I grew up and spent my early adulthood in Cape Town. In my late twenties, I moved to Sydney with my husband and have lived in that city ever since.
While my personal jury is still out on how much control we have over our lives, there have been a few occasions that have given me cause to wonder whether things which are beyond our control may happen for a reason.
On a visit back to Cape Town in the late 1990s I met up with a school friend who had married a distant cousin of mine. Marion was compiling the family tree and asked if I could fill in a few blanks for her. Sure, especially if it related to my parents, siblings and their families. Even aunts, uncles and cousins, all this was a subject well known to me. And being good at dates, I could even proclaim years of birth, marriage and death with as much confidence as the official certificates on which these dates were inscribed. I might add at this point that I won the history prize at high school.
As Marion unfurled my family tree, I saw a myriad of names under “Descendants of ? Saltman”, most of whom I did not recognise. Were all these people really connected to me? It was almost overwhelming to think that I had such a large family, although not beyond the realm of possibility. After all, my grandmother had been one of twelve siblings, so multiplying out from this number meant that X number of children and their children….no, numbers have never been my strong suit, but I’m sure you understand where I am going with this.
I searched for familiar names and eventually found “Harry, born in Sheffield about 1873”. Aha, a name I recognised. Harris.
I knew that he had been born in Sheffield because my father had told me. But I also knew how old he was when he died and 1873 did not compute as his birth date.
But if it didn’t, how would I find out what did?