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Digital Subscriptions > Family Tree > Family Tree July 2018 > ‘Until you actually live there…’

‘Until you actually live there…’

In the wake of the Windrush, 10-year-old Edwin Joseph came to Britain to build a better life for himself. Here his wife, Jane Joseph, traces his ancestry back to British Guiana and ultimately Africa, from where Edwin’s great-great-greatgrandparents had been sold into slavery two centuries ago
Edwin Joseph, who came to Britain in the vanguard of the Windrush


A good proportion of today’s British population consists of first, second or third generation descendants of migrants who came to our shores from distant parts of the erstwhile British Empire. It should come as no surprise that many of us find it frustrating that family history researchers seem to hit a brickwall when tracing back their ancestry to its roots overseas, especially when those roots originate from former colonies where recordkeeping may have been patchy and, even where it survives, digital access to it is lacking.

My husband’s story

When my husband Edwin, born in British Guiana, was 10 years old, the local parson’s family brought him to England along with their elderly mother in the vanguard of the Windrush-era migrations. His mother had worked as the family’s servant.

After his schooling in Tooting, Edwin built a life for himself in the British Army and never returned to British Guiana until his father died in 1984.

During Edwin’s absence, British Guiana had become the independent Republic of Guyana in 1966 and, to Edwin’s mind, under the communist dictatorship and presidency of Forbes Burnham, had become povertystricken. His mother, brothers and sisters had lived there throughout this time and revealed to him what they had experienced since Independence.

The family oral history

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About Family Tree

Join us as we celebrate the mothers, grandmothers, aunts and more on your family tree. It's vital to research the female ancestors, otherwise you're only learning half of your family history. This issue we have plenty to help and inspire your research into women's history and so gain a fuller understanding of your family members and their lives in times gone by.