Tuesday, 18 October 2016

Family Ties



My elder sister is researching our family tree.
I am interested predominately in the maternal branch of the family which seems to originate between Quaker stock from Bristol and poor Irish folk from the back and beyond but my sister quite rightly is collating all the information from both sides.
Yesterday we went to see Joyce, my father's cousin to see if she could furnish us with more information.. Approaching 90 she is the oldest surviving member of his side of the family.

We chatted about this and that , made notes of a long forgotten aunt and had tea and cake, so my sister and I were not quite prepared when our host, with unexpected candour talked about just how dour and bad tempered our grandfather, her uncle, was.
In those days my great grandfather presided over his children with a somewhat iron and controlling fist and each one lived in a house which he had built, the houses set in a row. My grandparents brought up my father and his brothers right next door to Joyce and she remembered just how cruel my grandfather was to my father.
" we heard the beatings through the wall you see" Joyce told us " He used a belt with a.buckle and he never hit the younger boys just Ronnie..Ronnie was the eldest of course, it was always Ronnie that was beaten"
Joyce then recalled that the punishments became so bad that, that her grandfather was informed and subsequently intervened. And it was thought that the abuse stopped although they were never quite sure it did.
When he was alive , my father never spoke of this time at home.
This snippet of a sad part of my father's childhood upset both me and my sister, perhaps for different reasons.
I looked at him in a slightly different light than I had before , for I know, that it is common that the eldest child will often take abusive behaviour from a parent in a way of protecting other siblings.
Apart from the odd 1960s/70s smack , my father was in no way a cruel man with his children. In many ways, especially in later life, he was indeed a sensitive soul.
That's why this news, perhaps sounded so shocking.


* the photo is of the autumn sun glowing on the trees of the churchyard and was taken by teenage boffin Cameron

73 comments:

  1. Very sad findings. And not uncommon.
    Lovely that your father grew up to be a sensitive soul rather than follow the example he was set.
    And all praise to teenage boffin Cameron for his photo.

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  2. my heart hurts for him.

    and for you.

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  3. I guess that it is very difficult for anybody to talk about being physically abused. It's so humiliating - even years after it happened.

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  4. Oh John, that's awful .... your poor Dad ..... our lives are paradise compared to what many suffered ..... and, it still goes on today.
    ...... someone abused like that will either do the same to their children or will make sure that the same thing doesn't happen ..... thank goodness your dad chose the latter. XXXX

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  6. I've never understood these almost ritualised beatings of children. Do you think there was alcohol involved?

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    1. No Tom, as far as I know he was not a drinker at all

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    2. Oh, some other problem then.

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  8. I suppose because I was brought up in a calm household, it always shocks me to read of such families. Of course I did get my whippings, but that was at school.

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  9. It is very hard to be a good role model when a person hasn't had a good role model themselves. My Dad was often pulled from bed as a child when his violent step father had had a row with his Mum and they were both thrown onto the street in the middle of the night. Despite this, he only ever smacked me on one occasion. He is good man held in high esteem despite the cruel and twisted man who subjected him and his half siblings to unimaginable suffering. I expect your Dad did the best he knew how.

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  10. Your father broke the cycle of violence and went on to raise a sensitive, loving child.

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  11. How very sad John, but what a wonderful man your Dad was to not become his father x

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    1. My father had his faults don't get me wrong.....and we didn't get along for many years,,...but that wasn't the story I wanted to tell

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  12. My Mums father was abusive too. The older boys took the worst of it, until they could escape to the Army and Navy. They thought it was normal... My childhood was very different thank goodness. Fighting back a tear now....

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  13. I've seen a lot of wonderful things happen in my almost 70 years of life. Man on the moon,computers,TV....but the best thing is the realization by most intelligent people that it is not OK to beat a child. My grandchildren have NEVER been hit! Progress!

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  14. Kudos to my dad who was also treated abominably by his own father. The worst I can say of my dad is that he was rather absent, then physically absent, but he never beat us and in his own way, he has always loved us. I can see the shadows of what his father did to him even now he is in his 70's and it helps me to be kinder and more understanding to him to know. These stories should be told, even if they make us sad.

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  15. I spent many hours talking with my grandmother, she felt comfortable telling me things she never told her children. It is good that your aunt felt comfortable telling you "the rest of the story."

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  16. Upsetting and disturbing story. Who knows what mental scars and damage resulted from such treatment, which would surely have affected all your father's behaviour towards others, in some way or other?

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  17. been there done that. 1 of 928374650 reasons I never had children; the cycle is broken.

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  18. Oh yes, this news must have been a shock to you. It's of great character, your father didn't treat his children like as he had learned it at home! As a genealogist myself I know how unexpected and sometimes painful news like this can be.

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  19. very sad, but so common. My mother was a bully, like her father...I was relieved when I reconnected with one of her cousins who told of her bullying ... as a victim you think it is just yourself. Glad your father didn't pass it on...

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  20. I'm so glad the cycle was broken. It's amazing the secrets that family keep over so many years. No doubt this gave you a whole different perspective. -Jenn

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  21. My father was a drinker. We never knew if it would be a mean drunk or a sad drunk....we tried to stay out of his way on those occasions. My mom took the brunt of it all to protect us.

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  22. Wow. It's got to be unsettling to learn something like that about your dad's childhood. At least he was strong enough not to repeat the same bad behavior when he became a father himself.

    Fortunately, through public awareness, I think this old-fashioned tendency toward harsh discipline is slowly changing. Society is moving in the right direction.

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  23. It sounds horrific these days but I think it wasn't an unusual thing for children to be disciplined with the 'strap' pre 1950. Unsettling for it to be connected with your own family though. Hopefully the family history search will unearth juicer tales later on. They're usually fun to hear.

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  24. I love that your father didn't continue as he had been brought up and instead was more loving in his own way.

    If we each took the good of our parents and didn't carry on with any of the bad the world would no doubt be a slightly better place.

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  25. I don't think I want to know about my ancestors. There could be all sorts of unpleasant secrets that are best left hidden.

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    1. or it could explain a whole lot

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  26. Heartbreaking story. I am sorry you found it out, sometimes it is best spared these horrid details. On the other hand, such knowledge can help to make sense of a parent's life.

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    1. I never met my paternal grandfather he died when I was a toddler.....my father died suddenly in 1989

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  27. That was sad to hear . . .
    I think he may have closed the door of repeating that behavior . . .
    which lightens my heart . . .
    Belt and buckle . . . how could someone do that . . .

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  28. The good old days were not always so good, not for children.

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  29. How sad. I remember my shock, as a child who was never spanked or hit ( this is why) When my mom told me her abusive father beat her and her siblings with a belt, often cutting them with the buckle, in his drunken rages. Thankfully, my grandmother waited for the right time and took her children and escaped. There were no spankings in my childhood ..

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  30. That must have been so very hard for you to hear.

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  31. Terrible shock for you and your sister, not what you expect, but important to know this aspect of your father's early life. No one is ever black, nor white, just shades of grey. Breaking that cycle is key and to some extent your dad was successful and kudos to him for that. I am open with my own children (now teens) revealing little by little as appropriate the disfunctional aspects of their antecedents - to save them that shock as adults. I am not convinced either 'solution' is perfect.

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  32. The sins of the father...
    And you know- I'm sure that Joyce was marked simply by hearing those beatings.

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  33. I came over here sent by the Sue in Wales and Sue in Suffolk to help up your follower numbers. But now I'm here, I'm sorry about the shocking news about your father's childhood, and glad it did not blight your own.

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    1. The sues are sweet! I hope you stay xx

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  34. i was beaten horribly growing up. so much so that i can get a concussion just by sneezing too hard now. i've never hit my kids or even thought about doing so.

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    1. What an amazing mom you are Joyce. You're a model of hope and courage.

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  35. Beautiful photo, sad story. Abuse in far too many forms continues.

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  36. Your father must have been very strong and intelligent emotionally to have not continued that behavior with his children. That was blessing and a gift, John.

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  37. My father also chose not to continue the beating ways of his own father. He wasn't a saint and we became estranged some 20 plus years ago to the point that he told my brother not to tell me when he was dying until after he was gone. That was sad. My brother and half brothers have had harsh upbringings because of him. Not so much his daughters, I guess that is the abuse legacy being passed on.

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    1. They fuck you up your mum and dad

      So goes the poem

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  38. My own experiences were verbal abuse and neglect. I chose not to tell my children because I didn't want to bring that sadness into their lives. In light of Sam's comment and your experience I think I should craft a narrative. Better to have it told by the one who has always held their hearts in her own.

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    1. I am glad I know what went on now

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  39. I am working on my fambly tree right now.
    It was my maternal grandmother who was the beater. My mother was knocked black and blue (as an adult) for some transgression.
    And there is the story of Uncle Harry who was cracked on the head with the copper stick, fracturing his skull, for lighting matches as a teenager.
    It didnt carry on down the line but whether it was her own childhood story I don't know.
    I have discovered some *ahem* discrepancies with names and birthdates etc. Fascinating.

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    1. My sister has too....as well as some strange things hidden away......like. Cousins marrying cousins

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  40. The autumn tree photo is lovely.

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  41. It's so fascinating and, as in this case, heartbreaking, to hear these stories so many years later. My family didn't keep those skeletons hidden. My maternal grandfather was an abuser but only to his two eldest of 7 children. My aunt finally fought back verbally, which somehow made him ease off her. But the only brother was next in line and the abuse lasted until he left at 18. I hope you find much more fascinating and happy information about your ancestry. Jerry's 9-greats-grandparents left Bristol for the American Colonies in 1639. Maybe you're related!

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  42. The biggest shock in my family tree, reluctantly admitted to me by my mother, was the truth about my father.
    Since the first time I found out that my dad was my stepfather, I was told a story of a tragic love story and untimely death.
    The truth was, he left. He was not a good guy. And as an adult, learning this, I felt nothing but love for my mom who went through such pain and worry and what a good job she did with my brother and I ... I learned as an adult, that just because someone is your father... it doesn't make them part of you in any way ... that goes to the man who raises you along with your mother and teaches you how to love and be a good person.

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    1. Painful, and thank you for sharing x

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  43. I was moved by notes from abroad above John, and do hope you feel the same. When I did my family history I learned one or two facts which made me think that I wished I hadn't started looking into things. I think all families have a few secrets along the way.

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  44. One of the most helpful things I ever read was a piece on how to forgive. It said that we need to realize that people generally do the best they can under the circumstances with the knowledge they have. Most people do not get up in the morning and wonder how they can inflict pain and suffering on other people. It makes me wonder what the story was on your grandfather's upbringing. What were his circumstances and what was his knowledge, that he ended up beating the one son so much? It happened to someone close to me as well; his father abused him and not his two brothers. I don't know why. But, like your father, he did not pass on the abuse to his children, thankfully. Some people do not perpetuate their own experiences; instead, they learn what they do not wish to repeat.

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  45. My family has a story that is quite similar. A grandfather who had an intense dislike/personally clash with one of his four sons (8 children in the family) frequently beat him, and refused to allow him the go to secondary school. He went on to run a very successful business so it wasn't that he was stupid. He didn't repeat the abuse with his own children to my knowledge. Back then intra-family abuse of children seems to have been accepted? Perhaps some of the next generation were also affected by their first war experiences?

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  46. One word of caution, John. Whilst there are always many grains of truth in a cornfield people also do have their own agenda when they relate "the past" in absence of the person talked about. You don't even need to be dead for people to put their own spin on someone's history they know little about.

    Having said that, and as some of your other commentators have remarked upon, the world our forefathers grew up in was often, not always, a harsh one. Some people repeat history, some are able to transcend it.

    U

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    1. i am aware of this Ursula the truth can be as fickle as memory.....

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  47. This upsets me so much to read.

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  48. Oh John, this is so sad to hear! One never forgets the beatings. We go one, become parents and try to not make the same mistakes. I made a stand and said no whippings and I didn't on my children but I made other mistakes. I do think verbal abuse is worse though. Okay, this is my birthday 🎉 🎈🎊 Cheers 🍻 to all. I'll have my Diet Pepsi and y'all can have whatever you like. To another year of laughter shared with loved ones.🍻

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    1. Happy Birthday Gabrielle !
      Let there be Cake.

      cheers, parsnip

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    2. happy birthday gabriel :)

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    3. I just read this, thank you so much angry and notes!

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  49. I suffered emotional,abuse from my stepfather as a child growing up.
    Now he is 93 and thinks I'm gods gift because he doesn't have anyone
    else to help him and my mum stay living independently. Ironic.
    I didn't tell my sons until they were adults as he didn't take part in family life and preferred it if my mother didn't as well. Everyone has a story!

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  50. My grandmother told me stories of our cousins and how their father was an abusive drunk. Their mother tried to protect her children but suffered from RA so badly that her fingers had curled and were useless. Their yougest son was so terrified of his father that one day he hid under his house during winter and was found by my grandmother almost frozen to death. There were no laws to protect them from this monster.

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  51. My heart hurts, but, unfortunately this happens even unto today. It seems most every family has/had a problem like this. We were once told that the reason my father's family came to Calif.(leaving W.Virginia)was because my grandmother had been beating her children so badly that the powers to be were talking of taking the children away.My father more or less confirmed this.
    Sad but so it is.

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  52. There is absolutely no excuse or rationale for inflicting cruelty on children. None whatsoever.

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  53. I've read this post John...enuff said.

    Jo in Auckland, NZ

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  54. Quite a sober story.

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  55. Very sad. Do you wish that you hadn't heard this part of your father's history, or are you glad to know more about him, even though it's a sad part?

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