Looking forward not back

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The current enthusiasm for family trees leaves me stone cold. As far as I am aware my ancestors were all impoverished labourers, exploited by their wealthy peers, and lived bleak lives with very limited opportunities for self-actualisation. Finding out that they were born in Gwent or Devon adds little to the picture. I’d be interested in how they felt about their lot in life but sadly that information is not available. Like other members of the peasantry and the working-class they left no written records.

As I’ve written on previous occasions mine is an immensely privileged generation. We live at a time of immense change driven by the combined forces of globalisation and technology. Our experiences, as opposed to our bio-data, may be of interest to the generations that follow and, with that in mind, we should document them. This could offer a worthwhile legacy.

Accordingly I’ve arranged for all my political papers to be catalogued. I fought and lost four General Elections in the 1970s and 80s and as well as manifestos have some correspondence and press cuttings. I only had a bit part but was present at some important events.

A professional archivist, Elizabeth Paterson, undertook the work, at modest rates, on my behalf.   Elizabeth sorted and indexed the documents and put them in protective plastic covers. I was very pleased with the result and have no hesitation in commending her services to others. We can never know what successor generations may find of interest but owe them the opportunity. I wish that my late father had made the effort. As a carpenter who had never travelled outside the UK he was called up for wartime service in the RAF in Nigeria. He never recorded his impressions and all his photographs have been lost.

For anyone interested Elizabeth Paterson can be contacted at:


2 thoughts on “Looking forward not back

  1. Traditional working class history was captured in the oral/aural traditional (hence the link to folk songs etc…) or going back to the early modern period court records.

    Akin to you Martyn I feel equally cold about looking at my ancestors for similar reasons – not all of them were Frank Owen.


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