Tuesday, January 01, 2008

What I done at Christmas.

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 Upper Bruntingthorpe in the east. As the Sleaths (most of them Gabriels), banged their heads on the floor in mirth, earth tremors could be felt from Willoughby Waterleys in the north to Walton by Kimcote in the south (not very far south, you may think, but if you go much further south you get into Warwickshire, where people are too dull to have amusing place names). You can hardly imagine their delight should an outsider venture into the village looking for Gabriel Sleath. Their little jape postponed the establishment of the modern postal service by decades.

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.

24 comments:

Pamela said...

Let me be the first to offer you my condolences.

Dave said...

What a very appropriate name for this time of year. I now understand from where your sense of decorum, and respect for religion and the traditional comes.

Richard said...

As none of your ancestors ever went to grammar school, Gabriel was probably the only name they ever learned to spell. That should be heartening for you.

Happy New Year

homo escapeons said...

Wonder of wonder, miracle of miracles, this was a fascinating reprieve from the tedium of post traumatic holiday disorder.

In effect what you are saying, in a very roundabout way I might add, is that the incursion of Viking raids eventually led to the abduction of your paternal surname, and that Kaliyuga Kronicles is actually Swedish for Gabriel Sleath.

Vicus Scurra said...

Pamela, thank you, but I couldn't eat another thing.
Dave. Good job you didn't know about my other ancestor, Norbert Goatshag.
Richard. No it is not heartening.
HE. No.

Chris said...

Half of my paternal ancestors appear to be called Jobe. They're from Lancashire, where the nights are also cold and long (and some of them lived on barges, where I suppose you had to make your own fun).

ziggi said...

I always wanted to be a doctor's receptionist - spooky.

Reg Pither said...

...and you make pigs smoke!

tom909 said...

Seriously Vicus, Isn't this a bit like those chain letters, where you very quickly end up being related to everyone on the planet. How far back do you have to go before we find out we're related. Now I'm getting scared.

Vicus Scurra said...

Tom, I have always regarded you as one of my family.
Specifically, an incontinent maiden aunt, who has a soft spot for men in uniform; unfortunately that particular predilection is frustrated by appalling personal hygiene.

john.g. said...

Shit, Vicus, I only live 3 miles from Gilmorton!!

Vicus Scurra said...

John. Let me know if you need a doctor.

Richard said...

Tom, I feel the same. I've so far had a narrow escape and although that particular link isn't yet dead, it would be just my luck to find we're already related anyway. As it is, Gilmorton is about 3 miles south of Peatling Magna, where my Aunt lives.

Vicus Scurra said...

Yes, Richard, and you I have always seen as the slightly strange cousin who one is never quite sure about, but then fails to live up to even that expectation.
Of course we are all related.
In the early years of gathering family history I was quite pleased with myself when I found that I had found 4 of one particular generation - something like 10x great grandparents. Then I calculated that I had another 1020 of them who I didn't know about.
Even given the amount of inbreeding that must have gone on over a couple of hundred years in a rural community, that is still a lot of people.
And it could be worse, you could be related to Noel Edmonds.

Richard said...

I was speaking to your real cousin earlier. We have come to the conclusion that of all the people we know, including family, we are probably the most normal. Which makes us exceedingly strange

Gorilla Bananas said...

We primates are one big, intermittently-happy family. In the film Klute, the prostitute played by Jane Fonda said "Oh, my angel!" when pretending to climax with one of her clients. I put it to you, Sir, that one of your ancestors is in some way connected with this fact.

Adam said...

You're hoping to trace your roots all the way back to me? Well, you'll be interested to know that I am related to both a Cherokee Indian and the Civil War Union/notorious anti-Indian General George Custer. In order to make me feel even more conflicted, I am supposedly also related to chief Confederate General Robert E. Lee, although this hasn't been proven.

This is just my dad's side of the family, which is all of English descent. To make me feel even more conflicted, my mom is half French and half German.

To sum that up, I can trace my ancestry as being:

English, German, French, Confederate, Union, Native American, and some Irish thrown in there. If I'm ever self-conflicted, I will know why.

Oh? The Adam you were talking about wasn't me? Never mind, then.

Cherrypie said...

You are trying to trace your family tree back to Adam? Is that the same Adam as the one in your blog roll? The lonely one? The one you pretend to ridicule from time to time when you haven't anything devilishly witty, wise or otherwise worthy to report? Worrying, Vicus.

I can provide a Deed Poll should you wish to add 'Gabriel' to your name to honour your ancestry.

Vicus Scurra said...

Cherrypie. Dear, oh dear, Adam has beaten you to it, hasn't he? I always said he was bright.

Richard said...

Can someone point out out to Adam that as he's your contemporary and is considerably younger than you, you will be unable to trace your roots back to him.

Vicus Scurra said...

Richard. Please don't be cruel to Adam. He hasn't a clue that I am old than he. They don't do cipherin until 27th grade in Carolina.

I still like the views said...

Gabriel is one of my favourite names; and the name of a character in Far From The Madding Crowd, I do believe - a subject which Dave didn't quite get around to writing about recently

Fiona said...

Ha...ha...ha!!!

No money in chancery?!?!

Vicus Scurra said...

No money anyplace, Fiona. I will pass some your way if I find it.