By Dan Waddell
Last updated 2011-02-17
The few details Julian Clary did know about his family history came from a sketchy family tree he drew when he was a child. But he knew little or nothing about most of the names on his list. Julian was keen to flesh out the stories of these mysterious relatives who existed only as a childish scrawl on a yellowing piece of card.
The first ancestor Julian wanted to discover more about was his grandfather, Jack Clary. Jack died relatively young, before Julian was born. 'I wonder what he would have made of me,' Julian wondered. 'He'd have been horrified, probably.'
Julian's research took him to the Imperial War Museum at Duxford, where he learned more about his grandfather's role in World War One, as chief mechanic for the Bristol fighters of 48 Squadron.
Jack worked fourteen-hour days in all weather conditions, living in basic accommodation, often under canvas, and under constant threat from enemy air attacks. It was preferable to the mud and blood of the front line, but hard, backbreaking work all the same.
After World War One, it appears that Jack experienced some difficult times. Julian's father Peter dimly recalled having visited his father in a psychiatric hospital some time in the 1930s, but couldn't remember, or hadn't been told, why Jack had been admitted.
Julian managed to find out that the hospital was located in Napsbury in Hertfordshire, that Jack Clary had attended Napsbury voluntarily, and that he chose to stay there between August 1926 and April 1938, when he finally felt well enough to discharge himself. He died in 1951, eight years before Julian was born.
Next on Julian's list was his German great-grandfather or, to use Julian's nickname for him, 'Herman the German'. Herman Tiedemann left Germany for England in the 1870s.
Julian had heard from his father that Herman had been one of the 30,000 German civilian men interned during World War One. He visited his Great Aunt Ivy, the youngest child of Herman and his wife Louisa.
Ivy had almost no memory of her father - she was only three when he died - but she was able to tell Julian that Herman had been deemed too ill to be interned. He had died from consumption in 1917, leaving his wife Louisa to bring up their seven children on her own.
Julian's great aunt remembered the bitter struggles her mother had faced, trying to find enough work to put food on the table for seven hungry mouths, even as her own health began to fail.
To make matters worse, it appears that the young family received little help from Louisa's family. Ivy was convinced it was because they disapproved of Louisa having married a German.
They may well have disapproved of Herman, though Julian unearthed another reason to explain their behaviour, a closely-guarded family secret - Louisa had been six months pregnant when the couple married.
Perhaps this was the real explanation for her family's reluctance to help when Louisa hit hard times in 1917.
Julian turned his attention to his other great-grandmother, Theresa. Julian's mother Brenda believes that it was Theresa's side of the family that carried the artistic gene. 'Thank goodness,' Julian exclaimed, 'because there's just rough, vulgar poverty on the other side.'
Julian found out that she described herself as an artist, but that was not the only intriguing thing about her. On the 1881 census, he was were amazed to discover that Theresa had been born in Trier, Germany - yet more German blood!
Apparently, dear old 'Herman the German' was in good company. Julian and his sister, Frances, wondered if their grandmother knew this secret, but decided that this was unlikely, given that they remembered their grandmother being outraged when the family bought a German dog.
'I hope the BBC is going to pay for our counselling,' Julian told the camera.
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