As part of a project at school in sixth form, I was asked to draw my family tree. At the time, I thought, great – not enthusiastically, however! It wasn’t because I had another piece of meaningless homework to do, or the fact I had one evening to complete it. It was because I had no idea where to start and where to end!
I’d asked my mother to help me, and I remember her looking at me as if to say ‘well, this won’t exactly be an easy task’. She sat down next to me, scrap paper and a pen at hand, and watched me scribble down the names and dates of those I knew.
I didn’t know much about my father’s side. In fact, I had rarely asked many questions as I felt that that side of my family was big enough already! I remember visiting my dad every other weekend in Slough with my younger brother, we were avid cinema-goers and there were a couple of occasions where my dad would briefly stop to greet someone en route. He’d later ask if we remembered them and then casually disclose that they were a cousin of ours. It always left me bewildered, my brother was indifferent. We did seem to have a lot of ‘cousins’ who all lived in Slough…
Of course, those directly connected to my family in one way or the other we were frequently in touch with. Visiting on birthdays and other important familial affairs. So, when it came to writing down the names it was easy, I knew these people. But, what I didn’t know was how they fitted into the family tree!
Fortunately, my mother knew! I remember being told by a member of my immediate family as a child about the spelling and pronunciation of the name Carty. They told me that it had been lost in translation. It was an anglicised version of O’Carthaigh, from the Gaelic name Cartach. That’s all I was told and as far as I had gotten in the minimal time I spent researching my family names.
It was interesting learning the reason why I had my name. I also thoroughly enjoyed learning about the strange ‘family secrets’ and oddities that families often carry around with them.
Nonetheless, despite all the oddballs in that side of the family, it was my maternal side I was more curious about – the Selkridges. It’s a very unique name and no-one in my family had any knowledge of when and where it originated.
"Of course it's interesting...There's been so much speculation and animosity around the name, it's just become some sort of life achievement. I need to find out where my name came from and why."
My grandparents had attempted to research the name themselves a few times. Unfortunately, they had not gotten further than my grandfather’s 4x great-grandfather – Charlie Selkridge – who was Scottish. There were no records (that we had been able to get a hold of by a simple google search), only information passed down via word of mouth. It’s also possible it became misconstrued as it was first believed that Charlie, was my grandfather’s father.
Not only is there missing information, but there are those that are genuinely ‘missing’. Those that are present in the family tree but we have no contact with. Cousins I’ve met but was too young to remember. Aunties and uncles who live elsewhere, too far away to keep in touch, connected only through Facebook.
I had to stick another piece of paper at the end of the family tree to complete it. It’s silly, because at the end of the evening I was left with a messy family tree filled with people I didn’t know. The trees were never returned, and they didn’t even get graded.
It may have been worthless at the time, but I honestly would love to have it with me now!
Written by Rhianna Selkridge – Carty