It’s all in the genes . . .

It was 1969, maybe early 1970.

I was just leaving the university library at Southampton where I was studying botany and geography. I should add that this was one of my too infrequent visits to the library.

As I headed for the main entrance, I was approached by two teenage girls, one of whom had long, dark, straight hair. They ‘invited’ me to purchase a raffle ticket – I think it was something to do with one of the charity events that students tend to organize each year, and these two girls were at one of the education colleges in Southampton. So I bought a couple of tickets, and then did something rather out of character.

Turning to the girl with long hair, I asked: ‘Is your name Jackson?’

Well, the look on her face made me think I was right.

‘Yes’, she replied, still looking rather surprised.

‘In that case’, I answered, ‘I think you are my cousin Caroline’.

And she was. As soon as I saw her, something inside told me she was ‘family’.

Now I should point out that I had last met Caroline maybe a decade earlier – she would have been five or six, and me about eleven. In some ways it was not such a total surprise, since her father (my dad’s younger brother Edgar) and his family lived in one of the small towns in the New Forest, to the west of Southampton. But I hadn’t made contact with them since arriving in Southampton two or more years earlier, although I had seen Uncle Edgar and his wife Marjorie at the funerals of my grandparents in 1967 and 1968.

Now this memory came to the fore just the other day for a couple of reasons. I’ve been doing some web searches for friends from my university days, so all-things-Southampton were on my mind. Secondly, my youngest grandchild Zoë was born (in the USA) at the beginning of May, and I’d been thinking that she was the youngest of a long line of Jacksons and Healys (Healy being my mother’s maiden name), and wondering what she will make of her antecedents. In just a few generations (my great-great-great grandfather) we’re back to the time of the French Revolution. I also heard in June (via my brother Martin) that my mother’s younger brother Pat had recently died at the ripe old age of 97 – he was the last surviving of eight siblings. Martin had heard about Uncle Pat’s death through his son, Pat – a cousin I did not know I had.

After my dad died in 1980, Martin began a major project to research the family genealogy, which is available online. On the Jackson side of the family he’s been able to trace back to about 1711, and on the Bull side (my paternal grandmother’s side of the family), there’s information stretching back about 12 or 13 generations to around 1480! Other lines – the Tippers and Holloways – can be traced back to 1610 and 1600 respectively.

Martin is going to have a more challenging time of it on the Healy-Lenane side of the family, who hailed from Ireland, Co. Kilkenny and Co. Waterford.

I have now made Facebook contact with cousin Pat, who lives in the Forest of Dean, about 60 miles south of Bromsgrove where I live. And through Facebook, I was contacted by two cousins, Karen and Patsy – daughters of one of my mother’s younger sister Bridie who emigrated to Canada in the 1940s – who live in Indiana, USA and Ontario, Canada, respectively.

There’s only one of my father’s siblings alive – my Aunty Becky, 96, who lives near Newcastle Upon Tyne, and who I’ve visited a couple of times recently since we have been travelling to there to visit our younger daughter Philippa and her family.

But to get back to the genes. As I look at the photos of my parents and grandparents, I can see very clear resemblances of my daughters to one side of the family or the other. Hannah favours, I think, the Jackson side. Philippa is a strong Healy!

I haven’t mentioned anything about Steph’s side of the family: Tribble / Legg. Steph’s parents came from small families. Her father had just one sister, and I believe her mother was a single child, so there’s not the raft of aunts and uncles and cousins on her side of the family as on the Jackson-Healy side. But both Tribble (a West Country name) and Legg are not that common, so I guess if someone with the time and inclination were to look into this side of the family, some quite rapid progress could be made.

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