The theme of today’s Fearless Females post is ‘best friends’, and so I am taking the opportunity to write a small post in recognition of Brenda Prendergast.
When I first began researching my father’s family tree, I wasn’t getting very far. Both of his parents are dead, and my dad and his siblings’ memories of family stories were muddled. I had names and stories, but was finding it impossible to make any kind of order out of it. Then my dad suggested we ask Brenda.
Brenda had been a neighbour of my dad’s family when he was a child, and became friends with my dad’s mum, Fay Rayner. In difficult times, Brenda was there to support Fay, and also often took care of her children. Fay introduced Brenda to her mother, Victorine Rayner (née Hayward) and the two hit it off. From then on, Brenda herself was almost like a daughter to Victorine and her husband Les. For much of this later part of her life Victorine was confined to a wheelchair, and so Brenda would help out around the house. After Victorine’s death and when Les was too frail to take care of himself, it was Brenda who shouldered much of the burden. Brenda also knew Victorine’s mother Mabel Jones née Hall and Aunt Mona May (née Hall) quite well for a few years before they both died.
Meeting Brenda was a turning point in my research on my father’s side. She was able to give me the vital facts I needed to get going (surprisingly accurately as well, given that it was more than twenty years since Victorine had died). More importantly though, she brought this entire family to life in a way that my father’s hazy childhood memories never could. From Brenda I learnt all sorts of things that no genealogical research could ever have revealed, about personalities, family relationships and personal secrets.
It was with Brenda’s help that I was able to track down Victorine’s long-lost son Brian Fox, and I know that she was just as overwhelmed to meet him as I was.
Brenda Prendergast – a friend to me, my father, my grandmother, my great grandmother and my great-great-grandmother.