Many of you, (AMToNW) ask where my wacky sense of humour comes from. Well, when you can drag yourselves up by your elbows (your hands are still holding your aching sides) from roffling at my latest little essay, I should explain that I have traced a very zany streak up through my maternal grandfather’s line to the Sleath family of Gilmorton in Leicestershire.
These few days I have been adding several hundred people to my family tree, having at last discovered the precise identity of my 6x great grandfather. His name was Gabriel. Many of my family are angels. His kinfolk (and imagine the long cold winter evenings in rural Leicestershire in the 17th century) thought it would be a great way to pass the time to call about every 3rd male Sleath “Gabriel”. They could barely wait for one of the Sleath women to expel a male baby before they set about calling him “Gabriel”, the sound of their laughter could be heard from Wibtoft in the west to
I don’t know much about my dear ancestor other than his name, (his grandfather was called Gabriel; his great grandfather was called Gabriel; he had an uncle Gabriel; uncle Gabriel called one of his sons Gabriel), except for the fact that the silly burghers of Gilmorton were equally flummoxed by the inhabitants all having the same name, and therefore added appellations to the various Sleaths so that they had some idea of about whom they were talking. Any vestige or pretence of knowing about what one is talking has long since disappeared in the family.
My ancestor’s uncle was known as “Gabriel Senior”, his uncle’s son “Gabriel Junior” (can you see the cunning application of logic there?). My ancestor was known as “Gabriel Medicus”. Yes indeed. I checked that it was not some Latin phrase meaning in the middle, but it does indeed relate to the ancient art of doctoring. I am not sure what a doctor did in the latter part of the 17th Century, nor do I know whether he had to have any qualifications. Perhaps he was just able to open up a surgery in his scullery, rescue a local witch from the bonfire and appoint her as his receptionist, and go about the business of mucking about with the corporeal section of the local humanity, having already messed with their heads by calling everyone the same name. Gabriel perhaps spent his time stitching up the split sides of his patients, having caused said injuries by telling them his name.
I am not comfortable with this. I have found no evidence of anyone of any wealth, talent or redeeming features in any of my ancestors so far, and don’t like to think that there were any of the bourgeoisie in my line. I hope that I can eventually trace my line back to Adam without finding anyone going to a grammar school (let alone a public school), or having a mortgage or being called Gerald.
So, when I get round to creating my real family history, Gabriel will be the local village hippy, burning incense, doing aromatherapy and Chinese massage. He would probably have been seen as the local loony. One day I might go to Gilmorton to find his diary. I will not be surprised to find that its style bears a remarkable resemblance to some other great work of art that I can almost, but not quite, identify.