My Grandfather’s Nose

I’m the sum of many parts, as are we all, but I’ve always considered myself English through and through. However, there has always been a vague suspicion in our family that the name Goodman, my maternal grandfather’s name, spoke of possible Jewish connections.

Grandad’s nose was seen as a dead giveaway. I inherited it, to my chagrin, and have been teased mercilessly about it all my life. It caused embarrassing problems with those first tentative teenage kisses – I mean where do you put a nose like that – and precedes me wherever I go.  I don’t know who the lady in the photo with the equally challenging accoutrement is, but she was awarding Grandad a retirement certificate at Mobbs and Lewis Last Factory in Kettering – it must have been in the late nineteen-fifties.

Grandad Mobbs and Lewis.jpg

My uncle managed to trace the Goodman family back to the 1600s in Thorpe Malsor, Northamptonshire – one of my favourite villages – when the name disappeared. He was intrigued by the fact that immediately predating this, a Jewish name, very similar to Goodman arrived in Thorpe Malsor.  It begged the question was this a family of Jews that anglicised their name? Were we immigrants for whatever social, religious, economic, or political reason?

However, the trail ran cold at this point and nothing further could be ascertained, until fairly recently when my interest in the subject was re-aroused. About eight years ago, my husband had major heart surgery, and as a part of his recovery programme, we attended a cardiac rehab class. It was in a leisure-centre room with mirrored walls, and the exercises gave time for a bit of clandestine people watching. That was the first time I’d noticed that my skin tone was very slightly different from the ‘pink’ of those around me. I was definitely a yellower/browner tone. It made me rethink my Englishness and made me wonder again about the family suspicions. However, I did nothing more about researching the puzzle.

My husband had always been interested in his ethnicity, so for his birthday this year, I bought him a DNA test kit. I’d always thought he looked Scandinavian – tall with fair hair and blue eyes, so his 40% Viking heritage didn’t come as a surprise. He was also largely English, with Scottish,  Welsh, and Irish, and a tiny bit of Italian, and African. A mongrel, as are we all. Anyway, to cut a long story short, I decided to test myself as well. What was I expecting? A tiny bit of Middle Eastern, maybe, with a majority of English mongrel, and the African everyone must have in them somewhere.

Not so. This morning I got the results. I am not who I thought I was.

I am 35% Scottish, Irish, and Welsh – that’s quite a hefty lump – both legs at least. And the rest of me, all 65%, is Western European, as in France, Germany, Belgium, Netherlands, and maybe stretching as far as Northern Italy, Switzerland and Denmark. Not an English bone in my body – not even a meta-tarsal.

This was bit of a shock.

However, it does lend credence to the suspicions of Jewish ancestry, as Goodman could well be an anglicisation of Guttman, Gottman, Godman, or any number of other German names, and there was a large population of Jews in Germany. It’s fascinating to ponder what might have happened to bring my mother’s ancestors from Europe to England’s shores. And maybe I have a little Italian to account for my more ‘olive’ skin tone. My family has already provided novel fodder in the guise of ‘For Their Country’s Good‘ and ‘The Dandelion Clock‘, perhaps there’s another story to be told here?

What’s perplexing me now, though, is my father’s family. Baker seems an inherently English name – what could be more obvious than a baker – and he was proboscisally challenged as well, by the way, so I had no chance in the nose stakes. Baker was a name that has always anchored me deeply and comfortably in my ancient Englishness, so where was your family from, Dad? Scotland, Wales, or Ireland?

I may never know, and at the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter. I am a sum of their many parts. I am me – nose and all.

I wonder who you are?



12 thoughts on “My Grandfather’s Nose

  1. It’s funny I get mistaken goer anything from German Scandanavian French and even polish. I was once told I looked like the Indian prime minister and to be fair my great great grandfather served with the British in India.. there are rumours of Indian Blood in the family since and I’m quite dark skinned .. who knows .. enjoyed this very much

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I’ve been doing a little more research. My maternal grandmother’s name was Minney, which is Scottish borders and Irish. My father’s name, Baker, far from being English, could be German or Irish Jewish – both fit with my DNA. It’s definitely all in the nose, begorrah. (If that’s how you spell it) 🙂

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  2. I have a cousin who’s been slogging at the family history for as long as I can remember – their were twenty years between my father and his eldest brother – but he gets stuck with a 200-year gap, convinced we should have a title if the chap causing the block in seventeen something hadn’t been a “black sheep” and disinherited. No idea what he’s supposed to have done. The maternal family is easier, on the face of it. English with a hearty dose of Scot. I’ve looked at the adverts for testing kits and wondered if I really want to know. Perhaps I don’t have the right nose.

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    1. It can be a bit of a double-edged sword, but it is interesting to know your roots. My grandmother was convinced we’re related to royalty, and she was the spit of the Queen Mother, but I suspect the connection ends there. There’s also a conundrum about Bill’s mother, Eliza, in The Dandelion Clock; she was illegitimate but well-educated. Her mother worked for an architect in Bath. (Is this sounding familiar – Ella, in For Their Country’s Good’?) Her father isn’t on her birth certificate, and she was sent to Warkton to live with the rector, a photo shows her as one of six rectory servants, where she met Bill’s father, Lewis, and was friendly with Princess Alice Christabel. There’s a suspicion there about ‘blue blood’, and the ‘wrong side of the blanket’ but only a suspicion. My family’s imaginations were as rife as their misdeeds.

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  3. To be honest, tidalscribe, I wasn’t sure these DNA tests were legit. My husband’s result was much what you might expect from anyone whose ancestors were resident in the UK given how many times we’ve been invaded – Vikings, Normans, Saxons – he’s Celtic, English, and Viking. Mine were a hell of a shock but tie in with family suspicions. I half expected the possibility of Jewish – I didn’t expect to be 35% Celt and have not a trace of English. My husband now refers to me as ‘that foreign bird’. 🙂 Huh, he can talk!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I was going to be quite sceptical – how would we know they were really our results? But both our results rang true. My mother-in-law did not put the real father’s name on my husband’s birth certificate, sad because he was the only father his two step sons and two real sons ever knew. The two distinct halves of my husban’s DNA proved he was his real Dad. In my case I was contacted by my grandmother’s brother’s grandaughter in Cannada!

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  4. It is sad not to have a father’s name on a birth certificate when it’s known. I can see there might be good reason to leave it off, but it’s still sad. I’m glad your results rang true as well.

    Liked by 1 person

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