Heavy frost across my neighbor’s roof reminds me that however long our warm spell is, perhaps today it’s over. Bright sunshine belies the low temp, blue skies beckon and there is nary a breeze. The feeder is very busy with nuthatches, chickadees. and tufted titmice, small birds who take their turn politely, waiting with intent patience for a perch to be vacated. They see me through the window and don’t mind my presence. Watching them is calming, a way to ease into the day.
Laundry is deep in the washing machine, I’m dressed, sort of, and my visiting daughter has risen, fully dressed and wanting breakfast. She’s been here long enough to know where things are kept and will make her own. I love guests who don’t need tending.
An avid genealogy aficionado, she works at it obsessively and has gained the respect of other genealogists looking at Crispins, Crepins, and maybe cretins, all of them owned by the hunt and the award winning finds. They are looking at William the Conqueror and his cronies, as they search the French domain of their subject, piecing together the possibles. I listen, fascinated, to the talk of liaison marriages, the value of monied families for their women, the amazing stories extant of their escapades. She is thrilled to know she is Norman. I remind her of the huge slug of Scot that runs in her veins, spiced with a big hit of German. The result is a dangerous mix of sharp tongue and wicked temper. Ie., don’t argue with us; it’s not pretty.
She tells me of a new wife in her new castle, her audacity to lock out her husband ending in her killing. Silly goose. The plotting was a fave pastime, position everything and the game always on.
I spent ten years doing the exact same thing but in the period of 1640 to 1725, mostly in England and America. Dry and boring to my child, whose genealogy gene turned on when her husband gifted her with her own computer. Her characters are far more interesting. Who knew we were related to the Sheriff of Nottingham in the correct period? Who knew the Eyre family was “small gentry” and what were they doing in the king’s employ, hanging out at court? Who knew they were graced with coat armor? How’s come these nobodies were tight with the king? Those to the manor born detested their presence. Upstarts who were granted the king’s favor and for what?
The snooties ignored them, ostracizing them at court until the king’s men pulled their ears close and said the smart thing to do would be to welcome them with open arms because king, you dummies.
Eyre kept the king’s forest, which meant they were husbandmen counting the king’s deer. Snatching one meant death certain. Eyre moved on to the king’s lead mines, his sheep, and anything else needing trustworthy men. And there you have the reason. In a time when conniving, horse trading, and thievery were rampant as the upper crust swarmed each other for position, Eyre did not intrigue. Their honesty and strict attention to detail kept them in service to the crown for generations. They were rewarded for their honesty and simple goodness with coin of the Crown, with their own manors and lands. Of course they were not understood. The way they ran their lives was alien to the connivers. It wasn’t natural.
They did dabble in a bit of intrigue eventually. Depending on the religion of whichever royal, Eyre was Protestant or Catholic as the need arose. At Padley, in Hathersage, the family hid a priest in a pope’s hole behind the fireplace in the central hall. Discovery landed the head of the house in prison for the rest of his life, his property confiscated and his family paupered. The hidden priest(s) fared much worse. Dispatched to the local bridge, hanged, drawn and quartered.
These people were not nice.
My daughter turns out to be an excellent sleuth, knows where to look, understands her finds. No wonder she’s fixated. She takes copious notes, is encouraged by several towering researchers who never suffer the bits of fluff dallying with the subject and give her the time of day because in her search she uncovers nuggets they missed. That’s because newbies don’t draw conclusions about anything. They turn over every stone, toss it in the air and ask “is this anything?” Answer? Um, oh hell yes! It makes me smile. I did the same thing. My mentor dropped everything and paid attention. He had a single mantra: show me your data. In the current work of my daughter, there is little data. Things were not recorded then. William carved up his booty and rewarded his men for their loyalty. The significant Eyre lost a leg saving his king in battle, before William was king. His reward? Lots of turf. So goes the legend, with enough evidence lending some truth.
The saga moves forward. Perhaps I can convince her to write her own book. Goodness knows, it’s a great story.