A few weeks ago, I decided – pretty much on a whim – to start tracing my family tree. I think, like most people who do this, I was secretly hoping I’d find out I was directly descended from Cleopatra or something, although, as it turns out, that would be pretty difficult because, with the exception of one adventurous branch of the family who emigrated to the States in the 19th century, only to return ten years later (possibly thrown out?), it would seem my ancestors have spent hundreds of years diligently mining coal all over Scotland, except for a few renegade souls, who mined clay instead. I’d imagine it was a bit like living inside a DH Lawrence novel, only grittier, and more Scottish.

My ancestors also appear to have cunningly avoided doing anything that might have drawn attention to themselves throughout their lives, which makes them a little harder to trace. I didn’t read all of those Famous Five books as a child for nothing, though, so I have persevered, and one thing I have managed to find out (mostly because it was, er, already known to my parents) is that my maternal great-grandparents, and their parents before them, lived in Helensburgh, which is a little town on the Clyde, in the west of Scotland.

Anyway, this Sunday was Easter, obviously, but it was better known in our family by the much more important title of “My Mum’s Birthday”, so, to celebrate, my dad thought it would be a nice idea to take my mum “back to her roots”, so to speak, and take a little drive to Helensburgh. And because Terry and I like to hang around like a bad smell all the time, we went too. Look, here’s me and my mum having a whale of a time in the local cemetery! Happy Easter!

Helensburgh cemetery
Helensburgh cemetery

Honestly, if there’s a better way to celebrate your mother’s birthday than by taking her to a graveyard, I don’t know what it is. Happy birthday, mum!

Unfortunately, our ancestors continued to be elusive, and we didn’t manage to find any of their graves – we think they’re probably unmarked, or marked by a tree or something –  so we drew a blank there. We did, however, have a few addresses we knew some of them had lived in, and we managed to find those. Here’s me, Terry and Rubin looking slightly suspicious as we loiter outside the building my great-grandfather once lived in:

West Princes Street
West Princes Street

Note: he was not a dentist. And actually, despite what I said above, these Helensburgh ancestors weren’t coal miners either, or even clay miners. No, my great-grandad was a plasterer, which I would imagine was quite daring of him at the time. We visited a couple of other streets we knew the family had lived on, but although most of the rest of the streets were still intact, and dated back to the late nineteeth/early twentieth century, the buildings the early Forever Ambers had lived in had been knocked down. We’re assuming this had nothing to do with our family, but you never really know…

Anyway, because nothing works up a good appetite quite like poking around graveyards, we retired to the waterfront to eat ice cream and bags of greasy chips. Here are the disembodied heads of me and my parents floating above a host of golden daffodils:

Daffodils: host of
Daffodils: host of

I have my eyes closed because, seriously, you have no idea how many photos I have managed to ruin by doing that. It’s like some freaky skill I have, to always know the exact moment the shutter will close, and to close my eyes in sympathy with it.  Here’s a rare shot of me with my eyes open, just after lunch:


I like to think my ancient ancestors once stood on this same spot, gazing pensively out over the Clyde and thinking deep thoughts. Sadly for them, though, they were probably too busy huddling together for warmth or weaving rough sweaters out of coal, or whatever people did in those days, to have much time for pensive staring. Which was probably a good thing, really, because look where Pensive Staring has got me?

After that, we drove along the Clyde to Loch Long, which is a loch, and is long:

Loch Long: both long and loch-like
Loch Long: both long and loch-like

Loch Long has no associations with my ancestors, as far as I know, but my uncle did almost catch his death of cold once in Arrochar,  on its banks, so it sort of counts.


Then we went to Loch Lomond, which, again, has absolutely nothing to do with our family, but which is just nice.  Its banks were looking suitably bonny, I thought:

"Mountains, Gandalf, mountains!" (for Erin)
"Mountains, Gandalf, mountains!" (for Erin)

And then we came home. So, in conclusion, we didn’t find out too much about my ancestors, but a good day was had by all:

Happy Easter!
Happy Easter!
  1. MOUNTAINS! Thanks!! 😀

    Fabulous graveyard for some Nancy Drew pics, too 🙂 Sounds like a lovely outing! Tell your mum Happy Birthday from Oz 🙂

  2. Gorgeous photos! Rubin looks especially good at staring pensively.

    My ancestors, as far as my family has been able to trace back, were Irish vagabonds (dad's side) and British farmers (mom's). You can make of that what you will.

    <abbr>Amanda Nicole´s last blog post..small graces: part 36</abbr>

  3. Love the shadow-face effects – who was taking the picture though, and were they crouching between the two middle people? Or was it Rubin..?

    1. I took the picture – I'm the one on the far left. Think the shadow between my mum and dad is just because they're standing close to each other?

  4. The Loch Long shot is gorgeous. And what a lovely cemetery.

    Yeah Loch Lomond! But you’re timing is about 7 months off.,, Okay, my timing was 7 months off.

  5. Glad you had a great Easter! My family is from Bangladesh and I've always wanted to trace my ancestry. My mother is unnaturally light-skinned and I've always wondered where she gets her coloring. I'm a lil' jealous of my future generations because they're going to know exactly how and when my parents landed in America!

    <abbr>Sunehra´s last blog post..Netflexin’: Mad Men</abbr>

    1. Yes, I've often thought how much easier it'll be in the future for people tracing their ancestors: we leave so many traces behind us now, espeically those of us with blogs!

  6. I went to Loch Lomond once! We were going to row boats on it (?) but it was too windy, so we went to an outlet shoping centre instead. It was only 7 and a half years ago, so we *just* missed each other…

  7. My family are pretty much all from an assortment of Greek villages, some in the north, some in the middle and some on islands. One went so far as to be Cypriot, so technically I'm 1/8th Cypriot. A whole bunch moved to Egypt, bred and then left pretty much en masse to go back to Greece when the rest of the European bunch were no longer welcome in North Africa. My mum met my dad and together they thought they'd move to London instead of New York and have spent 35 years wishing they'd taken the other option.

    We don't even know what their names are beyond great-grandparents because of lack of records, the possibility the name changed on my dad's side and an odd old-fashioned Cypriot naming convention that meant first and surnames matched, so the surname changed regularly… I have visited the house in Epirus (Ioannina) that my paternal grandfather was born in, though.

    <abbr>Alex´s last blog post..Ten Days of Disney: Three in One…</abbr>

    1. Yeah, we'd have the same issues if we tried to trace Terry's family on his mum's side, because Greece just doesn't have the records we'd need. Of course, she was adopted, which makes things even more complicated!

  8. Beautiful pics! The number of times during my year in Stirling I stood at the top of the Wallace Monument and promised myself a trip out to Loch Lomond… well, suffice to say they were a lot more numerous than the zero times I actually got my ass in gear and got out there!

    I've been asking around a bit lately and my ancesters were a mismatched lot. So far we have Irish gypsies, Lincolnshire pig farmers, Cumbrian miners, a Great Grandfather in the Black Watch and general Staffordians… there are more, but I haven't got around to writing any of it down and my head can only hold on to so much at a time…

    <abbr>Caroline´s last blog post..Notes from the big girl who doesn’t quite have what it takes…</abbr>

    1. I have to admit, I've never made it to the top of the Wallace monument, so I'm impressed!

      I also really need to write everything down – I signed up for Ancestry.com but it's slow, and it can be hard to make sense of all of the info, so I think I need to take the time to actually commit it all to paper!

  9. Love the post, but me being me, I have to ask, did you change your shoes? Cos the pic at the dentist looks like you are wearing pink/no shoes, and then the fabulous black heels appear in the 'eyes-open-beside-the-Clyde' pic! Gorgeous!

    1. Lol! That's exactly the kind of thing I would notice too, Emma! I did indeed change my shoes: the tan peep toes were the ones I was wearing to start with – the black ones are actually flats (I'm standing on my toes in that pic) which I changed into for the "walking through the cemetery" bit to stop my heels getting ruined, then just kept on. I am rarely without a spare pair of shoes 🙂

  10. Only just had a chance to look at this, but wish I hadn't – I've got loads of pix of me at Loch Lomond (I went to uni in Glasgow so used to spend weekends exploring) but they all consist of me looking grumpy with hair in my eyes and big hiking boots on. V jealous of your glam pix – and heels too? Grrrr.

    <abbr>Journopig´s last blog post..Ken – The Anti-Christ?</abbr>

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