Journal Article

April 2009

The Kindness of Strangers

Meg Shortt

I had followed many paths that lead to brick walls in searching for relatives that we had some how lost touch with in the early 1950's. It is so much easier to find the ghosts of the long past than those of the more recent past.

I knew that they had moved to Coventry from Canterbury about 1922 and had remained there at least until 1950 as we had some photos and correspondence from that time.

At one of the Family History Evenings last year I picked up a back copy of Coventry's Family History Society Journal dated 2005. I took it away and had a quick look through but didn't find anything of particular interest.

In the New Year flush of "I must tidy up this messy house" I looked through it again and spotted a reference to the road where Auntie Eva had lived. A member was recounting his school days and the route he took to school....past her house and the church where her daughter was married. I couldn't believe my eyes and got the Coventry street map out to check the area and names of the roads. It all tied up and he must have passed her house every time he went to school. Would he remember the family?

I wasn't sure who to write to as the Chairman had changed since then but the Vice-Chairman was the same and his wife was the Membership Secretary so I wrote to him and sent copies of some photos. The member didn't remember the family as their name is fairly unusual and he didn't recall it. However, the Vice Chairman identified where the photos were taken, took a photo of the house, gave me a bit of Coventry's 30's to 70's history and looked up the Electoral Registers for those living at that address. He gave me dates of change in occupancy, that must be related to their deaths and also when their son had left home around 1958. He gave so generously of his time and provided information that could only have come from a local person.

He, like many other family historians, shared his expertise with me, a complete stranger. He is a kind and generous man.


Royston and District Family History Society