Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Chinese Whispers and Family Traditions

Chinese Whispers is a game where a verbal message is passed along a line, one person whispering to the next, and often the message that come out of the far end of the line is significantly different to the original message. This can happen over the generations with family traditions so be careful you do not drop a brick - by repeating the "old" story without checking.

I have just come up with a good modern example from my own family of how a story can change.

When I first became interested in family history I was told by elderly relatives that two of my great grandfathers on opposite sides of the family,  Jacob Reynolds  and John Locke, had made the bricks which were used to build separate churches -  St Saviour's Church  in St Albans, and Hale Leys Chapel in Aylesbury. 

St Saviour's Church, St Albans
I was well aware that the Locke family made bricks in Aylesbury for about 100 years and there seems to be little doubt about that part of the story. I was also aware that Jacob Reynolds was a farmer and businessman who had brick earth on his farm - and while bricks were made carrying his initials he may never has personally molded a single brick. However he was very much involved in the financial side of the building of St Saviour's and I have often looked at the large brick edifice with pride.Those bricks had come from a brick pit on his farm - and if I could take one out it would carry the initials J R on it.

However the other day Roger contacted me after talking to a local bricklayer, and also found a reference to the building that suggested I might be wrong. I now know that the bricks you can see in the photograph are definitely not Jacob's bricks. When the story was passed on to me it would seem that two words had dropped from the sentence:
"Jacob Reynolds made some of the bricks used in the building of St Saviour's Church."
While Jacob's brick works almost certainly made some of the bricks they would be in the chancel - at the east of the church - and invisible in the photograph. What is true, and is well documented, is that he raised the money for building the church. More information and some of the questions raised about the brickmaking in the area are discussed in Bricks use to build St Saviour's Church, St Albans, 1896-1902

How sure are you that some of your own family traditions have not been modified by the effects of Chinese Whispers???
If you have any good Hertfordshire examples why not tell us about them.

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