Paul Cockayne – 07791 970406 – firstname.lastname@example.org
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About thirty years ago a cousin of my father did a lot of research into the Cockayne family tree and recently I have been developing an interest in that. With the benefits of the internet the process of investigation is much easier for me than he would have found it and that gives it a pace and immediacy that I find somewhat addictive.
The internet can be addictive, but so too can curiosity, I think. Perhaps it’s partly associated with “not knowing”. It seems that as humans we have a desire to know, to understand, to get answers to questions. This exists on a macro level – spirituality, religion and science all seem to offer us possible explanations to big questions: “the answer to life, the universe and everything”. Many of us seem, too, to have a desire to understand people – both ourselves and others. There can be a fascination in trying to get inside someone else’s head, which is one reason why the early days of a new relationship can be so all-consuming, I think. And for some people the search for self-knowledge is important, which brings me back to ancestry.
Three ex clients come to mind.
The first, let’s call him Tom, felt that somehow he didn’t fit. His life felt wrong, he felt out of step with the world, felt that he had been born into the wrong era. He talked about his ancestry, in particular he told me that, going back about a century, his family had been farmers. That was perhaps where he belonged, he thought – on a farm, a century ago – he would have been content there.
Dick never knew his father. He was raised by his mother on her own, and she refused to tell him the name of his father until she knew she was dying. Then she gave Dick the information he’d wanted all his life. For Dick, there was a compulsion to discover all about his father and his ancestry – he said he felt as if a huge hole needed filling. Dick spent months researching and contacting living relatives to gather stories, and he found out some really interesting things about his father and his family. These discoveries, however, did not change his life in any way – he did not discover a desire to be a farmer, like Tom. He had needed to fill in the gaps in his knowledge, but having done so, he felt content.
Like Dick, Harry did not know his father. However, unlike Dick, he knew the name of his father and some information that his mother had given him. And unlike Dick, he had no interest in finding out more. His father had never been in his life and therefore, for Harry, was completely irrelevant. There was no curiosity, no gap to fill.
These three men had quite different attitudes to their ancestry. For Tom it was of huge importance – his destiny lay in his ancestry – that defined who he was. At the other end of the scale, Harry saw his ancestry as a complete irrelevance. He was the person he was by dint of his upbringing and his experiences, but anything that happened before his birth did not affect him. Dick sat somewhere in the middle. His ancestry was important, he wanted to know about it and understand it, but that was more about completing his internal world than about changing his life in any way.
Tom, Dick or Harry. Which are you?