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The connection between family history and DEI work

Four images of men. Top left shows a grand looking man in a tall top hat and a large coat, with a dog. Next to him is a man with a moustache and a suit with cropped hair. Underneath, in colour, is a man with glasses wearing a cap with landscape in the background. The final image is a bald man with a beard taking a selfie.
Four generations of Fullagar men

A slightly different blog post from me today.

I’ve recently started Rachael Roberts’ Flourishing Foundations course and in the very first session, a potential revelation was suggested to me.

For those of you that follow me and what I do, you’ll know that I work on diversity, equity and inclusion in ELT with a particular focus on LGBTQIA+ identities. For me, I do this work to help represent underrepresented voices, marginalised communities and people who have been forced to be invisible.

One of my hobbies is family history. I love finding out about where my ancestors came from, especially if I can see photos of them. I’ve got nearly 30,000 people on my family tree. I can discover where they lived, what their occupations were and their family life. By finding this out, I’m uncovering their stories that might have remained hidden. This may only be of personal interest, but the connection to what I do professionally is definitely there.

The main picture is of my male bloodline. James Fullagar (1849-1928), his son, William Fullagar (1894-1973), his son Gordon James Fullagar (1942-2017) and his son, me.

Let me tell you about one of them.

a grand man with a tall top hat and a heavy coat. He has bushy sideburns and he has a dog with him.
James Fullagar

This is James Fullagar (1849-1928). He’s my great grandfather. He was born in a small village in Kent called Boxley to Charlotte and Henry, an agricultural labourer.

He had six siblings, one of whom died as an infant. When he was 15, his father was admitted into the nearest asylum with delusions supposedly caused by excessive drinking. I know this because I managed to acquire the asylum records for my great great grandfather. They make for grim reading. Just three years later, Henry died in the asylum of ‘exhaustion from melancholia’.

In 1871, James was 21 and working as a postal worker, which must have been lovely in the Kentish countryside. Ten years later, though, he was living in the vicarage in the village and working as a domestic coachman. It’s unclear where he met Martha Large, but in December 1881, they married. In the next few years, they had three children; Florence, Gertrude and Henry. Florence died aged six. In 1891, the family were living at a public house called the Yew Tree, close to where James was born. James’ occupation here was a beer retailer. The couple’s final child was born in 1894; William, my grandfather.

a woman with hair scraped back is wearing a frilly dress with lace and a high collar.
Martha Large

In 1901, the family was living in a cottage in the grounds of a large house and now James was a coal merchant. At this point, only the two youngest children remained at home. The next few years would prove to be tumultuous. James’ mother died in 1907 and his wife Martha would follow just a year later. The loss of Martha was to hit the family hard, especially Henry James, their oldest son and my great uncle. According to family legend, he was the person who found Martha. At that time, he was a postman and it affected him so badly that he started throwing the letters away while he was doing his rounds. Ultimately, he was unfortunately to follow in his grandfather’s footsteps and be admitted into an asylum in 1910 aged 22; the same one as his grandfather.

I also have the records from the asylum about Henry James, and they are much, much worse than his grandfather’s. The records state that his ‘mental disorder’ was being epileptic, but them seems to go into ‘primary dementia’, among other things. Henry James was to stay in the asylum for 14 years until his death from TB in 1924 aged 36.

In 1911, therefore, James, now 61, was still living in the same area, but now with his youngest son and his daughter, Gertrude, who had come home. James was still listed as a coal merchant working on his own account, which I assume to be a kind of freelance role. My grandfather, William, was 16 and working as a coal merchant’s assistant; so helping his father.

Fast forward 10 years to the 1921 census, the same three people were living together. James, now 71, is now listed as a farmer – and an employer at that. Although he may have just employed his son, William. William is 27, single and assisting in general farm work. Gertrude is 36 and single and looking after the home.

James Fullagar died in June 1928 of senile decay aged 78. I believe he was buried in Boxley. Gertrude never married and died aged 75. William married Edith Adelaide Barnes, my grandmother (1907-1999) and had two children. He died in 1973 aged 79. My dad married my mum and had two children. He died in 2017 aged 74.

Take what you will from James’ story. But I’ve really enjoyed writing about it.

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