When the present meets the past

Prescot Cables celebrate a goal against City ofg Liverpool

I’ve been working incredibly hard on our Family Tree over the last few months during lockdown and one of the most pleasing aspects of the research is how many paralels I have found between my life and those of my ancestors. It really has surprised me how many places I have lived and worked in which have also been home to those who went before me.

For example, these days I spend a lot of time in Prescot, because of my volunteer role at Prescot Cables FC. It is a lovely town, but I thought my only link to it was my involvement in the football club. Then I made an interesting discovery, which was that my great-great-great-great grandfather was born and baptised in the town.

Jamies Davies was born in Prescot on 9th July 1792 and baptised in the Parish Church on 22nd July. His father was also called James and married Elizabeth Barton (b1765) at All Saints Church in Wigan on 25 March 1788. Four years later, their son was born 14 miles away.

James junior didn’t make a life for himself in Prescot. Instead, he moved South, to the coalfields of the Black Country. His granddaughter, Louisa, gave birth to my great-grandmother, Lois Stephenson. Like James Davies before him, Louisa and her family made a big move in search of work. The Stephensons relocated to South Wales, where Lois met James Hyde. They had six children, five of whom moved with them when James shifted from Pontypool to Stockton-on-Tees. James and Lois’ third child, Lillian, was known to me as ‘Nana’…

So, Nana’s branch of the tree started in Prescot, a place I hold in such affection. This is a very cool thing to learn on its own merits, but it isn’t the only one of this kind I have made.

James Hyde’s grandfather (another of my 4th great-grandfathers) was named James Harris and lived in Harrow, Middlesex, as his father and grandfather had before him. So far, so unremarkable, except for the fact that before we relocated to Merseyside, I had worked for the Middlesex Football Association for five-and-a-half years, out of their offices in… Harrow.

James Harris’s son, Arthur made a similar move to that of James Davies and headed to Wolverhamption, where he worked on the railway and set in train the sequence of events which led to James Hyde meeting Lois Stephenson and ultimately, to me.

I’ve had a few curious coincidences like this pop up in the course of my research. A number of locations with strong happy personal memories – such as settings for particularly memorable holidays or weekend breaks – have turned out to be where distant relatives called home. And of course, I’ve written previously about the Coates’ family’s long association with the beautiful city of York – a changing point every time I travel to Teesside by train and somewhere I have spent a lot of time during my life.

Some people might see this as the influence of higher powers and that those who went before me have attempted to provide a guiding hand. Others might reasonably point out that travel is much easier now than it was in the 18th and 19th centuries and so it was perhaps inevitable that I might work or live in places that my ancesters had.

I suppose that it is possible that both might conceivably be true, but I’m not sure it matters too much. Whether by accident or design, I’m delighted to have ended up where I am now. When Prescot Cables return to action, I’ll have an extra spring in my step when I enter the ground.