Sunday, November 2, 2008

Birthday offering

For French Catholics, November 2 is the Day of the Dead. People visit cemeteries and place flowers on the tombs. Within our tiny family, November 2 is quite the opposite. It's the birthday of Emmanuelle.

Last night on TV, I watched the Elizabeth I movie: the 2005 creation with Helen Mirren as the queen, which preceded the production on the same subject starring Cate Blanchett.

I found it moving... and I'll be looking forward, one of these lazy days, to seeing the more recent version of this famous epoch. [It's hard for an ordinary viewer to keep up with all the royal stuff that's coming out.]

Inspired by the movie, and before slipping off to sleep, I browsed through my familiar Kings and Queens of England by Antonia Fraser to check up on the background information concerning the Virgin Queen's passion for her "Robin", Lord Leicester. In the context of descriptions of suitors for the queen's hand, I was promptly alerted by a phrase that had escaped me during my past readings:

Another English candidate was Sir William Pickering, a diplomat...

I was startled in that I have a paternal ancestor named William Pickering [1843-1914]: an Oxford-trained surveyor who designed the future city of Auckland in New Zealand. When I was a child in Grafton, my grandmother had often talked to me with pride about her father, from whom I derived my Christian name.

This afternoon, I took out my folder of Pickering files, which has been full of genealogical holes since the beginning of my research, a quarter of a century ago. For reasons I can't explain, this Pickering line is the last genealogical vector that I've got around to exploring seriously... although I've often imagined it vaguely as maybe the richest source in my genetic makeup.

In spite of all my research in this domain, I've rarely felt that I "relate" deeply to the Skyvington lineage from Dorset [display], and less so to the confused Irish context on my mother's side [display]. But I've often experienced a gut-level certitude that I'm a chip off the genetic block of my paternal grandmother Kathleen Pickering.

After a strenuous and marvelous afternoon of in-depth research on the web, I finally succeeded amazingly in filling in all the genealogical gaps on the Pickering side of my ancestry, enabling me to get back directly, in a remarkably short line, to my 16th-century ancestor Nicolas Wadham, founder of the college that bears his name at the University of Oxford. And this lineage passes alongside a celebrated personage: Jane Seymour, the second wife of Henry VIII, father of the heroine of the movie I was watching on French TV last night. Basically, my family history moves from Wadham to Martyn, then on to Latton and finally Pickering.

So, here is my birthday gift to my daughter: an image of the ancient arms of a major branch of her English ancestors, the Wadhams.

Needless to say, I intend to put all this newfound stuff into clear writing as soon as possible.

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