In recent weeks I had a number of very helpful messages >from members who
were trying to help me trace my great grandmother, Frances David, who's
incarceration in mental hospital in the 1950s had been hidden >from my
grandmother (her daughter) and my father until her death in the late 1970s.
Having taken up the suggestion to search for her death outside the area that
she was known to live in, I discovered to my amazement that there were only
three Fanny Davids to have died in England between 1967 - 1987, and so with
a bit of a hunch, I ordered the death certificate of the one I found to have
died in 1977 in Surrey.
You may remember that my mother received a phone call around 1979 - 1980
(when my sister was still a baby and I would have been about 4 or 5 years
old) >from my father's cousin, to tell him that his grandmother had died? My
mother (like my father and his mother) believed that Granny David had died
in the 50s since this is what the rest of my father's family had told her,
Grandma and Dad. So this phone call was a bit of a shock to say the least.
The reason why it was possible to cover up what had happened to Granny David
was because my father and his parents were living in Berlin and Sofia during
the war - so they weren't around and weren't involved in the decision to
have her committed to an asylum. It seems that the decision was taken to
keep it all quiet to save my grandmother and father >from the distress that
this decision would probably cause.
As it turns out, I ordered the right certificate: Granny David had died two
years before my sister's birth, and her death was registered by someone
outside the family. She died in Horton Hospital, which was part of a well
known asylum in Epsom and part of a larger group of hospitals serving the
local area at the time. It seems that the family only found out two or
three years after she died.
I am now in the process of tracing her hospital records to find out what
happened to her and where she lived in the intervening years, and I also
hope to find her grave since the burial records for Horton are kept by the
Surrey History Centre.
This is a sad chapter in my family history: but not uncommon for the times.
I suppose the most upsetting thing is that it seems her children and
grandchildren didn't know she had died until nearly three years after she
was either buried or cremated.
Like many of us, I find myself knowing yet again that a person is only truly
dead when we stop talking of them and remembering their life, culture and
experiences - however traumatic these may or may not might be. I hope to
restore the truth and memory of my great grandmother for this reason: after
all - were it not for her, I wouldn't be around!
Thank you to everyone who helped - I will keep you updated on the process I
go through to trace records since this sort of search is more difficult and
could prove helpful to anyone else going down a similar path.
Jessie Leschnikoff - Brenchley, Kent
Researching: PELLETIER - Loire, Versaille & Carcassonne (France), DAVID -
Paris, Saint Martin de Brethencourt (France), WALSH - Ireland, PRENDERGHAST
- Ireland, LESCHNIKOFF - Sofia & Haskovo (Bulgaria), BARNETT - Plymouth,
Bristol, Birmingham & Prussia, SOLOMONS - Prussia & London, PULVERMACHER -
Breslau, MASON - Orkney & Penang, CHILL - Mayanmar & Penang, BLAUSTEIN &
LANDAU - Tanopol UKRAINE.