Our Aunty Rose
Our Aunty Rose with her grandniece, Rachael
As my sister said in Aunty Rose’s eulogy, every family should have an Aunty Rose. We were one of the lucky ones that did, and I remember Aunty Rose being the Aunt that brought laughter and fun to our many family gatherings.
It might be said that she is “out of place” on our family tree. You see Rose Margaret Francis parents were Thomas Francis, of Barbados, West India and Rose Margaret Isherwood, from what would be called a “colourful” New Zealand family. They had two much older daughters, Evelyn and Norah who were 14 and 12 when Rose was born.
Rose is not a blood relative on either side of our family but rather a lifelong friend of my mother, Hazel. She was my mother’s closest friend, her confidant and support through good times and bad. With no children of her own, it seemed natural that she should become Aunty Rose when Hazel’s children were born. Their relationship was so close that Hazel’s first daughter was named Margaret Rose in her honour.
Aunty Rose was raised in a very strict household with her friendships monitored closely and few being found to be acceptable. Fortunately for Rose, my mother Hazel was well regarded by her family even though she was four years older and their friendship grew throughout their lives. Rose talked little of her family, but much later in life, she described her family as “dysfunctional” and a cause of mental health problems that beset her.
It was not until after Aunty Rose’s death that I was contacted by one of her relatives in New Zealand, a very friendly and funny young woman called Belinda, a relative of Rose Isherwood, who was researching her family tree. Together we started to unravel Aunty Rose’s life story and that of her family. It took some time, and much frustration before the evidence confirmed that Francis and Rose were not her birth parents, though formal documentation leads us to believe this.
Rose had married Walter Sharpe in 1947. Rose’s maiden name on their marriage certificate was Rose Margaret Francis, but her birth date was incorrect, the first hint that something was not quite right. Working back in time, she was Rose Margaret Faulkner-Francis in the 1943 census. A solid hint that we needed to look for a birth certificate for a Faulkner in the year of Rose’s birth. It was then that we found her correct birth details. She had been born to Frances May Faulkner, a single woman who had died during childbirth. Whether she was boarding with the Francis family or had been befriended by Mrs Francis is not known, but Mrs Francis undertook the death notification and funeral arrangements and unofficially adopted her daughter raising her as her own.
The information makes little difference to me and my family. So today I am adding her to our family tree and have to say she is definitely not “out of place” to me.