1: The Skeleton in the Cupboard


I am Peter Orchard; I am the son of Alfred Ernest Orchard who was one of fourteen children born to Charles Edward Orchard and his wife, Beatrice. Their fourteen children produced TWENTY NINE progeny between them bearing the name Orchard and the males amongst them have produced their own children and grandchildren that carry the name Orchard. I have no idea how many in total, but  I suspect there could be over one hundred people in the world carrying the name, or have carried the name for part of their lives, originating from that one marriage back in 1910.

 

I have always considered myself to be an ordinary chap, born to everyday “working class” people; agricultural labourers on my father’s side and cotton mill workers and miners on my mother’s side. There never seemed to be anything special about my background and ancestry and no ”skeletons in cupboards” as far as I knew.

 

Well, actually, may be there was perhaps a skeleton but no one knew whose skelton it was!  My father told me that his father had told him that his father (my great grandfather) was Spanish! I found that odd, Orchard was not a Spanish sounding name. One of my Aunts, Helen (christened Nellie), confirmed that this was understood in the family but know one knew exactly what it meant and it was not often talked about.

 

With the advent of the Internet in the 1990’s and subsequent access to registers of births, marriages and deaths my wife, Ann, started researching her family history and so I thought I might join her and try to unearth that skeleton to discover the truth. Little did I know at the outset that it would take about twenty years to finally unravel the mystery and I certainly did not think it would take in the Spanish Inquisition, the discovery voyages of Christopher Columbus, the slave trade, England’s “Glorious Revolution”, political corruption, Victorian moral hypocrisy, rape, deceit, a tragic accident and even links to our present royal family!

 

I have not been able to fully uncover the truth about that skeleton but I think I am as close as anyone will get and it does prove, at least, that those hundred or more people I mentioned at the beginning are not Orchards at all and we cannot be absolutely certain who we actually are.

 

I think it makes for an enthralling story and I hope anyone who takes the time to read it will find it so too.


 

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