and became a plumber. When I think of him, he is always in a white t shirt and Levi jeans. I explained to John why he had this effect on me. I think he was touched by that revelation.
There were lots of others for us to meet. John and Kathy and their son Andrew. I was surprised to find out that Kathy is not the one I’m related to, but she is the one that is doing all of the family research. I understand. You get so wrapped up in discovering new people to add to the family tree. One find will lead to dozens more and it goes on and on. The very fortunate thing for us is that our families are from England where the records go back hundreds and hundreds of years. Also, there is Glynnis and her daughter Hannah. She has got a lot of research done on her line, but I didn’t get to talk to her as much as I would have liked.
It was amazing meeting and talking to all of these people that have some of the same DNA, checking out the connections and some of the family history. Claire told me that they had already had a few reunions, but every year there were more people that turned up.
Although this was a lovely hotel, the chef didn’t turn up for work that day and they couldn’t feed us, so off we go across the street to a pub for a nice lunch. In some ways I enjoyed this more. We spent time hearing personal stories about everybody’s lives and comparing family traits. Then we played our favorite game of comparing the likes and differences of America and England. They cleared up a few mysteries of “what do you call this or that”? I finally learned a few of the slang words for money. Being a banker, I like to be clear on how money works. I learned how to use quid, pound, pound sterling, bob, pence, etc.; and they learned the same in American English. You hear these phrases your entire life but you don’t really know how to use them until you go there. I am one that really likes to get into the culture and understand it. I do make comparisons, but only as a point of reference so that I can truly remember what it is. I love the differences and I’m pretty sure that the familiar things are familiar because we have the same heritage, if only up to a point.
Here is a photo of everyone from that day. It was so amazing and I will always remember that first introduction to my extended family across the sea.