Forgotten Family Faces

To my complete astonishment, a long-lost cousin found me through this website.  She had Googled one of our ancestors and found ‘Postcards from Kerry’.  I am a few years older than her but we share the same great grandparents – the Pinkmans – my maternal grandmother’s family.  My cousin was brought up in England, north of Liverpool, as was my Nana.  It was such a lovely surprise to be able to reconnect.  Over the years my aunt and I had been musing on why we had lost touch with that branch of the family and now we are all in contact again.

One of the first photos that my cousin sent was the sepia print above.  I think I had seen this photograph before my Nana died in 1974 but had forgotten what my great grandparents looked like.  My Nana, Kathleen, is 4th from the right between her brothers and this is the earliest photo I have of her.  Her face reflects her soft and gentle nature, although she had a fun feisty side too (I inherited that…)  I was looking in vain for a resemblance between us but then I saw a glimpse of her only great grand-daughter, her namesake.  Nana died long before she was born as most of our family married a little later than conventionally acceptable in those days.

Nana was the oldest girl in the Pinkman family and lived a life very different to mine as a child.  They lived a comfortable middle-class life in a three-story house steps from a beautiful beach.  There was a governess and music lessons.  Then both of their parents died within a short time of each other.  My working theory is that it could have been the last flu Pandemic in 1918 but who knows?  Nana looked after the younger children until she was past marriageable age.  She joined a convent as a novice nun but left to marry my grandfather Daniel McHugh, who was also older, then they moved to the farm in Ireland.

My cousin and I emailed about some of the family mysteries.  The whole family (in the photograph) were ethnically Irish and their original name was McGuire.  We are unsure if they anglicized their name to Pinkman or the authorities.  Irish settlers were not warmly welcomed in most countries, including England where there were signs on pubs saying “No dogs or Irish”.  Ironically my Celtic accent makes me very popular now…dogs like me too.

For some reason Nana was most unwilling to share details of her parents to me or her children despite my interrogation.  “What was your Mummy like, Nana?” “Little girls should be seen and not heard” was the frequent response.  There was a family disgrace which I blogged about in this post Our Irish Family Secret.  Despite that, I remember my Nana’s fondness for her younger brother.  Another family member revealed that the family spoke Irish Gaelic at home, which was a surprise.  My DNA and records confirm that we are from the Midland region of Ireland – Sligo, Mayo, Leitrim and Cavan.  Our McHugh family farm had land in both Sligo and Leitrim.

Our family has been enhanced by this family reconnection; it brought back lovely memories of meeting all my great aunts and uncles in England when I was younger.  Looking at the photograph, I think of the sadness that was to follow.  My great grandma was a little stouter than I expected but had a sweet face.  Great grandpa looked uncannily like one of my Iberian ancestors on the other side – Dark Irish, perhaps?