Wednesday, September 05, 2007


A tentative, awkward reunion – my Dad and his younger brother – face-to-face for the first time in three decades, with me as facilitator. Dad would be Dad, his brother would be pleasingly unremarkable – ‘normal’, you might say. I would keep my emotions in check up to the point of noticing a wateriness in Dad’s eyes.

Many months ago, I twice outlined an interest in locating my father’s missing brother - the youngest of three brothers/sons, whose parents had both died young.

My Dad’s last contact with his younger brother was almost 30 years ago - a chance encounter on the street of a busy north east market town. Already to me (as a very young child), Dad’s younger brother had something of a mythical quality about him – he was the owner of a guitar that was kept in our family home, yet up to the point of that chance encounter, I’d never met him. Back then, I did not query why this was so. Later, I learned of an unspecified falling out between Dad’s older and younger brothers. This dispute was said to have led to a vanishing act – suddenly, the whole family were off-radar to the younger man. To this day, my mother – ‘Mam’ – is discernibly unimpressed whenever the younger brother is referred to – the gist being that my Dad fell foul of his siblings’ inability to sort out their differences.

Over the past two and a half years, my searches for the missing brother have borne a few red herrings – the website designer, the diver, the sports man and the bird-watcher, but they have not yielded any concrete information related to the missing brother. At least, that was the case until the evening of Sunday 2nd September.

Having spent the weekend in the north east, relaxing with my family and talking to a friend who has developed some expertise around public records, I turned to a commercial online database that I had previously, hurriedly dismissed. On this occasion, however, weary from a long drive and yet mindful of new possibilities, I located a clear record that has undeniably shifted this journey into a different place.

Specifically, my quest has led me to Islington, in north London. And in particular, to Volume Number 13, Page Number 1493, Reference Number 585 of an archive labelled ‘Death Certificates’. A man of the same rare and exact name and - crucially - date of birth as my Dad’s younger brother had his death, at age 25, recorded by the Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages, in May 1985. Thus, these investigations have become a search for the particularities of a very sad story. As I write this, I feel an emptiness that has lingered since Sunday evening. I am thinking of my Dad, who after many years of silence on the subject appeared to have had his interest in his brother genuinely spiked by my tentative amateurish enquiries. Soon, I will have a copy of the record that corresponds with Reference 13-1493-585. This must precede any possible disclosure of my findings to Dad.

Whilst this feels like a journey that is now leaping forward, something nags at me. I ask myself, is it possible that both my Dad and his older brother are really unaware of what happened to their younger brother, or might I have stumbled upon a family taboo that was too unthinkable to discuss with a nine year old boy back in 1985.

Turning off the laptop, a romantic notion evaporates.

For information and advice on how to locate a missing person (UK):-

Missing People - formerly The National Missing Persons Helpline - free on-line message-posting service - 8 reputable support organisations
Salvation Army Family Tracing Service - support in restoring family relationships


Lord Bargain said...

that's an amazing story.

If you knew then what you know now, perhaps you'd never have started looking at all? Is the truth suddenly nowhere near as important?

Shane said...

The matter of the missing younger brother has bothered me for a long time - I simply have not been able to get the fact that so little reference was made to him for so many years. It is possible that many further questions will emerge, but right now, I'm glad that questions have begun to be addressed. I hope against being frustrated by documents being lost/uninformative. The extent and manner with which all of this will be conveyed to my Dad will be difficult. That said, I think the truth does still matter. I'd always rather know, and I wouldn't want my Dad to die without knowing (though I reserve the right to keep everything that I find to myself and claim that nothing ever emerged of the searching) [wrote Shane, as he played God].

OldHorsetailSnake said...

I think it was worthwhile. Leaving things in the dark don't really help anyone. You're a good boy to your dad.

PI said...

Shane it might be an idea - before you tell your dad the sad news - if you can find out where he is buried. It can be heolful to have a touch stone where one can make peace.
Just a thought.

Shane said...

Thanks Hoss, Pi.
Re cemetery advice: Looking ahead, that seems a sensible/logical next step. It seems that a burial/cremation date is necessary for locating such stones etc (via the local authority). Will act following the receipt of the certificate.

Zinnia Cyclamen said...

Oh. That's really sad.

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