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31 Oct 2014

A Lain less Wandered. Diss-Connection

It never rains, but it pours.  Sheets and sheets of it.  How the buckets poured down, and the wearer became the sluice-gates.  They say there's no such thing as bad weather: only poor clothing.

My genealogical clothing was meagre: I wrapped the thin scarf of conceit around me further, my belt of certainty slipped away, and my hat of pride was knocked off in the deluge.

The archival discovery in question was that of Miss Daisy, who had died in 1972 aged 96.  As well as outliving any member of the family past or present, and surviving all but one of her younger sister's family into the bargain - she had known a generous selection of the women who cascaded down from her castrator great-grandfather Samuel Flowers.

Flowers had had eight daughters, none of them needing castration, but unfortunately, only two of them produced daughters.  These were just the kind of family members that interested Miss Daisy.

The staggering finding was the photograph of John Lain 1787-1867, brother-in-law of the castrator.  Interesting as he is both genealogically remote (my mother's mother's mother's mother's mother's mother's brother), and sharing my mitochondrial DNA, and also that the family he called his own, I would barely recognise.  He listed as nephews and nieces people who I would consider pretty peripheral to my tree.  We have no idea who his grandparents were and can readily classify him as pre-Victorian, as he was 50 when the future empress ascended the throne and had wrapped up his life and affairs long before Disraeli had Victoria's realm declared an empire.

His large photograph is taken in Diss, a town I'd never really heard of.  So tiny, it easily became a member of Cittaslow.  Rather amusingly, May, Lain's great-nephew's granddaughter came to Diss a few years ago from Bethnal Green, believing it to be the birthplace of her father - in fact born at Deopham.  Diss was the nearby market town where Lain's land was sold in 1867, and checking a map, it really was the logical place for the folk of South Lopham to come for their weekly shop, market, catch-up and to catch the train if needed for Norwich or Ipswich.

It was thanks to Lain that my Smiths ended up being born at Mulbarton Hall, and he effectively provided a home for Smith's pregnant bride and luckless partner around the time of their marriage, Christmas 1850.  So it was that one pregnant sister dodged disgrace and became chatelaine of an old country manorhouse in Norfolk, while her older sister (who survived her 20 years), had to wait until her mid-forties to shake off her first husband and cash in her hard-won property in Macclesfield Street, Soho, for the protection of a businessman in nearby Horse and Dolphin Yard.  Quite a difference in pattern.

Lopham Fen: last remaining fen river valley in England

So, we thank the mapping folk for making it apparent that Diss is the connection, and Miss Daisy for hanging onto a photo her mother (married at 18) must nearly have lost.

And Mr Lain for emerging from the centuries, not too battered at all, clearly a force to be reckoned with, and a reminder of life a very long time ago.

1787 - year of his birth.  Events in this year: the US constitutuion was signed and three states joined the union.  Doomed Captain Bligh sets sail on a two-year voyage from Spithead on the HMS Bounty with his motley mutinous crew.   Mozart opened one of his first symphonies in Vienna.

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