Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Trefusis Part 4--The Farm

So this is the continuation of the story about a crazy lady (me!) who took off into the British countryside to find her patriarchal ancestral home. She had heard her whole life of this magical place where the Carpenter family had lived for generations and where her Great-grandfather was able to find and trace their ancestry back to the early 1600s. Trefusis. I told you about or plans here, here and here. I think I'm ready to tell you the rest of the story now.

Notwithstanding driving on the left side of the road, notwithstanding working with a car unlike anything I'd ever driven, notwithstanding dealing with a strange GPS unit, I took off. Luckily I had brought another crazy lady with me--the unflinching Erin Roudabush (well she did flinch once when the car got precariously close to a bush on that side.) The first thing that clicked was that all addresses in England are named. When you live in the countryside at least, each farm or house has a name. You don't live at 10 Waddeston Street, but rather at Waddeston. So coming from the farm "Trefusis" made sense right away. We just had to find this place.

This really is the story of the value of investing your children in their family history. I've been enthralled with this place since I was a little girl. Only because of those years that I wondered about this place did I have the curiosity to find this place and feel out more of my family history along this line. This picture, taken in 1975 shows the descendants of Alvin, my grandfather, son of Joseph Hatten Carpenter. I'm there in the front--oldest grandchild with the purple shorts and white shirt. This picture was taken about the time my grandfather was writing his book about his father. In the picture you can see the sign Grandpa had posted above the door to his house. It read "Trefusis" to honor his own ancestral home. Grandpa had had the sign made, because his father had a similar sign hanging over the house where my Grandfather had grown up in honor of his ancestors. You can see a close up of the picture here. Every time I entered my Grandparent's home, I was reminded of this magical place where we had come from.
I'm not sure where my Grandfather's sign ended up, but several years ago, my sister created a similar sign for my father and for herself. So there have been 4 generations of Carpenters in the US with a Trefusis sign on their homes, harking back to this place, just outside of Bradford on Tone where are ancestors are from.

So probably the most fantastic part of my trip to Great Britain was to get a picture of myself next to the "real" Trefusis sign, along the road at the entrance to the farm. I'm fully aware that this would seem a simple picture to most people, but for me it is just hard to put into words. It is something tugging clear back in the back of my heart. Something really exciting and fulfilling. It was as if several generations were conspiring to pull me back there and I had finally been able to surrender to their wishes.
As it turned out, the farm was beautiful--even in February it was green and lush. We walked up to the home, and knocked on the door, but there was no answer. The house looked much more recent than the picture in my grandfather's book and we couldn't see anything that might resemble that structure. As we proceeded down the street past the fields, there were cows and barns across the way, and more fields surrounding the area. Finally after stealing glances here and there down the street, an older man with two dogs approached us from one of the fields and asked us what we were doing. At this point I was fairly speechless as to what to say to him (you would think all of the things I had planned to say would come to mind, but they did not.) I showed him the copy from my grandfather's book and asked him if he knew where the building in the picture might be. He said he did not and that this home pre-dated my Great-Grandfather's picture. He apparently noticed my Grandfather's explanation above the picture on the page and tried for several minutes to convince me that I was looking for the Trefusis that was in Cornwall (even though Grandfather's explanation was that our Trefusis was *not* the one in Cornwall.) After I could finally get a word in edgewise and tell him that our family was in the Bradford on Tone parish records, he asked me not to take any more pictures and we ended our conversation.

I don't think I was hoping to be invited in for tea, in fact I think I would have been quite uncomfortable imposing on him in any way, shape or form, but I didn't expect someone to be quite so opposed to our presence. Perhaps he felt threatened in some way, I don't know. But I was disappointed to find someone who couldn't be polite and gracious. Oh well. It was still thrilling to be there. He couldn't have put a damper on that no matter what his reaction.

So, despite the farmer, I was thrilled to be able to walk the same roads, and be in the same town that my ancestors inhabited. It is a gorgeous area and I can see why the draw back is so strong. I'll tell you about the town and the beautiful church where so many of my ancestors were married in my next post.

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