A couple of weeks ago my father died. Over the last few years my interest in family history had increased and we had started to talk about the past, his memories of his family and any information that he had. The things he told me I often researched and usually he was very accurate. The story that he had a great grand father who lived to be over a hundred was true – although my father’s claim he had met him was not. The belief that his paternal great-grandfather was a drunk seems likely to be correct, since Kelita Crossland was certainly in court for manslaughter and drink featured in the story. My father’s memories of Thetford, where many of his family had lived, of family squabbles about wills, of the engineering tradition in the family have all become mine.
I sorted through his study, and I found piles of old photographs he was identifying for me and notes of things that he had remembered. I think that he had been writing these on the evening before his death. They are like notes from the dead. I think that he was aware that his time was short and trying to get as much material to me as he could.
I have become a memory keeper – the link between me and people born in the 18th century is real and present.