Family History – Part Five

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Long exposures in early photography made it nigh on impossible to pull off group portraits, so sitters were shot individually and a then grouped as a composite.

[READ PART FOUR]

Part Five

Joshua enriched his work with rare photos of his family. As with many vintage photographs, these have an eerie sense of time long past and yet preserve the dignity of the sitters. Best of all, these faces have a name and a story, unlike so many vintage photographs of anonymous faces found in abundance at flea markets and auctions.

Occasionally, Joshua will make an allusion to some past dispute or scandal in the Thompson family, but as a rule he is averse to gossip. This leaves some intriguing silences in the text:  tantalizing hints of untold stories. Conversely, he is often quite courageous in recording events that might daunt other chroniclers: the devastating mental illness of his father, for example, or the final moments of his brother’s gruesome death from tuberculosis. Having lived long and suffered much, Joshua found it easy to dwell on darker subject matters. That, and Joshua’s strict moral rectitude hardly makes the Family History a vehicle for wanton humour – at least, not humour intended deliberately.

No contemporary reader can overlook Joshua’s own strong religious bias. The entire work is steeped in fundamentalist Methodism and a fiery sense of Christian righteousness, complete with the intolerance one might expect from this kind of fervor. Readers are treated to regular spasms of zealous outburst, usually sparked by some emotional event, ending with biblical quotations, allusions and sermons. He records that the Family History is not his first writing project of substance. Apparently, a hefty manuscript of religious writing and opinion had earlier been sent off to the authorities in the Methodist Church (these were included in the copy of the Family History given to daughter Gertrude). Without doubt, Joshua had a heart inclined toward the pulpit. His feverish digressions may distract the reader, but they also hint at the rigorous faith and emotion behind his need to record facets of his life and those of his family.

Part One |Part Two | Part Three | Part Four | Part Five | Part Six | Part Seven | Part Eight | Part Nine

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3 Comments on “Family History – Part Five”


  1. Double entendre ?

    This description, by Joshua, of his brother the Rev. James
    (b1829) stuck in my hope-filled teenage mind as a possible example of Joshua having a chuckle! a bit of wit.?. maybe not!:

    ” I know that he laboured diligently in his Master’s Vineyard,
    and beyond his physical strength, his health soon began
    to fail, his liver became inflamed. ”

    Rev. James (1829-1873) married 9 Dec 1864 Martha P. Empey
    (1835-1890) and they had two children:
    i William F. “Willie” (1866-1891 consumption)
    ii Charlotte E. “Lottie” (1868-1901 dsp)
    . . m. 1892 Edwin Switzer (1865-1928)

    Joshua outlived all, including his two nephlings… Willie and Lottie.

  2. Ted Stewart Says:

    Sue J sent me here – I’m a descendant of Margaret Thompson – (Joshua’s sister). I too have some original, but smaller, handwritten versions of the family’s histories & several letters wriitten by Joshua asking for info on the Haycock & Cooke families.


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