Let­ters

Who Do You Think You Are? Magazine - - CONTENTS -

Your ideas, com­ments and ad­vice

In Fe­bru­ary 2015 the story of my great aunt, Eve­lyn M Pike, was pub­lished in this mag­a­zine. She was ‘My Fam­ily Hero’ be­cause she had com­mit­ted her life to a ca­reer in nurs­ing and, among sev­eral hon­ours, had re­ceived the Royal Red Cross medal from Ge­orge V in 1920, for her valiant ef­forts dur­ing the First World War.

Imag­ine my sur­prise when I was con­tacted (on 11 Novem­ber) by a medal col­lec­tor and dealer who had ob­tained my de­tails through our pri­vate tree on an­ces­try.co.uk. He asked me to send him a photo and fur­ther in­for­ma­tion about Eve­lyn, as he had ac­quired her medals.

We knew that the medals had been passed down to an­other re­la­tion who was not mar­ried, but we had al­ways as­sumed that they would stay in the fam­ily. She died in the sum­mer, and some­how the medals were put into an auc­tion at the end of Oc­to­ber.

I passed on the dealer’s email to my un­cle. He is the only sur­viv­ing re­la­tion who ac­tu­ally knew his Aunt Eve­lyn, and also the per­son who gave me much of the ma­te­rial to start my re­search into her life. Nat­u­rally, he was sad­dened to think that a to­tal stranger was now in posses­sion of sev­eral medals and her nurse’s cape, and he ended up buy­ing them for far more than the dealer had paid.

We are thrilled to have them back in the fam­ily, where they be­long. How­ever, it is un­for­tu­nate that a mem­ber of the fam­ily has had to pay a sub­stan­tial amount of money to get them back.

The medals are a very im­por­tant part of our fam­ily’s his­tory – so maybe we were com­pla­cent and should have kept in closer con­tact with the re­la­tion to en­sure that they stayed with us. They hap­pen to have a mon­e­tary value nowa­days

– but so many things are of sen­ti­men­tal or his­tor­i­cal value within a fam­ily. They cover the aspects of a life which can­not be found in the re­sources on­line.

In my role as ‘fam­ily ar­chiv­ist’ after my fa­ther died, I went into the loft in my par­ents’ home and searched for ev­ery­thing I could find rel­e­vant to his fam­ily his­tory. Among many ob­vi­ous things, I dis­cov­ered an old car­rier bag full of the let­ters he had writ­ten to his par­ents dur­ing the Sec­ond World War, when he was serv­ing in In­dia and Cey­lon (now Sri Lanka). My mother had no idea it was there, so it would have been seen as rub­bish and thrown away. In­stead, I have the let­ters as a fas­ci­nat­ing in­sight into his time in the Royal Air Force.

Pho­to­graphs, cer­tifi­cates, let­ters, post­cards, di­aries, books, prizes, toys… the list goes on. So bor­row and copy what you can, get names on the back of pho­tos, and make it known that Great Grandad’s old paint box does ac­tu­ally mean some­thing to you, and you would rather see it in your house than in a skip. Col­lect and col­late as much as you can, be­fore it is too late.

Our fam­ily his­tory is more than just a tree of names – al­though iron­i­cally in this case, it did help to bring our medals home.

Su­san Rose, by email

EDI­TOR REPLIES: Wise ad­vice Su­san, and I’m glad the medals re­turned to Eve­lyn’s fam­ily.

These medals were awarded to Su­san Rose’s great aunt Eve­lyn M Pike for her ser­vices to nurs­ing

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