York has always been a place I have loved since my first visit was in 2012, aged only 7 years. I went with mum and grandma to visit the city but also to see the Queen and the extended royal family who were in the city at the time.
My love of York began after this visit. I don’t remember a great deal about the trip in 2012 but we visited countless times throughout the next few years. I’ve been to the Dunegons; Jorvik centre; walls; minister amongst other things.
York blood flows through my veins, with 1893 marking the last time a direct ancestor (my Second Great Grandfather, Arthur Dale) was born in the city. The Dale line represents many tales of dramatic rises but equally as dramatic declines. Rising from being an orphan to a somewhat important local figure, William Dale’s tale represents the unlikely happening to a hairdresser in Jubbergate. He still had to face death in the eye throughout his 55 years, even meeting a morbid, sudden end himself.
The death of his grandson, Alfred Dale, at the hands of cancer, in 1906, left 7 children fatherless but also a widow who had to support them. They moved away from the city to find work in the mills of West Yorkshire, arriving in the Batley and Dewsbury areas by 1908.
Walking the streets felt different when I visited last week. Stories I had never known could be seen as I walked them and I felt a connection across the decades and centuries to those that preceded me in this city. Regardless if you’re a spiritual person, the spirits of the ancient city’s former residents truly do walk its streets.
When the organ played as I walked around All Saints Pavement Church, it was the strongest connection I had ever felt to my ancestors. The fact that they were sat or stood in the church I was stood in centuries ago, celebrating birth and marriage but also grieving the loss of their family and loved ones struck me at the moment. I appreciate (even more) the ability to tell these stories and the hours of research and frustration is worth it when you see the bigger picture.
Ostensibly my connection to York was simple; it was one of a local city where I made a few memories but that’s not the case as it is much deeper. The stories and fragmented memories of my ancestors can be lived and breathed down the ancient winding streets of the city which is truly a rarity in a world that forgets about its history.
Please visit your ancestral homelands if you ever get the opportunity. It is very much worth it! I wouldn’t fret if you can’t though as merely remembering your ancestors is something to be proud of. Remember that we are not our ancestors but we can always still walk in their footsteps. Possibly learning something along the way.