Sunday, July 03, 2011

Internet solves sixty year old mystery in three seconds

I grew up with three grandparents not four. The missing one was my Dad's father, who disappeared into Darkest Wales in 1949, abandoning his wife and two children (it was one of those probably rash marriages that happened at the end of WWII). My Dad, now 64, has no memories of him, and no interest in finding out what happened. The only remnant of him is his surname (Baker), which is also my surname and two of three wedding photographs which only surfaced when my grandmother died.

The two people sitting down are presumably my great-grandparents. The tallest man is my grandfather. Facially, my father looked very similar to him at the same age. I don't resemble him facially, but I do have the tall thin body. I probably look more similar in terms of face and hair to the chap on the left, who was a brother.

Every so often he comes up in conversation, and so yesterday, my fella typed in his name and the word Wales into Google. And there he was. Ten years ago he choked to death on his food in a nursing home, aged 80. He never left the small mining village he grew up in, although he seems to have married again in 1964. There's a tiny chance it's not him, but he has a fairly rare name, and the middle name matches up also.

Having found out, I felt a bit stunned. I wonder if he had any other children (do I have a half-uncle or aunt?) We had assumed he wouldn't have lived long, so it's surprising to find out he was the last of my grandparents to have died. I was also surprised at how easy it was to find the information, and how it had been there for years, if only someone had thought to look for it.

And then I had a dilemma. Who do I tell? It has always been a bit of a sore point with my father, so should I tell him? Or should I tell my sister and my aunt. In the end I decided to volunteer that I had information and would tell more if asked, or else not mention it again. So we had the strangest conversation. I told my own father that his father is dead. And he reacted as if I'd announced that it was raining outside.

I spent the rest of the evening trying to find out more information about that side of the family. Oddly enough, it turns out that the actor Stanley Baker (from Zulu) grew up in the next village along, about a mile away. I wonder if he's a distant relation.

Any resemblance?

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