Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Mary's ancestry

    Uncovering the tragedy of an ancestor, mother of a young child, facing death amidst the horrors of Newgate Gaol, revealed the grief brought upon the family at that time. Further examination of earlier incidents disclosed an intrigue, a likely link with a governess employed in the house of Nell Gwynn and deceived by a false promise of matrimony.
    This is the history of the Wollstonecraft family, the family of Mary Wollstonecraft, courageous pioneer, far in advance of her time, who revolutionised attitudes towards the female role in society.
    Thus begins the introduction to Daphne Johnson's The Wollstonecraft Family History.  Many resources cross my desk, and this is my pick of the week. What a treasure trove! And what a researcher! I believe Ms Johnson is an amateur, as am I; she brings new lustre to the word. 
      As is the custom when tracing your family roots, I have commenced with the most recent history and worked backwards in time. In so doing, I hope I am able to acquaint the novice in ancestral research with the resources that are available to assist. Perhaps I am also able, thereby, to share some of the excitement I have experienced in finding clues along the way and piecing scraps of evidence together.
      I have included a number of reproductions of the records, some hundreds of years old. They are fascinating, particularly to those with an interest in palaeography. I have been privileged to handle the original documents myself and have found it quite thrilling to be presented with them. They are all carefully preserved, sometimes parchment rolls complete with the dust of centuries, and I have enjoyed the challenge of deciphering the writing to expose the secrets within.
    One of the mysteries she probes is the identity, or rather identities, of Edward Wollstonecraft and Edward Bland Wollstonecraft. One was Mary's grandfather and the other wasn't. It's worth reading for yourself

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