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Barry Smith

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A Twist in the Genealogy Tale
Barry Smith

Since I was about 12 years old I have always had an interest in Genealogy and my family history. Can you imagine my surprise when the promised copy of the Barking & District  Historical Society‚Äôs Annual Digest arrived earlier this year from Bill George?

The Annual was supplied to me because it included an article that I had submitted on Frank Tingey, an ex-Barking Art Society member, but it was another article that caught my eye, that of "Joan Luxford: Reminiscences".

You see my wife's maiden name is Luxford, and on reading Joan's accounts a lot of the names mentioned were familiar, and yes you have guessed it my wife and Joan are related. They don't know one and other, but their common ancestor was John Luxford (1766-1834) who was Joan's second great grandfather and my wife's 4th great grandfather, making my wife a third cousin once removed to Joan.

John Luxford had 9 children; 6 sons & 3 daughters and it was John's son William Luxford (1806-1893) that was Joan's great grandfather and John's son Henry Luxford (1795-1841) that was my wife's 3rd great grandfather.

All very interesting I hear you say but it's all just names and dates, places of work, old addresses, war time achievements etc., etc., so why bother? Well, by a strange twist of fate my research for so many years has found a different usefulness that  I could never have dreamed of. Back in 1972 when my mother was 53 years old she had breast cancer and although the family was distraught she was a survivor and lived for another 20 years.

In 2008 my son had a freak accident, falling from a roof and hurting his back but from subsequent follow up treatment it was established that he had cancer of the spine, lymphoma which required horrific chemo treatment. He has fully recovered and is fit  and well, although the thoughts of its return still lingers in the back of the mind. Then in 2010 I was diagnosed with prostate cancer which thankfully has been treated. In all of that time I never once thought about family history and illnesses until  this year when my eldest daughter was diagnosed with breast cancer and is currently undergoing treatment.

It is because of my daughter and her conversations with the medical teams involved that the obvious question of "is there cancer in the family" was raised. It was then a case of "Dad what do you know?" Well over the years I have had to obtain the GRO certificates of birth, death and marriage to complete the information on the various family groups that you build up in your own family trees.

Such things are not always so necessary now with so many search engines and specialised web sites and programmes on family history. What I was to learn surprised me, nay even shocked me. The further you go back in time so the less specific the information can be on some causes of death. I found that with each generation cancer has been seen in all of my families. Indeed on my mother's side of the 9 siblings 5 were to have succumbed to  cancer. On my father's side of two siblings, 1 had succumbed to cancer.

Of my grandparents on both the maternal sides both grandmothers had died of cancer and of my great grandparent's one of the eight had died of cancer. On reviewing  my wife's family, thankfully the scourge of this illness has only shown itself once but its cause was most likely to have been brought about because of working in the African sun repairing aeroplanes during the Second World War.

Why do we need to know this? Well it appears that there is a dedicated group of people in Great Ormond Street that research the possibilities of genetic cancer in all its form and this is where my daughter will be taking the findings.

While this is an aspect of my family tree and genealogy in general that has never concerned me before my question to those of you that do family history is "Do we owe it to our loved ones to find out and advise of the possibilities or just file the information  away, as I have done for so many years?".

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