“We may find in this process that we too are narratives. Having let go of the notion of a transcendental self, we realize we are nothing but the stories we keep telling ourselves in our own minds and relating to others.” Stephen Batchelor: Secular Buddhism: Imagining the Dharma in an Uncertain World, (Yale UP, New Haven and London, 2017), p 150

The quotation is taken quite out of context (a discussion of the relationships between postmodernist ideas and Buddhist philosophy). Why it leapt out of the page was that I am in the process of writing up the bulk of my research into the history of the Bashforth name, from its origins and development in the seventeenth century to the early decades of the twentieth century. In order to cope with the sheer volume of research and find a way of making sense of it, both for myself and any potential reader, I have found myself constructing just such a series of narratives. In the process I could not help but reflect on how we write our own histories in our minds all the time and how elusive and ephemeral those narratives are.

In trying to make sense of our family histories and sense of the lives our forebears lived, are we trying yet one more way through which to make sense of our own lives – at least in the existential sense? We are born, we live and during that life we may experience illness, decline both physical and mental, and then we die, just as our ancestors did, before we even existed. And on it goes. Only the immediate context changes and the decisions and choices with which we are presented. We keep on inventing and re-inventing our own histories. It is an essential part of the human condition.


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