They are nothing more than some old, yellowing pieces of paper so fragile that the wrong touch might just destroy them. For many people these pieces of paper would mean nothing at all and would have probably ended up in some recycle bin a long time ago. They hold no real value and wouldn’t even be given an honorable mention on Antiques Roadshow, but they are, in their own way, priceless.
These pieces of old, yellowing, cracking paper are the records of my own family, the marriages and births of those whose DNA I carry with me today. To read these is to read a story of family, where we came from and what has shaped us into the people we are and what we have inherited from the past. I look upon them and see a young couple in their twenties, my grandmother Emily Violet Travis aged 20 and my grandfather Percy Roberts aged 21, just starting a new life, a whole world opening up for them. I wonder how they met, fell in love and decided that they were meant for each other. My grandparents as young people, ready to tackle life together, to share in both the joy and the heartbreak that life brings. It’s funny to read these certificates from England where a young, unmarried woman was called a spinster and the young man a bachelor, I always wonder what she thought or did not think of that descriptor.
I see the signatures of my great-grandparents, witnessing the next generation taking their place in the world. Venturing forth to start a new family, blending their traditions as they create new ones to pass along to their children.
Sometimes, we think that it is the material things and keepsakes that hold sentimental value, and they do, but what I cherish is what has been handed down, a sense of connection to a living past. I look at the old photos and they are no longer ghosts of a long forgotten time and place but they are living, breathing people who laughed, loved and grieved as we all do today.
Soon it will be the 94th anniversary of my grandparents wedding, in that time families have come and gone, the world has changed and no longer do we call young women, spinsters. We hold in ourselves the remnant of those who have gone before and we look with hope to the future as we see another generation taking their place and creating their own distinctive mark on this world.