Nothing thrills me more in my foraging through the orchard of past lives that is family history than when a juicy fruit appears. A stem, which leads to more detail than even the standard fare of name, place, date of birth, marriage, death – perhaps occupation if you have some census data to work with. There are many different fruits on my tree – sweet peaches, sour limes, fine pomegranates – a million fruits in one.
How lovely to see a face. To have one peer out from history at you. Meet Mrs Margaret Medd:
Margaret is my Great Great Great Great Grandmother. She was born in Westow, North Yorkshire (near Malton) in 1819, as Margaret Plews, daughter of the head gardener at the Old Hall at Kirkham Abbey. Her parents returned to Castleton, from whence they originally came, when Margaret was ten, and there she would remain for the rest of her days. Which is quite a considerable number of days. 94, to be precise, which is no mean feat these days, let alone for someone who was born nearly 200 years ago. At 18, she married Daniel Medd, the postmaster at Castleton, and the next 22 years gave them seven children, of whom, Jane, my Great Great Great Grandmother, was one.
Her obituary in the Yorkshire Gazette, of Saturday 15 February 1913, tells her to have been a faithful Methodist – who indeed claimed to be, before she died, the oldest Methodist in the world, a title she ceded to her sister Mrs Porritt when she passed on. The article also speaks of John Castillo – a Yorkshire dialect poet and lay preacher, who travelled around and stayed often with the Medds when in the area.
She was borne to her grave by six grandsons, who no doubt missed such a formidable character when she was gone. What she would have made of others of her ancestors, who knows. There are some who seem quite the other end of the spectrum of piety. And where the Methodism went, I have no idea. My father – her Great Great Great Grandson, is a lapsed Roman Catholic – and I, though christened C of E, am more pagan than pious. And a good job too. For it is the pagan in me that feels the importance of ancestors. Without which, I would never have met Mrs Medd, which would have been a great shame.