We were driving to Nottingham today to visit my aunt. It is a familiar journey in addition to family visits, for many other reasons. Our favoured route is the scenic one over the Staffordshire Moorlands, which gives me a fix of the uplands before dipping down into Derbyshire. Passing through Derby, there are still a lot of Georgian buildings on the west side of the city but very quickly we are on concrete dual carriageways and a short stretch of motorway to get to my aunt’s part of Nottingham. A brief respite from the rain in what promises to be the wettest June in living memory, made the driving easy. Passing through moorland villages, many hedges were adorned with ‘Vote Leave’ posters, a reminder of the great uncertainty facing the UK in the next week about the outcome of the referendum and if we do vote to leave the European Union, even more uncertainty about what will happen then. Brailsford, a village straddling the road between Ashbourne and Derby, also has an uncertain future like many in the UK, as it is proposed as a site for more housing. ‘Save our village’ notices were everywhere.
During our time with my aunt we inevitably ended up discussing family history as I have been researching this since I was at school and was given a lot of material by my grandmother, some of which remains a mystery. She is always available to fill in the gaps and dispel some myths but some still remain. These photographs remain a partial mystery. They were among my grandmother’s photographs and her handwriting on the back of the first says ‘American oil man, distant relation’, the second ‘Arbor Lodge’ and the last has ‘Humboldt Oil Field 1923’ on the front. I sent them to Arbor Lodge, Nebraska which is now a State Park and they confirmed that the second photograph is of the house and that the Humboldt Oil Field was several miles south of there. They forwarded my e-mail with the photographs to their historian but I am still waiting to hear if they have identified the man and then I can try and identify whether he is a distant relation or not. Some of my Irish ancestors did emigrate to the USA so he may be related to them. The mystery remains.