This afternoon, coincidentally around the same time as Sean Connery, our Aunty Nancy died.
Nancy (née Laity), was born at the start of 1935, the youngest child of three born to Lily May Jacobs and William Henry Laity.
By 1940 William had deserted Anna and the children. Eventually he would have a second family with another daughter and three more sons, including my Dad.
Nancy and her sister Stella, were avid lovers of family history, genealogy, and Cornish culture. Nancy was, in fact, my first real life example that genealogy & family history are not only things that it is okay to like, but also that it was the kind of thing that real people could engage with.
Nancy once told me that she early on in her marriage to Jim she had started looking for the half siblings. The search proved fruitful and both Stella and Nancy were writing regularly with my Dad by the mid 90s.
We all attended the 'Great Laity Gathering' family reunion in Marazion in the summer of '97, arriving a day or so early in order to meet Stella, Noah, Nancy, Jim & Alison first.
|Nancy & Stella the first day we met|
Taken outside Stella's house in St. Blazey.
|'Great Laity Gathering 1997'|
Trip to St. Michael's Mount to see the
portrait of Dolly Pentreath
RH edge: Dad (in black), Sis (in white), Mum (in orange)
I took the photo. Walking between Stella & Nancy.
That trip was the one that consolidated that there would always be a family history & genealogy journey at some point during my life. Stella made a proper Cornish tea that first afternoon and from then, throughout the rest of her life until she entered nursing care, Nancy gave me first potted genealogy basics lessons, what 'vitals' are, how to record and read trees, primary documents, secondary sources and photographs. She even taught me about the fine art of graveyard hunting for dead relatives. Later she would go on to share more research tips & first her discoveries, then later, she shared mine with equal excitement. She was so encouraging from day one. I remember she said to me that first day, if I got good, perhaps I could join the 'family genealogy team', co-ordinated by cousin Russell in the states. I said I'd love to join in and research with her & she joked that maybe after she passed, a slot might come up for me. I've lived half in terror of that happening ever since. Nevertheless, it was a really motivating joke. She was an exceptionally clever woman.
We stayed in touch and another proud day, was when my eldest son was tiny and we were able to get down to Newquay, she made him his first taste of Cornish pasty and on the same day, taught me the family pasty recipe.
We stayed in touch across the years, mostly sharing family & genealogy news.
The weekend before my Dad died we spoke on the 'phone and she was so warm, loving and supportive.
Mum and I saw her last in June 2015, not long before she moved into nursing care. Shortly after, with the help of cousin Russell, we made a discovery about the family tree that allowed us to push back one generation by using the Land Grants of Henry VIII in Cornwall. This also allowed us to unify some of the branches higher up and tidy off some loose ends. I wrote to her about it, but I'm not sure she was able for that kind of information by that time. Still, it felt the right thing to do to keep her included. I never did write to her about the DNA side of things. Mainly because I think by that time, it would have been a bit beyond her. In a parallel world though, it would have been so cool to look together over our shared DNA & chase down the people and the stories.
I will most remember her as a massive source of love and support. She didn't care about the circumstances of how we came to be related, but that we were family.
Tonight I am strolling again through the Laity side of the family tree. Retracing her steps and seeing what there could be out there that's new.
Sleep tight Aunty Nancy. You are so loved. xxx