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Monday, 17 February 2014

Short-Version Birth Certificates hide the truth.

The copies of the birth and marriage certificates I'd ordered (I mentioned it to you a couple of weeks ago) from the General Register Office arrived and confirmed my suspicions about family-skeletons.

No laughing at my middle name!

I can only remember having a short-version (rectangular and only contains the child's details) birth certificate; rather than the usual full-version (oblong and contains the child's and parent's details); to record my entry into the world.

I believe the same applied for my older brother. I have to make this assumption because when I became custodian of the family's records, on the death of my mother, strangely there were no copies of birth or marriage certificates to confirm our history from the 1940's.

During my early childhood I was led to believe we were a typical 1950's family of husband, wife and their children. It was unusual during that era for unmarried couples to live together and even more for them to have children before marriage. Not in our family!

I now have an unabridged version of my certificate which shows the ('Name, surname and maiden surname of mother') details of my mother as 'Doris Edith Sampford otherwise Boath formerly Longman'. So that's what I wasn't supposed to see. On my brother's full-version certificate, acquired with mine, the words 'Sampford otherwise' weren't included. The term 'otherwise' seems more polite than 'alias'. Who was this man named Boath?

A similar compilation of the term was used, twenty-two months later, on my parent's marriage certificate, with the names Sampford and Boath being transposed. I also now have a christian name: who was Ronald Boath?

My mother and father, even after they separated a few years later, were good at keeping secrets; so were my one-time-pious, maternal grandparents; when they were alive. Perhaps they should have considered that truth will out at sometime. Perhaps they did and thought that as long as it was hidden until after they were dead it didn't matter.

I accept that in the 1950's and 1960's there were 'taboo' subjects which were not discussed in families between adults and children. But, who benefited from the reality of the situation being covered up, not talked about, not acknowledged? Who, and what, has suffered as a result of the conspiracy of silence?

The exhumation of this particular skeleton hasn't made any difference to what I believe about myself. It hasn't made any difference to the way I feel about my parents: my opinion was developed by their actions over time. What it has helped to explain more fully is why the four, and then three, of us, as a family group, were treated as the 'Black Sheep' by our middle-class Longman relatives. However, on an individual basis, I did not find this the situation with three of my childless Great-Aunts.

Do I regret seeking out the truth, hidden by the short-version birth certificate, as part of my family history research – No! This is just the beginning: there are at least two more bodies to be confirmed.

 © Elliot Sampford 2014

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