Family history is such a thing now - there’s so much pressure to remember!

PUBLISHED: 15:32 17 April 2019

It's time to start writing your family history down before it's too late, says David Clayton PHOTO: Getty Images

It's time to start writing your family history down before it's too late, says David Clayton PHOTO: Getty Images


As grandchildren and children crave to know about the past, David Clayton wonders if it is time to start writing some things down...

One of my now grown-up children posed a question recently which went something like, “You're from Yorkshire, how come we're here in Norfolk?”

I explained that back in the summer of 1963 my Father's job moved him to Gorleston and here we've been in the county ever since.

Hence my Norwich born wife and three children are as Norfolk as they come.

The questions continued about why he'd moved his job and anyway, why were my parents in the North East originally when, as I've often claimed, there's a Cornish connection on my Mother's side.

It all got vaguer as far as my answers were concerned. I'm sure I started making things up to substantiate my scant knowledge.

How I wish I'd sat my parents down and quizzed them about all of this in more detail.

It never seemed that important at the time, but now it does. They died many years ago, so what family history there is, is vested in me – no pressure then! The questions my offspring have are spasmodic and random. A more recent one was, “I thought you trained to be an accountant, how did you end up on radio and television?” That's a long story. It was a lucky escape! Then, don't start me on grandchildren doing family history projects at school. I need to up my game.

I'm attempting to get my house in order, so to speak. I've started my memoirs – a personal autobiography, if you like.

I'm well aware that I'm not a reality TV star, an old showbiz luvvie or a venerable politician, so few others will be interested in my musings. It's for no other purpose than passing on down my own generations, so when they ask a genealogical or even a geographical question, there's somewhere to turn for an answer.

A friend of mine, Brian Russell, has just written his life story. We worked together in the entertainment business a few decades ago and whenever we hook-up on the phone we're forever exchanging anecdotes and reflecting on the fact we lived through some special times.

We've been chiding each other to write it all down and he's done it. I'm in total admiration because I haven't – yet.

Despite many stories of rubbing shoulders with legendary pop stars in the sixties and flirting with a dodgy TV talent show half a century ago, he's under no illusion that anyone outside his family, apart from immediate acquaintances, will be interested.

I've read through it for him and it's a jolly good story. Brian's motive was the same as mine but with an important imperative.

Both his parents died suffering from dementia and their memories sadly ebbed away.

He's reasoned that having “dodged the odd bullet” to do with his heart, time is of the essence with his memory. Not for nothing has he titled his memoir, “In Case I Should I Forget.”

Before my Father died, I took him to see his older sister still living up in Darlington. We went out for a meal and I sat opposite them listening to their stories as one memory triggered another. It was lovely family tittle-tattle of the like I'd never heard before, all insignificant stuff in the great scheme of things like an ancient aunt who had a glass eye which she removed at night; mealtime rituals surrounding their disciplinarian Father; fun and games while walking home from school.

As a broadcaster I wished I'd had a tape recorder with me. We've all got faded photos of our immediate forebears, but they're silent.

The minutiae of family life can get lost unless we capture it.

Today's technology has handed us all sorts of devices on which we can record hours of audio cheaply and simply so we jolly well should.

Go and see the oldest member of your clan, sit them down and ask some questions.

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