Some of my earliest memories are my grandmother's stories about her childhood. From these tales of village life, her neighbours, and extended family has grown a fondness for her native Norfolk; especially for the place of her birth, Swanton Novers. Is it possible you can feel 'homesick' for the land of your ancestors? When I was at last able to visit the village in 1997, I felt a sense of déjà vu -- as if I had already been there . . . as if I was coming 'home' again.
These stories generated a desire to know more about this village, the county and its people. However, I didn't begin to seriously research my English roots until the 1970s. At first, my grandmother was astonished at my desire to do this and commented, "Why would anyone want to research the pedigree of my little family?"
Her perception of pedigrees was of course logical. It was a reflection of the 'class' system with which she lived in the late 1800s/early 1900s. A person with a 'pedigree' held a certain elevated station in life. If you were not born to such a position, you had better know your place and keep it! My grandmother would have been well aware of this, as would many of the villagers in Swanton Novers. Several members of her extended family worked for the Astleys (Barons Hastings) at nearby Melton Constable Hall. The village children were expected to curtsey or bow when the lord of the manor passed by, or were severely reprimanded. Therefore, by "my little family" my grandmother was referring to it as being of little "prominence" and therefore not entitled to a "pedigree"!
However, gran showed no reluctance whatsoever to get involved and was quite thrilled by the idea. When she knew I was coming for a visit, she would ask with excited anticipation if I was bringing the "family book".
I'm grateful to have had my grandmother's input until her death at age 98 in 1997. She has been my inspiration. I felt her presence deeply as I stood by the low wall in front of her former home at Swanton Novers; exactly where she posed circa 1915 to have her photograph taken. I couldn't help whispering to myself, "I made it Gran!".
Now I'd like to share some of my research with others who may find that one or more twigs of their family tree have become entwined with this quiet little village as well.
~ Juanita Hadwin
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