The first line of a book is important.

Posted on: July 13th, 2010 by pj
Those few words are what all the 'how to write a bestseller' authors will tell you are the ones that suck the reader in, grab their attention and set the tone and style for the remaining 50,000 or so words.

I had a great opening line for this book.

"My grandfather was born in a register office"

It seemed just about perfect for the beginning of a book about family history.  What a pity it's not true.  The line that got away.  I feel like a fisherman, "No honest, it was THIS good".

It's almost true though.  My grandfather. Len, spent his formative years living at his grandfather's house.  Edwin Rainbow was, amongst other things,  the Registrar of Births and Deaths of Coventry South West District.  They lived in a large house in Queens' Road, Coventry and the register office was on the premises.  Len's dad, Percy had apparently struggled financially with a business venture that hadn't worked out and the family – Len and his parents, Percy and Amy moved in with Edwin.

I was planning to wax lyrical about the rustle of birth certs and the smell of ink somehow permeating Len's psyche as a tiny baby born into the midst of Edwardian record keeping paraphernalia, thus explaining his interest in genealogy and sparking mine too, but alas it was not to be. 

The house in Queen's Road no longer exists.  I took a walk down there a couple of years ago, a cold crisp autumn day, breathy with excitement at seeing where the mythical Edwin actually lived.  At the start it looked hopeful, many of the buildings were the original double-fronted Edwardian villas, albeit now being used as solicitor's and estate agents's offices but as I arrived at number 30 I was horribly disappointed to see it had been knocked down and a student hostel built in its place.  Not an inappropriate choice of building though as Edwin was seriously interested in education, particularly further education.  I’m not sure if he was interested in genealogy – maybe his occupation as a registrar dulled any enthusiasm for poking round in the records.

I've discovered that researching family history is a never ending task.  Occasionally I sit back, cast an eye over the boxes and files and decide I’ve come to a natural conclusion and that it’s time to put it all down on paper in neat chronological order.  Then a snippet of additional information surfaces or more records are opened up on the internet and the chase begins again.  It’s taken a while but I’ve gradually come to realise that my work in this area will never be ‘complete’ and I need to get everything recorded before my notes (and brain) get too old, crumpled and indecipherable.

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