Oral History – A Pinch of Salt or a Grain of Truth? (Part Two)

Oral History SeriesA few weeks ago I mentioned that I had been an attendee at the Yorkshire Guild of One-Name Studies (one-name.org) regional meeting – you can read that post here

In that post I mentioned that there was a link to my Oral History Series and over the last week I have been doing some tentative research and reading over all my old notes, so that I could gather those thoughts together and write this post. The second Sue to talk at the event focused on researching those who were of Romany, Traveller or Gypsy descent.

My maternal Grandmother had very dark tanned forearms, the sort of colouring if you have been sitting out in the sun for long periods of time. My Grandfather always used to say to her

Lil, it’s the Gypsy in you!

I never gave it a second thought at the time, after all, our elders are full of expressions and sayings which might not necessarily make sense or have reasons behind them. If there was any truth in the saying, I very much doubt my Grandmother knew. She knew very little about her father’s family other than he came from Rubgy in Warwickshire and he and my Great Grandmother would return there every year, presumably to see family.

When I started researching my Grandmother’s ancestry and, in particular her paternal side, the Matthews family (which is also a Guild registered surname) I eventually found my way back to a family called the Drakely and Drakeley family. The Drakeley’s were from Nuneaton in Warwickshire, England; they were a family well known for working on the fairgrounds and canals, indeed, my own Drakeley’s were on the canals.When I first came across the canal element, I assumed that it was simply an occupation for shifting coal from the Midlands of the Country to other areas. I certainly never gave it more than a glancing thought.

I pondered off and on over the years and wondered if there was a grain of truth in the saying or whether I should take the story with a pinch of salt. When I spoke with the Guild member who runs the Matthews Study I asked him if he had come across the surname Drakeley and was told yes. Interesting I thought and wrote myself a note to dig into it further. One other snippet from the session was the reference to the first name of Bethesda. My several times great Grandmother was Bethsheba Drakley who married William Matthews – are these two first names linked? Bethsheba is from the Old Testament.

Almost two weeks on, I don’t have any particular information more than I had then, except the background to the travelling families, their origins and lifestyle was most certainly expanded. Before Christmas there was a BBC programme, “A Very British History” and the first episode of the four was in fact on the Romany families. As luck would have it, it was still available to download and I was able to watch it, making a few notes as I went.

My parting comment today is, if you have loose ends like these, do revisit them and make every effort to explore and understand if there is truth in the story or it is just a whimsical statement. Whether there is truth to this story or not, does not bother me, it is most certainly fascinating and interesting to understand the culture and history.

If, of course the Drakeley’s were Gypsy or travellers then these folk were my people and I should make every attempt to understand them, their lifestyle and hurdles they needed to overcome.

 

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