Ancestor Gold - check for Blue Plaque ancestors...
Once you start digging into your family’s past you may strike “Ancestor Gold” in no time at all. A Blue Plaque in the family?
Your newly discovered ancestor may turn out to be “famous” or “infamous” or merely been an “associate” of someone who was. “Heroes” or “heroines” or “do-gooders” excite the immediate family and the public at large.
Relatives in all these categories have become Blue Plaque superheroes. But there are also seemingly less important people hanging on buildings in London and other parts of the country. Like the man who made wigs and the guy who boasted “My old man’s a dustman…” and made himself £millions in just six years. One woman was awarded a plaque because “she was a friend of all in need.”
The main criteria for getting an official Blue Plaque is that your relative must be dead and buried and had lived in a house that’s still standing. However, Napoleon was still alive when he managed to accumulate three Blue Plaques. One was on a London house he left in such a hurry that his bed remained unmade. He’d fled to France to become that country’s new ruler. So that’s all right then.
Commemorative plaques celebrate People and Place and a wider community. This is why not every “name” is instantly recognisable. Be assured they are also an important part of Britain’s story.
Founded over 150 years ago, the London blue plaques scheme has been driven mainly by suggestions from the public. Howard Spencer, English Heritage’s senior blue plaques historian said: “Commemorative plaques appeal to people of all ages and backgrounds in London – to residents and visitors alike. We welcome interesting and viable proposals for London blue plaques. They should celebrate prominent individuals and mark other significant historical associations.”
Noor Inayat Khan, featured here, was born in Russia. She was a trained spy who helped save many British and Allied lives with her WW2 activities in France. This was only revealed decades later. There are still many “unsung heroes” awaiting discovery – may be in your family?