Spring cleaning turns up mystery keepsakes?

Wednesday 9 May 2012, 11:05

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Like every responsible computer owner I try to perform regular software updates and ensure that my computer is clean, virus free and as unclogged as possible. So while it has been raining this week (and last week and probably next week too) I have spent some time filing, backing up, deleting and emptying my trash.

But it appears that I am not as thorough as I should be, and I am clearly failing to practise what I preach.

I hereby solemnly confess to having found some images on my computer. I'm talking about photographs of someone's ancestors and other valuable family documents, which I should have put into the correct folder immediately after scanning. Obviously I forgot and now I can't remember. Worse still it seems that neither can my computer!

Arthur Ridley Cottam

Is there an Arthur Ridley Cottam in your family tree? Would you like to have him back (since I know for sure that he doesn't belong in my family tree)?

Arthur Ridley Cottam

I know Arthur comes from Wales. He was part of a family tree that I have researched for BBC Radio Wales' Look Up Your Genes during the first series in 2002. I know this only because very cleverly the computer has saved the date that I scanned the image 21/11/2002 within a folder marked "BBC LUYG Roadshow".

I can tell that he was a fisherman (maybe I should have been a police officer!). He might belong to a family who lived near the sea and since we had fantastic Look Up Your Genes roadshow events in both Barry and Aberystwyth that year maybe he comes from one of those towns.

Start naming the people in your photographs

If like me you are frustrated whilst it's raining why not sit down one afternoon with a pencil, surrounded by your old photographs and the people you love, and go through each picture. Make sure you write clearly who it is in the photograph, where and when it was taken, and whether it might have been of special importance.

It doesn't matter whether it is a recent glossy digital photo or an old dog-eared sepia image retrieved from the attic. What matters is that the individuals are identified before the details are lost forever.

Which brings me onto my second confession.

In the summer of 2005 myself and Charlotte Evans went to the flea market in Abergavenny for Look Up Your Genes. The idea was that we purchased a few choice items with familial historical interest and reunited them with someone from the original family.

It was a great idea in theory, but in practice it proved a lot harder, especially since the items we chose surrendered few clues.

While spring-cleaning my computer I also found this misfiled postcard. It cost just a few pence and we chose it because the words seemed to bring alive the spirit of the time.

Postcard to Lil

Front of post card

9th August 1918, Portsmouth

Dearest Lil,

Just a line to say I am having ripping good time. Trusting you enjoyed yourself, which I have no doubt. I went to a dance last night. I can tell you Dear there were plenty of sailors and midies. I should very much like you to be here with me as times are jolly......ta ta for now, with love Gladys xxxx

It's addressed to Miss L Wilson, No 10 Montjoy Street, Newport, Mon.

The postcard was obviously designed to promote daylight saving and even the short poem and drawing on the front seems to evoke a sense of making the most of any precious time available during the last few months of World War One.

I wanted to reunite the postcard with Lil Wilson's family. To return it to them, and for them to have the chance to cherish it and remember Lil fondly. To think of her racing down to Portsmouth to join her friend Gladys and dance the night away on the arm of a sailor. Perhaps they even have a photo of Lil. Maybe she married a sailor or that could just be my imagination running away with me.

So, come rain or shine I know what I must do over the next couple of weeks. It's not so much of a punishment for losing them on my computer, more of a homework-type challenge really.

I must find Arthur Ridley Cottam and Lil Wilson's families and return their items.
I must find Arthur Ridley Cottam and Lil Wilson's families and return their items.
I must find Arthur Ridley Cottam and Lil Wilson's families and return their items.

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