Gladys was born on 14th July 1916 in East Finchley in North London, the first child of Joe and May Stracey. The world was embroiled in the Great War and so for the first few years of her life she would see little of her father who was away serving his country in Mesopotamia and India. For the duration of the war, Joe would carry a small photo of Gladys and her mother in his wallet.
|Gladys and her mother - the photo|
that Joe carried in his wallet
From this point onward until her death, her life was a blank. I knew she had died at a fairly young age but my dad was not forthcoming with the cause. It was time to delve deeper and start asking questions.
So on a visit to my dad a couple of years ago, we were talking about family history and I casually asked him whether she had ever been married, expecting the answer to be in the negative as there had never been any mention of a husband or children. "Oh yes", replied my dad, "she married a POW". I was quite dumbfounded. After several years of researching my family tree and interrogating my father about his family and Gladys, he had never mentioned that his sister had been married. I don't blame him however, after all, I hadn't asked the pertinent question!
|Samuel and Gladys McNairney|
But back to her marriage. Gladys and Samuel set up home in East Finchley just around the corner from the house in which she grew up. Sadly, however, they were only to be married for about eight years as in February 1959 Samuel died. Gladys moved back to live with her parents and brother although widowhood was to last just a few months. Later that same year, in early November, just months after the death of her husband, tragedy struck. Gladys had walked a fair distance from the local tube to her home and apparently walked into the house, sat at the kitchen table and had a massive heart attack. Her death certificate shows she had congestive heart disease and hypertension. But I was shocked when I noticed the date of her death. She had died on the 5th November on my father's 27th birthday.
Learning about Gladys has made me realise that it's the little details which can really make a person's history come to life. And these details so often come from a relative rather than an official document. They can also be found in newspapers, especially the splendidly written articles from the 19th century which never shied away from telling it how it was, full of juicy detail and commentary. But nothing beats the titbits you get from a relative as you then find out what they thought of the situation, or the person. That can only add flavour to an account of someone's life. So don't hesitate, quiz those relatives now, don't leave it until it's too late.
|Gladys Stracey 1916-1959|