My recent holiday re-awakened my love of steam trains and heritage railways. Down in Devon we travelled on two steam railways, the South Devon Railway and the Paignton and Dartmouth Steam Railway. We also got to see Tornado, the first mainline steam locomotive built in Britain for almost 50 years.
Peppercorn "A1" Pacific 60163 Tornado at Paignton, Devon
Naturally (for me anyway) I now want to find some way of linking this love of trains into my family history research. Three possible options came to mind:
“Cousin” George throwing coal from the train – my father tells a story about “cousin” George, who was an engine driver and during the Second World War he would throw lumps of coal from the footplate when he was nearing the family home, for them to scavenge for their fire.
Am I related to Harold GASSON the railwayman and author – Harold GASSON wrote four (I think) books about his experiences on the Great Western Railway. There is no obvious family connection, but it would be nice to prove even a remote connection.
Grandfather and the gate key – My grandfather paid the railway company for a key to open the railway crossing gate near the family home, but once the railway was closed, the tracks ripped up and the land sold to the local county council, the council still expected him to pay for the key, even though there was no need for a gate any more.
The first one should be quite easy to investigate, it is believed that “cousin” George was actually George Richardson (my grandfathers cousin), so I need to see if I can find any staff records and prove whether he did work on the railways and whether he came near the family home.
The second one is not so easy, there are some biographical details in Harold GASSON’s first book, which should allow me to start building his family tree, but I think I will have to go too far back to find a connection with my tree to make it a viable exercise.
The third one is most interesting to me. I know my grandfather corresponded with the county council, but I don’t know how the issue was resolved. I have a couple of letters and a copy of the original agreement with the railway company but I would really like to find out how the story ended, but I don’t know if the county council will have the documents that showed their side of the story.
I have just got back from a week of sunshine and showers, sand and seagulls in South Devon without access to my family history. I wasn’t completely genealogy free, I had a book to read (mail coaches) as well as the latest issue of Ancestors magazine, there was also the first episode of the latest series of Who Do You Think You Are? on television.
I am ashamed to admit that I didn’t really miss my family history but what I did miss was having ready access to the internet to look up stuff such as bus and train times and the weather forecast.
I do wish that I had some Devon ancestors as it would have given us (yes, I would have dragged my wife along with me) a great excuse to visit some of the more rural locations and explore the countryside away from the usual tourist hotspots
The whole holiday makes me want to go on a proper genealogy holiday (visiting and exploring the area where my ancestors came from rather than a research trip) so I am going to have to give that some thought, but there are not that many options as most of my ancestors are from Sussex or within a few hours travelling time.
In few weeks my wife and I will be on a weeks holiday in South Devon, England and my biggest worry is not whether the weather will stay fine, but whether I can survive a week away from my genealogy, without becoming unbearable.
I have no research to do in the Devon Record Office, as far as I know I have no Devon ancestors, I have no laptop (although I could probably find an internet connected PC, but that wouldn’t go down too well) and I certainly won’t have space to pack my family history files, so for the whole week I shall be genealogy free.
Hardly an hour goes by without me thinking about some aspect of my family history, let alone spending a whole day away from my genealogy. A whole week away from it is unimaginable.
I shall probably take a genealogy history book with me to read, and I am sure I can find other books and magazines in an emergency. Perhaps, if things get really bad I could sneak off to a graveyard or cemetery and record some monumental inscriptions, just to satisfy my cravings!
I am hopeful that we will be able to indulge my passion for walking, and that will keep my mind off family history. Hopefully my wife and I can enjoy some of the South West Coast Path together.