Saturday, August 8, 2009


Sometimes it is just a pretty picture that is the impetus for a blog.

For the last week I've been really busy putting together a booklet on the ancestry of my paternal grandma, Maud McConnell, who married Scott Dobbins. Maud was born in Glasgow, Kentucky in 1874. Both her parents were born there too, and her ancestors all came into Kentucky in the late 1790s. Her great-great grandmother was Miriam Helm -- and the Helm line can be traced back to a tiny town in Lancashire, England named Goosnargh, where some of the Helms had been curates in the church there.

In 1985 Jer and I made a month-long trip to England and of course visiting Goosnargh was one of my priorities. Jerry left the routing to me, so from the airport we rented a car, headed east toward Cambridge, up toward York, across the dales into the Lake District and then headed down the western coast, turning inland once we got to Lancs. Finding Goosnargh took more than one circling on some round-a-bouts, but we finally made it. We headed for the church.

Like all the old churches in England, we found it extremely interesting and very different from any churches we'd ever been to in California. I'm sure some of the early churches along our eastern coast are much more like this one, but since Jer and I both were native Californians we didn't know much about those. Once inside we found a placque on the wall which listed the names and dates of all the curates. The placque was painted a glossy black with gold lettering, and with the camera available to me this was the best shot I could get of it. If you look hard, you can see two "Helme" names and very early dates on them.

It gave me a very strange feeling to be in a place where I knew my ancestors had been many centuries earlier.

But what about the map? After we left Goosnargh we headed on down the coast and eventually stopped in Chester, where we dodged into a nice old shop whose wares displayed in the window were enticing. In our snooping, I came upon a map of Lancashire with a publication date of 1730 and guaranteed by the proprietor, Richard Nicholson, to be over 200 years old. The cartographers were J. Owen and E. Bowen. Luckily for us, that year the exchange rate was about $1.25 to the English pound, making it possible for us to see our way clear to pay L34.00 for the lovely map. Once home, I had it framed.

Every time I worked on my Kentucky lines I always had that wonderful reminder of the roots of at least one of my ancestors. I'll be darned if I can see "Goosnargh" on there now. My eyes are 30 years older than they were when I bought the map and they don't see detail as well. But I know it is there.

Seeing the map makes me happy.

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