So that’s Christmas and New Year over with, let’s get cracking with 2023. I might as well say, I’m always glad to see the back of Christmas and New Year. Not only that, I’m glad to see the back of December 21st too as the 21st is the shortest day of the year and now, each day gets longer as we gradually move towards the spring and warmer weather.
One other reason to see the back of 2022 was that during a cold snap just before Christmas, our pipes froze and we had three separate burst pipes in the loft. The first two weren’t so bad as we spotted them straight away and our plumber came over quickly and sorted them. The third one was worse. The pipes burst over the spare room which we didn’t notice straight away. It was only as Liz was passing on the way to the bathroom that we became aware of water pouring down into the room. Hats off once again to our plumber who came over straight away and sorted the leak. Sorting the wet carpets might take a little longer though. All that is just another reason to hate the cold.
This year, much later this year I should say, I will be 67 and I start to find myself looking inward, looking at where I have come from as well as wondering about the future.
The future, I have come to feel is about technology. Technology is ever changing and touches even a common individual like me. Once I recorded my television programmes on VHS tapes and now, they can be saved directly to my hard drive at the push of a button. Regular instalments of a show can be recorded automatically and missed shows can be watched on catch up TV. You can even begin to watch a TV show before the recording has finished. I spend a lot of time converting my favourite documentaries onto DVD although by the time I’ve finished, DVD will probably have given way to some newer technology.
Years ago, I used to read a comic strip called General Jumbo. The general was actually a small boy who had various crime fighting adventures with a unique set of radio-controlled toys or models. I always remembered him controlling the models using something like an iPad although when I researched the General, who appeared in a famous UK comic called The Beano, I see he controlled them with a device that fitted over his wrist. Maybe it was some other comic strip hero that used the iPad like device but either way today’s iPad is one of my favourite devices. I’ve had an iPad for a number of years. I used to edit my blog posts on the iPad and produce and schedule most of my tweets and other social media posts but recently I have not been able to.
My iPad is fully up to date but alas, many apps will not work anymore. Many need an update of 14.5 and my pad, despite being fully updated only updates to 12.5. This is a most disappointing aspect of the iPad but it represents I suppose the ever-changing face of technology. It also represents something of a mean streak in the people at Apple, for they are not content for us to buy their very expensive gadgetry, they want us to buy the same item again, suitably updated and up-priced, several years later.
Fair enough, technology must move on but why at the expense of old technology? Anyway, one most wonderful and unexpected Christmas present I received this year, courtesy I might add of Liz, was a new iPad. Now I can reinstall the apps that I could no longer use on my old iPad. My banking app works again and I can sort out my social media posts with ease.
At Christmas I always get myself a present. It’s usually something like a DVD or a book but this year I bought myself a DNA test. It came with three months free on the ancestry.co.uk web site and it was pretty fascinating looking back at the paper fingerprints left behind by my ancestors in marriage documents, census forms and birth certificates. Having said that, researching your family history isn’t easy, especially when your grandfather for instance had the name George Higgins, a pretty unremarkable name in turn of the century Great Britain.
A lot of what I have found on the ancestry web site is nothing new and seems to merely confirm things I have found out by other means. I have my father’s birth certificate which gave some information and my grandfather’s marriage and death certificates which gave me more. My grandfather as I have mentioned was George Higgins. He died in 1954 before I was born. Ancestry linked me to the family tree of a distant relative who seems to claim that George was born in Ireland. Now that contradicts something my father told me many years ago. He told me that his grandfather or great grandfather came from Ireland. The man was a catholic and in order to marry a protestant, he was forced to come to England. That being the case I find it hard to understand how George came to be born in Ireland. Did his forebears return to Ireland or has Ancestry found a different George Higgins? On George’s army documents, he reports both his mother and father as being English, not Irish.
My Grandfather, George Higgins fought in the First World War with the Royal Horse Artillery so my father told me. This is him in this splendid picture with his horse, Prince. My Dad had the picture with him in his wallet when he was in the forces and as time went on it got a little torn and tatty and somewhere, I suppose it must have been in Hong Kong where he was stationed for a while, he found a little photographic shop that specialised in rescuing old pictures. The background of the picture was originally a forest but the rescue work removed them in order to make the picture good.
Over on Ancestry I found that George served with the Royal Army Medical Corps from 1912 to 1921. In 1921 he enlisted in the 52nd East Lancs Corps which was a Territorial Army Unit of Field Artillary.
Both sides of my family, my father’s people and my mother’s, came from the back-to-back terraced houses of Salford. They moved to Wythenshawe in the late 1930’s or early 1940’s. Wythenshawe was known as the ‘garden estate’ because instead of small terraced houses, here were bigger and better houses with front and back gardens. The estate was built on land purchased by Manchester City Council from the Tatton family. It was originally rustic countryside full of farms. My Dad worked on quite a few of them and my Mum tells me stories of getting milk from Potts dairy farm which stood apparently just across from my old junior school. You’d never know because no trace of it remains today, just a row of council houses.
I had hoped to find more about the past but navigating the records that hold the keys to the things that have gone before is not quite as easy as I had thought.
My great grandfather is mentioned on George’s marriage certificate. He was Patrick Henry Higgins and was no longer alive in 1920 when George married my grandmother. What makes the search difficult is that there are a great many Patrick Henry Higgins’s about. One day, during an epic troll of various census records, I found an Annie Higgins in the census of 1901. She was the head of quite a large household. Her husband was no longer around but one of her sons was called George. Was she the widow of Patrick Henry? Perhaps, perhaps not. Perhaps that elusive DNA report might help when it finally arrives. One day I hope to find out.