I have always been a keen amateur genealogist. The introduction of programmes like Who Do You Think You Are? and the ever increasing availability of historical records online, has just added fuel to the fire. It wasn’t long before this passion began to feed into my textile art. (BA hons Winchester School of Art).
The past and the secrets it holds have long been a fascination to me and have fueled a lot of my creative exploration. It was through this process that my current project ‘Lost Voices’ was born. While researching my Grandad’s family I discovered that he had four sisters that he knew nothing about. These four young girls had been lost to history and their voices silenced in the family. The rediscovery of the girls spurred in me the desire to reclaim their place in history through my art and started my journey to discover ‘Lost Voices’.
My newly discovered great aunts shall now, with the help of this blog, be able to reclaim their identity. They were Ellen Rose Violet, Maud Alice Gertrude, Rose Beatrice and Gertrude Selina Heyes. Both Rose Beatrice and Gertrude Selina died within the first two years of their birth, Ellen died aged 8 and Maud at age 4. To say it was a shock to find these little girls is an understatement to say the least, something even more surprising was yet to come.
One of the great things about the internet in recent years, well for genealogy nuts like me anyway, has been the online availability of those records that used to be stored away in archives gathering dust and small familys of spiders. The world of genealogy has opened up to those of us who don’t have the time or the resources to trek the country searching for those very personal links with the past. For those of you reading this who are yet to venture into the murky and glorious depths of your own family tree, I can’t recommend it highly enough. A good first step to test the waters is by going to Ancestry.co.uk or .com, depending on your location, and it was through this website I made a fantastic connection to a fellow enthusiast and member of my family, fantastic discoveries and startling realisations followed in quick succession. My new found friend and relative had a glorious collection of photographs that my little twig of the family tree had never seen, one of which showed one of my great aunts, these little girls, slowly were coming alive again and being brought back into the family.
What was even more remarkable was the realisation that an old family photo that my family had had for years actually contained the image of another of my great aunts, Ellen Rose Violet Heyes. This mystery girl in the photograph whose identity had never been known, suddenly came to life, with all I had found out. These girls whose voices had been stolen could now speak to me and would never be lost again. These revelations inspired me to start on a journey to reclaim the children lost through time and give them a voice with my work.