The Legacy Project | Week Two - Roots

Last week I talked about my "beginning", my birth story. This week I'm going back a little further: to my parents and grandparents and how they met. My "roots".


Again I turned to my parents to help with this week's prompt. I knew that my parents met at a family party, but that was about the extent of it. 

Here's my dad's side of the story (with me explaining who people are in parentheses):

"My cousin Jill married Adrian Dargie. The Dargie’s were longtime friends of the Bagshaws (that's my mom's family), and Adrian and his brother Christopher used to play with Laurie (my mom's brother) and Mummy. Both Mummy and I were at Jill and Adrian’s wedding, though we didn’t meet at that time. Jill and Adrian moved into a new block of flats in Northolt, just a short walk from where Mummy lived with her parents and Terry (her brother). Later that year (August 1971), the Housing Association for those flats organized a barbecue for the residents to get to know one another, and both Mummy and I were separately invited. During the evening, either Jill or Adrian introduced me to Mummy – I can still picture her sitting in a chair off to the side. We got talking, and then arranged to go out on a double date with Scott (my dad's cousin) and his girlfriend. And the rest, as they say, is history."

And my mom's side: 

"I think Daddy covered everything in his account of our first meeting.  I honestly can’t remember it in detail!  I CAN remember going on the double date with Scott (and his girlfriend of that time “Jackie”).  We went to a trendy disco in London.   I can remember wondering if I would hear from him again and was excited when he called me at work the very next day......and to use his expression....”the rest is history”.

Sadie (my grandmother), Pauline (my mom) - in the shaggy white coat - and Kitty.

Funnily enough we had both attended Jill and Adrian’s wedding a few months previously... someone pointed him out to me as being Jill’s cousin when he read from the altar at the Nuptial Mass.  I made an even lesser impression on him... he says he CAN remember the coat and hat I wore!!!  (Shaggy white coat and large rimmed purple floppy hat)  Ha ha!   

Adrian’s mother Margaret and my mother were best friends.  They met at the school gates and casual conversations led to a close lifelong friendship.  She and her husband were always “Auntie Margaret and Uncle Eric” to us kids.  My mum and dad were “Auntie Sadie and Uncle Alf” to Christopher, Adrian and Mary (your godmother!)."

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Here is the story of how my maternal grandparents met, as told by my mom:

"Alfred (Alf) Bagshaw and Sarah Jane (Sadie) Doran.

I don’t know which wedding took place first but my mother’s older brother Peter married Ethel Bagshaw (Alf’s older sister).

My mother’s older sister Kathleen (Kitty)  married Ethel’s cousin Frederick (Fred) Alger.   I have been trying to glean from Laurie and Brendan which of those couples met first but sadly those facts haven’t emerged.  It would be interesting to know though because Ethel and Fred’s families lived in London while my mother’s family resided in Liverpool.  Over 200 miles away. Quite a distance in those days.  I know Fred met Kitty when he stopped at the post office one day and she was working at the counter.  She worked at the post office all her life until retirement and became Post Mistress of her local branch.

Alf and Sadie's wedding day.

After their marriages - Peter and Ethel, Fred and Kitty set up homes in Liverpool.   They invited Sadie to London to meet the rest of the Alger and Bagshaw families at a special street party celebration commemorating the Silver Jubilee of the coronation of King George V and Queen Mary. The date was May 6 1935.  It was there she met Alf.  During the next few years he traveled back and forth to Liverpool to visit her.  War broke out in 1939 and Alf was drafted into military service.  They corresponded by letter during that time and in 1941/2 became engaged to be married.

A funny story that they both loved to recount was that in late 1942, while stationed in Iceland, Alf applied for special leave to return home to get married.  He was granted permission but had a minimum of time to pack his possessions into his kit bag in order to catch the next ship to England.  In his haste he burned not only all of his letters from family, friends and Sadie but also all the money he had been saving go get married!

The wedding took place on January 2 1943.

We can send you a copy of their wedding photograph if you don’t already have it.  You will see that they are wearing regular clothes....sadly no white dress or veil because of war time rationing and also because they had so very little time to arrange the wedding service.  (Did not diminish the joy on their faces though!)"

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Here is the story of how my paternal grandparents met, as told by my dad:

"During WWII, my dad was a corporal in the US Army stationed in England. His unit was guarding an installation in Cheltenham that was responsible for planning and managing the supplies and logistics for D-Day. Mum was a secretary working at this installation. One day as she was leaving for home, she found her bicycle had a flat tire. My Dad was passing by and offered to fix it for her. He then asked her out and … the following year (April 10, 1944) they were married. A year after that, I came along."

The wedding of my paternal grandparents.

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Where is your family from? Do you feel strong ties to a particular place, whether it be where you are from, or because it is meaningful to you in some other way?

As you read in the stories above, my mom and dad are both from the U.K. I was born in Reading, England and moved to San Jose, CA when I was seven years old. My dad worked in computers and his job transferred him to Silicon Valley. We lived in San Jose for a year or so, and then moved to Sunnyvale, CA, where my parents still live. I lived in Sunnyvale until I graduated from high school.

My San Francisco apartment building. I lived in the top left unit.

Although I have only been back twice since we left, the last time over 25 years ago - I still feel strong ties to England. There are certain English things that are just "comfort" to me (most revolving around food!): Bangers and Mash, Shepherd's Pie, Turkish Delight, Branston Pickle. 

And I feel strong ties to Sunnyvale, too. After living in New York for so long, when I visit California it's like a giant exhale. The pace is slower there. It's quieter. Peaceful. My best friends from high school are all still in the area. There are certain spots in Sunnyvale that will always have fond memories for me - the Sunnyvale Junior Theater, Ortega Park, various friends' houses. 

Another place that will always have a soft spot in my heart is San Francisco. I worked in San Francisco for six years after I graduated from college, and lived in an apartment there for a handful of those years. I will always love visiting ACT (American Conservatory Theater) where I got my Equity card in 1999. A couple of restaurants and bars hold great memories - Tosca Cafe and Mario's, especially. And I loved my neighborhood out in the Richmond District and my sweet old apartment building, where I lived above one best friend and only a few blocks from another. It was such an amazing time in my life and I remember it so fondly.

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I'll be back in two weeks' time with the next prompt for "The Legacy Project". If you'd like to join in and start a Legacy Project of your own, join us over in the Legacy Project Facebook group

Big thanks to my mom and dad for being so game to help me out with this project. xo

Francesca Russell is a documentary-style family photographer and filmmaker located in Garden City South, NY. If you'd like to see more of her recent documentary family photography, head over to her Facebook page or follow her everyday adventures on Instagram. If you are looking for a family photographer or lifestyle videographer on Long Island or in the New York City area to document your family, small business or event, please contact her for more information.

The Legacy Project was inspired by the 52 Stories Project.