After my dad died a year and a half ago, I started to explore my roots, and acquired a family ledger dating from the nineteenth century. The shabby brown leather tome had spent a good many years in an attic in East Sussex. In florid pen and ink, its pages list all the properties that my great great grandfather owned and leased across London.
It details purchases, sales, freeholds, leaseholds, deeds, ground rents, drain plans, maintenance and repairs, ordinance survey maps, photographs, newspaper articles, as well as many illegible notes and instructions scribbled in the margins.
I was astonished to learn that in the late nineteenth century my great great grandfather had built an entire estate more or less at the end of the street where I now live. Much of what was then known as the “Furneaux Estate” is still there today.
I also discovered – thanks to a 1936 receipt for headstone cleaning and repair - that there is a substantial family grave in nearby Abney Park cemetery. More unbelievably still, it turned out that my daughter goes to school on the site of her great great great great grandfather’s house and garden.
When I moved to Stoke Newington seven years ago I had no idea that there was any family connection. My discovery, particularly after the loss of my dad, feels like the most extraordinary and wonderful gift.