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  • Writer's pictureKaren

Puzzles, log piles and family…

So a few days ago it was my birthday and I ended up stacking a 3m cube pile of logs ready for the winter.  Not what I thought I would be doing on my birthday.  Last year I was on my way with Mum to Australia to visit our ‘new’ family for the first time.  Spending 2.5 hours stacking wood inspired me to write this.  What, might you ask has stacking wood got to do with either family or puzzles? 

When I was a child I spent hours doing jigsaw puzzles, I still enjoy the odd 2000 piece puzzle although my family despair with me taking over the dining room table for weeks on end!  I just love the feeling of satisfaction when I find the place for a piece that seems to not fit anywhere and when I finally finish it I can sit back and look at the picture that for me has come to life.  I must say my favourite jigsaw puzzles are the Wasgij puzzles.  They are basically like doing a jigsaw blind, the picture on the box is the view from the people in the jigsaw, they are great fun.  If you like a jigsaw with an added twist you should have a look

Creating a family tree is a bit like doing a huge puzzle set in the past especially when you are researching ancestors that you had no knowledge of.  Before my trip to Australia I wanted to put together a small family tree for all of Mum’s siblings with information about their ancestors through their fathers side.   I came across an interesting character when I was researching Uncle Tony’s fathers family.  Initially, my research told me that his great-grandfather Léon-Gaéton, born in France had immigrated to England sometime between 1872 and 1884.  He had two sons Called René Joseph and Léon Gustave and then I found another son called Raymond Leon supposedly born in the same year as Léon Gustave, were they twins? The name Raymond seemed like a very english name compared with the other names the other boys were given.  So using the General Register Office  I looked up all the births and there was no record of a Raymond Leon being born.  So where did he come from?  I found in the 1891 census the whole family had taken the surname Robinson, which was the maiden name of Léon-Gaéton’s second wife.  The boys’ mother went on to marry someone else as well although I can find no record of a divorce from their first marriage.  Why did the boys remain with their dad and not go with their mother?  A question I have not been able to answer yet. So, I have a family who not only changed their surname but also the name of Leon Gustave to Raymond Leon.  Maybe the father was hiding?  Maybe he didn’t want to advertise that he was from France?  Maybe he was leading a double life?  It reminds me of a current BBC programme Mrs Wilson – I’ll have to do some more digging on this!  This change of surname made me realize that it was likely that they had just changed the name taking out the rather Germanic sounding middle name.  In 1899 Léon-Gaéton was jailed for 1 day in Pentonville for bigamy, he is later seen in the 1911 census back with his second wife but both with his surname.  In 1917 he went on to have one more son by a third woman after Maude had died, he called him Leon too!  I imagine that there are some fascinating stories about this French man, but sadly I don’t think I will ever get to hear them.    

So what does any of this have to do with stacking wood? Well, as I was stacking the wood, making each log fit so that they wouldn’t all fall over, even the most quirky of shapes, it reminded me of a family.  Everyone has their own place to fit in a family and if one is missing it can throw everything off.  I feel that each day that passes where I find out more information about our ancestors, how and where they lived, where they came from, where they ended up, has become my latest puzzle.  The best puzzle of my life.

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