Unreliable memoirs (Object 115)

Monogrammed linen handkerchiefs

Samuel H. Lane’s monogrammed silk handkerchiefs

I have been very lazy in writing this blog. It was never intended to be a family history of the genealogy type, but rather a collection of memories inspired or represented by objects. I haven’t bothered to do any research, beyond the occasional brief bit of Googling, and have just quoted from source material such as my parents’ memoirs and diaries without seeking evidence for their veracity. My sister-in-law, however (Brother 2’s wife), has been far more diligent in her examination of our family history. She became interested in it some years ago and conducted some thorough research, which is how we discovered that Thomas Collcutt was not, in fact, our great-great-grandfather, as our mother had been led to believe. Since writing my previous 2 posts, I have looked again at the documents retrieved by Sister-in-Law 2 and realised that my Mum’s memoirs are unreliable regarding some other aspects of her father’s family. This is hardly surprising; she was 70 when she wrote them, and had had little or no contact with her father for most of her life. Also, I gather that he was a man prone to exaggeration and fabrication when talking about himself. Anyway, for whatever reason, it transpires that Samuel H. Lane, whose monogrammed silk handkerchiefs remain in their original box in the Usmeum, was not his father after all, but his grandfather.

Handkerchiefs in boxI discovered this from my grandfather’s birth certificate, which names his father as Charles Herbert Lane, commercial traveller:

Charles H Lane birth certI also have a copy of Charles Herbert Lane’s certificate of marriage to Eleanor Harrison, which names his father as Samuel H. Lane (and hers as Charles Fisher Harrison, which may explain the Horman Fisher connection). And Sister-in-Law 2 also produced a Lane family tree which shows Charles Herbert Lane to have an older brother, also named Samuel H. Lane, “fruit merchant of Isleworth.”

Now I come to think of it, it all makes perfect sense. My grandfather was born in 1887, and the Harvest Fields book featured in my previous post as a gift to him from “Uncle Steve” in 1895 would have been a strange choice for an 8-year-old. The “Charles H. Lane” to whom it was dedicated must have been Charles Herbert, his father; and my grandfather’s fond uncle in Isleworth must have been Samuel, not Stephen, Lane. “Uncle Steve” was someone else entirely. This discovery also explains why Barrow, Lane and Ballard, the firm for whom Samuel Lane was a director, have not written him out of their history: he was not my disgraced fraudster great-grandfather after all. That was Charles Herbert Lane, and this perhaps explains why he is the one whose name is absent from my mother’s family memories. Her father must have glossed over his existence and exaggerated the roles of the more respectable men in his family. Which just goes to show, although objects and photographs may last forever, the human memories and stories associated with them may not always be historically accurate. Facts change in the telling, over hundreds of years; and the deeper I dig into my family history, the more surprises I seem to be uncovering. Like life, I hope that my discoveries continue to surprise me!


About Hoarder of Babylon

A chartered librarian and curator of my family archives.
This entry was posted in 19th century, Charles Harrison Lane (maternal grandfather), Diaries and journals, Lane family. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Unreliable memoirs (Object 115)

  1. Interesting! When I heard psychiatrist and neurologist Boris Cyrulnik say that ‘a healthy memory is a memory that evolves’, I found it comforting. So a lack of accuracy was not a failing after all, it was life’s healing process at work. Memoirs and memories ought to be unreliable.

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