Thursday, 20 July 2017

On losing your past ............ chasing the records

Now I have lost a little bit of my past.

I say me but that is not strictly true and the past in question may not be particularly significant.

But it is my past, and it has been lost and I doubt it will ever be recovered.

It all started three years ago when it occurred to me that my medical records might shed light on my early life.

Not that I was interested in what I had contracted as a child or the care I received, it was more basic and centred on just what the records might tell me about where we lived.

I knew from my identity card that we lived on Peckham Hill Street, and later Kender Street before moving to Lausanne Road, and that in the first few years we had spent time in Derby with my grandparents.

All of which is a closed book, and like most people I can only begin to put things together sometime after my fifth birthday and even then the memories are vague, fragmentary and pretty much open to question.

That said I have been surprised that some of those memories along with family stories I had assumed I had imagined have pretty much been confirmed.

So it seemed an interesting line of inquiry, although for a long time I thought it too trivial to bother the doctor’s surgery, but when I finally did it appeared that there was nothing before 1992, despite the fact that

I had been registered with the original practice from the early late 1970s.

Eventually two records from the early 1950s surfaced.  A search by the NHS turned up nothing although the chap on the phone did point out that lost was wrong and mislaid was nearer the mark.

And mislaid they still appear to be.

There will be some, who say this is not a big deal, and in the great sweep of things it isn’t, but anyone who has tried tracking the history of a family member will know all records are important and there remain many which are not accessible or have been lost.

Nor is this just a problem that increases with time.  The recent past can be even more of a closed book.

There are no census records available after 1911, the 1939 register has gaps due to confidentiality and a large number of military records from the Great War were destroyed in the Second World War.

Added to which those same considerations of confidentiality rule out a whole swathe of personal information, compounded by that simple fact that much was just thrown away.

Before the 20th century there can be a cornucopia of information which these days is fast  becoming digitilized making it easier to discover the lives of long dead relatives..

But it was still possible to fall out of the records.  My great grandfather never married my great grandmother and despite having four children together when the relationship ended he appears never to have made contact with any of his children and was confident that he had fallen through the cracks that married and raised a second family.

Likewise my great uncle who had been migrated as a British Home Child to Canada, ran away from his last placement, joined the Canadian Expeditionary Force in 1915, changed his name and lied about his age.

But despite these limitations I know more about the early years of my grandfather and his siblings than I do my own.

So perhaps the medical records might have helped.

Pictures; from the collection of Andrew Simpson

No comments:

Post a Comment