This website is dedicated to the memory of my aunt, Barbara Joan Verge, née Jefferys, who sadly died in April 2016.
Barbara Joan (BJ as my brother John and I somewhat irreverently referred to her) was the inspiration for my becoming a family historian and a GAL (Genealogist at Large).
One evening in the autumn of 2004 BJ telephoned me and asked “If I send you a book about ‘genealogy on the internet’ would you see if you can find our family?” In particular, she was keen to find a photograph of her Jefferys grandfather, whose name at that time I didn’t even know.
“Um, yes, okay,” I replied and then started wondering what I’d committed myself to doing.
In the back of my mind I had the idea of researching the family history sometime but in the meantime I’d been concentrating on my career. However, when that phone call came, I was off sick with a shoulder and arm injury which meant that I was unable to drive, practically housebound and frequently awake at night.
In addition, in the summer of 2004 I had started suffering from extremely bad tinnitus which not only affected my sleep but over the following two years drove me to the edge of sanity.
Previously self employed, I’d had to stop work but I could use my computer and so, when Barbara Joan telephoned, it seemed that spending time researching the family history would be a good way of keeping boredom at bay. There would be no pressure and I could even do it in the middle of the night when pain or tinnitus made me unable to sleep.
I knew nothing about the subject and bought several other books. I studied them carefully and soon I was up and away, researching my aunt and father’s paternal family, the Jefferys of Wiltshire and their maternal family, the Wyers and Egan-Wyers, originally from Ireland but now all over the world.
I made contact with others researching the Jefferys and was able to take Barbara Joan to meet Robert and Joan Jefferys. Robert is the grandson of Mary King Jefferys (who was the sister of Thomas King Jefferys, BJ’s grandfather) and thus second cousin to BJ. He knew the three farms in Maiden Bradley where the Jefferys had lived and worked and had become a farmer himself, becoming the eleventh generation of farmers in the Jefferys family.
Four years after I entered my father’s and other details on Genes Reunited, I was contacted by the son of my half sister, the daughter of my father’s first marriage. That was a somewhat surreal experience and I had to telephone my brother, then teaching English in South Korea, ask him if he was sitting down and then tell him our long lost sister was alive and living in Gloucester. The family lived just 20 miles from BJ and I was able to introduce her to the niece whom she’d never met, her husband, one of their two sons and their grandson.
My aunt lived in Nailsworth, Gloucestershire and a few years after I began the research I was able to take her around Wiltshire, visiting the farms, villages, churches and graveyards which featured in our family history, including the farm where her father, Frank Haines Jefferys, was born. Later I repeated the trail with her, my brother and my nephew. I gave route directions to my cousin, who took her mother on part of the trail, through Bremhill and Hilmarton, where the earliest records of our Jefferys family were to be found in the parish registers. BJ, who loved history, loved it all.
After years of research and piecing everything together, in 2013 I drew up the 10 generations tree featured on this website, from my 9 x great grandfather to Barbara Joan’s father, my grandfather, and sent her a copy.
In September 2015 my brother and I found her grandparents’ grave in a tiny churchyard in Wiltshire but sadly I never had the chance to take BJ there. And, so far, I haven’t found a photo of her grandfather, Thomas King Jefferys, that she so wanted to see but I’ll keep looking.
Barbara Joan had a rare form of recurring breast cancer requiring several operations but she never complained and joked with the plastic surgeon who operated in Birmingham that she expected to wake up with a new face as well but he merely replied ‘one thing at a time’. Oh yes, she had one complaint, that the hospitals gave her too much to eat.
BJ made maximum use of her bus pass, regularly taking the long rides to Stroud, Gloucester or Cheltenham, not to shop but to sit up high and take in the lovely scenery. And she ended her days at Leckhampton Court, a Sue Ryder hospice, where she still revelled in the lovely scenery around her.
It was evident at Barbara Joan’s funeral that people had found her an inspirational woman. To me, she is the person who saved my sanity through that phone call and request to ‘find our family’. And the person who alleviated my fear of having nothing to do in retirement and thus prevented a slow decline into a shadow of my former self. Instead, I find myself with not enough hours in the day as I follow the family history trail, wherever it takes me.
I shall be indebted to my aunt for the rest of my days.
Susan Morris née Jefferys