Sunday, 8 August 2010

Our family roots

About thirty five years ago my cousin brought his wife and children from Canada on a visit to the country where he had been born. I only remember meeting him once as a child of about twelve just before emigrating, when he called on my grandmother whilst my mother and I were visiting her. He must have lived fairly close by because he came by himself on foot. The family emigrated to Canada for economic reasons and they seemed to have found greater job security and better financial prospects. His father had been involved initially in the shipbuilding industry and later aircraft as were many of the family and the fortunes of both industries were precarious in England.

My cousin was keen for his family to meet their family in this country. Nowadays probably much better contact could have been kept by email but in those days it was by post which was not very useful if you were not a good letter writer, so in many ways he felt he had lost touch. We were very glad to re-establish contact and I visited them in Canada just after I graduated. I noticed that whilst my cousin was perfectly assimilated in Canadian life there were remnants of his Englishness. When Canadians immediately asked me what I would earn as a teacher now I had graduated, he gently reminded them that this was not a question that was asked in England. He was a gentle, kind and hospitable man but he died young and we did not keep in contact with his wife although his daughter did keep in touch with my aunt.

His daughter is my cousin once removed and today she has arrived in England with her husband for them both to re-establish contact with their roots. She has a real hunger about where the family came from and last year tracked down Jonathan and Anna from Facebook. I too made contact and through Facebook she managed to contact another of my maternal cousins. In turn I was able to learn the email address of her aunt, another of my first cousins, and we have been in communication ever since. It was a real joy to me to rediscover another cousin of my own age to whom I feel very close. Later on this week we are having a small family reunion in Sussex. No doubt our lives are very different but what binds us all together is this sense of family and belonging. I am very glad I have this strong genetic link with my maternal family and in the last three years their love has done so much to sustain me. This is one of the reasons why I feel that to conceive children deliberately with a view to cutting off half of this genetic link, is wrong and the fulfilment of the childless couple’s wishes can never ever compensate for bringing a child into the world who has been deliberately deprived in this way.

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