Thursday, 16 August 2007

Chapter 131

Shaking the tree: the patient analysis of every bit of information they’d gleaned so far. When Danny returned to the office to refill the machine with a fresh jug of water, Harry was already standing by the flip-chart, pen in hand, poised to start work. He looked every inch the college lecturer he had once been, his stance natural an relaxed.

“We’ve got to pick everything apart – and I mean everything! You OK for the rest of the night?”

Danny nodded, even if he wasn’t sure his definition of ‘the rest of the night’ co-incided with that of a man who seemed to exist on no sleep. He hoped it might mean just a couple of hours or so.

“Let’s start at the top. James and Amelia McFry.” He wrote their names on the chart. “Remind me…”

Danny got his drift, and searched through his notes.

“From the 1881 Census. You yourself said you had a note of them from your own studies into the McFry’s. And your friend, Julian, confirmed he’d seen the same record.”

“Hmmm… well, I’ll give it a ‘1’, I guess.” Harry scribbled the number next to their names, and circled it.

“What’s a ‘1’?” Danny asked – a look of puzzlement on his face.

“It’s the lowest possible score. We have one piece of information about this couple – a census record from 1881. We don’t even know if they were married.”

“But what’s this score all about?”

“You’ll see. It’s all about information. Sources. Now,” Harry said, warming to his theme. “Didn’t Laurel tell us, or at least you – that she had a marriage for a James McFry and an Anne Lawrence?

Danny turned a couple of pages in his pad. “Yes – that’s right.”

“Well, I’ve asked my contact at the GRO to look into that one. I’m not happy with this Amelia / Anne problem. We were stupid – we should have got that marriage certificate last week. Still, we might just get it tomorrow, all being well.” Harry looked disgusted with himself, Danny thought - but couldn’t work out why. Not much point beating themselves up about something that could be resolved with the help of Harry’s shady contact at the General Records Office, surely? But Harry wanted to move on, the tip of his marker pen resting on the chart.

“You also said, I think, that Laurel mentioned a younger brother of Anne Lawrence: John James. But you didn’t find them together in a census – is that right?”

Danny nodded, as Harry stepped across to briefly study his own notes. ”Hmm … not really a problem if he’s the younger brother. We might get them on the 1911 Census if we made an application.” Only a matter of months earlier, the Government had begun to accept applications for details from that particular census under the Freedom of Information Act, but it required knowledge of the address of the people you were looking for, and the process was a lengthy one.

“We might know a bit more tomorrow from the certificates, but I’ll add John James to the chart for now.” Harry drew a line above Amelia / Anne, which branched off to show her brother. “We’ll come back to these Lawrences later… but he gets no score at the moment.” He paused a second, reaching for a draught of coffee, then wiping his lips with the back of his wrist. The room was getting cold, with the window open, but at least some of the smoke had cleared.

“OK. So far, so good. I’m happier with the McFry children. Give me the details.” He watched as Danny turned more pages in his pad. He knew he’d been right to take the boy under his wing, could see his potential as a future, seasoned, genealogist. Whatever the outcome of this case, he could see himself working with Danny Longhurst again.

Danny reeled off the McFry brother’s birth details, and watched as Harry charted them up.

“Much better,” Harry said. “These all deserve a ‘2’, at least, don’t you think?”

Danny had worked out, by now, how Harry’s system worked. Each person was allocated a score, based on how much primary information they’d collected about them. They had the birth certificates for Stuart (1908), Thomas (1911) and Philip (1924). Harry was warming to the task in hand. “In fact, we’ve got some additional details that might make us up the score a little…”

But Danny was thinking about the gap between Thomas and Philip. Thirteen years was a long time – if his own parents had followed that pattern, he would have had a kid brother who was just six years old. As it was, he’d got used to being an ‘only child’, and couldn’t really imagine what it would be like to have had a sibling. Even if the experience of a few days with Harry and his brother had shown him some of the disadvantages that might accrue.

“Don’t you agree?” Harry’s question drew Danny back on track.

“Meaning what?”

“Well, you found the Commonwealth War Graves reference to Stuart, didn’t you? And we have a death certificate for Thomas. I’m not too worried about Philip - his death was quite recent, and even Laurel should have got that right.”

Danny noticed what might have been a brief sneer crossing Harry’s lips, but it disappeared as quickly as it came. He wondered whether Harry was being too hard on Laurel: not everyone was as obsessed by genealogy as he was, after all. Everyone made mistakes when it came to family history, just as in life itself. And if anyone should know that, then surely it was Harry McFry?

1 comment:

the domestic minx said...

Oh welcome back!!!
In spiffing form too!

I give it 10 out of 10!!