My Romani gypsy heritage isn’t something we talked about much growing up. My grandmother died long before I was born and the whole family had settled and integrated into mainstream society. For my dad it’s part of his childhood- the smell of the grass, the sounds of the horses hooves, the sight of the wagon off to market. But for me it’s a mythical past that I can’t smell, taste, touch or see.
When I was young I was far too busy looking forward into my future to be thinking about what and who had come before. But as an adult I occasionally would peer into the past through my dad’s childhood view of this world that seemed so far removed from mine.
My ears really pricked up though when I heard bits of a tale from different family members about the Beaneys, our family, who lived in a caravan next to the Wilsons. The Wilsons then disappeared without a trace and the Beaneys took their name. I love a good cold case and I knew at some point I would need to find out more. But in the meantime I dined out on my ‘exotic’ and probably highly criminal heritage. I even used it for a team building session where people had to guess who anonymised life tales belonged to.
This isn’t enough for me though. I want my heritage to be more than a party piece.
I want to investigate what happened and who these people, my people, were. I guess that oral tradition has always been a part of gypsy life. It’s why I thought that this myth would always be just that. But then I dipped my toe into the world of online genealogy and suddenly there was a gold rush…