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Digital Subscriptions > Family Tree > Family Tree October 2018 > The mother line

The mother line

After his granddaughter was born, Bernard Barker decided to research two centuries of women on her family tree so she can know about her female British ancestry in the years to come. In doing so he realised just how far these incredible women have come from their humble roots…


8 gene rations of extraordinary females

Between the wars: The Moore family at the seaside in Great Yarmouth c1928. Pictured are Wilfred and Elizabeth with their children Wilfred junior and Bessie (the author’s mother)

This article describes the long journey of eight generations of women on my mother Bessie’s side of the family, from mending fishnets in Norfolk to teaching and journalism in London. It begins with the arrival of my granddaughter Carmen. She hurried into her mother Irena’s careful arms, just as their car pulled into Whipps Cross Hospital one cold day in February 2015. She is three years old and lives with her parents and two brothers in north-east London. Half her family lives in Mauritius. When she asks about her forebears in years to come, the links between Carmen and her ancestors will be hard to trace.

I am strategically placed to close the gap between Carmen and her origins. Using search engines, online databases and The National Archives’ document service, I have extended my inherited collection of family letters, photographs, certificates and medals to document eight generations of our family in Britain. Earlier relatives, lacking leisure, education and electronics, would have found this almost impossible. Carmen’s existence prompts me to use family history research to trace her female relatives in this country, and to report extraordinary changes in women’s lives over 200 years.

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