23 Feb – 8 March 2023
Several years ago, I tested a male sibling for Y-DNA. When one does such things, one needs to prepare for the unexpected. The Unexpected was my sibling didn’t match our male cousin. It seems we have illegitimately carried the surname Bunyard all our lives. A more pleasant surprise was I met my closest male cousin. He lived in Bulgaria, but being the inveterate traveler I am, that posed no problem.
Since that discovery in 2019, I have visited my Bulgarian relatives, including my charming cousin Pam, was visited by Pam in California, and currently, I am heading to London for a two-week stay with said cousin. Global connections are truly amazing.
Being rather addicted to genealogy, DNA is a way to research family history and connections. Being a devotee of history, it was inevitable that all these interests should meld into one. I was disappointed to discover my Bunyard research, ironically taking me back to London and just a few blocks from where my Bulgarian cousin lived, did not apply to my own direct line. However, research did apply to my Bunyard cousins so it was not for naught. Love that “not for naught” alliteration!
When I visited the Balkans and Croatia in 2011, I felt an affinity for the region. Visiting the Bulgarian cities of Sofia and Plovdiv in 2016, they too spoke to me as comfortable and inviting. So perhaps it came as no surprise when deeper research into my own mysterious family tree led me back to the beautiful country of Croatia and eventually to Bulgaria. And this month, I am flying to London both to revisit old sites and my cousin, Pam.
LONDON, LIKE AN OLD FRIEND
I remember the first time I visited London in 1972. I was completing my 10 week “Grand Tour” of European capitals. This was at a time when each country presented its own Passport stamp and money, customs and language. Arriving into London, I felt a weight lift from my shoulders. It was like meeting an old friend. Though my American accent was noticeable, I at least understood those who spoke to me. Well, most of it.
Additionally, since my last visit in 1987, I had not yet discovered that a Bunyard ancestor had lived almost in the shadow of St Paul’s Cathedral. Nor had I realized, as I toured the Tower of London and Old Bailey, that my ancestor had also trod those steps. He came to America in 1764, transported as a guest of The King. It was either that or hanging. Fortunately for my cousins, James Beal Bunyard made it to America for a new start.
A lot has changed since I last hung out in London, went to the museums and galleries and enjoyed numerous plays. Many sites and experiences haven’t altered in centuries. But, there are also massive changes. There is a new King, there is (in my opinion) the stumble involving Brexit, the American dollar is stronger than in years and the English Pound weak, and I have a cousin who owns a flat.
I BOARD MY FLIGHT BETWEEN STORMS
Arrival into Heathrow was not the nightmare so many write about. The walk is long to Immigration but once there it was a simple process of scanning my Passport and the officer called me over by name to welcome me to London. Because I have only a small backpack, I walked out of Customs and was ready to begin my adventure.
My cousin Pam met me, handed me an Oyster Card for the train and we walked to the relatively new Elizabeth Line for the 45-minute ride into London. Because Pam’s flat is in a community south of London, we transferred lines at Paddington. The transportation cost about 14£. There is a rather complicated set of rules and fares for the Oyster and in general it can be an expensive mode of travel. You pay as you go but there are caps for the day which apply to visitors and locals alike. And prices increased by 5.9% in March. It is an expense one needs to consider.
INTRODUCTION TO A NEW LONDON
I used an ATM for the purchase of £. However, one needs to consider how little local currency is needed. Everywhere it is Tap to Pay and one should have a credit card which charges no foreign exchange fees; transactions receive a good exchange rate. I spent very few of the £. (King Charles currency is unavailable as yet.)
Saturday was my introduction to a very crowded London. Pam planned a walk which took us from London Bridge Station to loop around the historical streets of Bishopsgate to Spitalfields Market, Brick Lane, around Leadenhall Market to St. Paul’s Cathedral along Fleet Street into Trafalgar Square. We then turned our tired feet toward Charing Cross and eventually Waterloo Station. Many interesting sights line the way including:
St Botolph-without-Bishopsgate Church was first referenced in 1212. The church escaped the Great Fire but in 1724 it was demolished after becoming unsafe. A new church was completed in 1729. Keats was baptized here in 1795. Also, my Bunyard ancestors were baptized, married and buried at this church between the years of 1717 and 1762. Other streets and churches in the area are mentioned as part of the Bunyard history, including one slightly north in Shoreditch and the Saint Olave Church in the Old Jewry neighborhood where the first known James Bunyard lived, married, and baptized his son in 1678. (Saint Olave is a Norweigian church and seems an odd choice for James and opens further questions about his origins.)
While in the historic neighborhood of Spitalfields, we enjoyed a wonderful art immersion experience featuring Salvador Dali. Dali can be as creative, as complicated, or as odd as one interprets his art. I like most of his creations and was surprised to learn how much he incorporated science and math into his works. Dalí was an avid reader of the sciences from physics, geometry, genetics, mathematics and natural history. There is a lot more to his art than meets the eye.
The markets and streets, though interesting, became a nightmare of pedestrians packed cheek by jowl. Far down the streets a sea of heads bobbed along, embracing what must have been every Londoner and boisterous footballer out for a frolic – navigating the streets was like riding among bumper cars filled with vengeful teenagers. All the while, a cacophony of church bells peeled across London. The temperatures of 49º and cold north wind dropped the ambient temps to something like 39º making for a grumpy tourist after a few hours.
The fresh produce shelves were a surprise. Currently there is a shortage of vegetables imported from the usual European markets. “Sorry temporarily out of stock” was seen often in place of tomatoes, lettuce, and green vegetables. Brexit, crop failure, or shortages? Regardless, a lot of empty shelves.
But perhaps this represented a familiar experience for my ancestor, James Beal Bunyard who lived, worked, and committed his crimes here until sentenced at Old Bailey and shipped to the American colonies for seven years of servitude. If one keeps one’s head down and ignores the tall buildings, the streets of the East End like Shoreditch, Shoe Lane, Red Lion, Clerkenwell and the alleyways in the Old Jewry neighborhood hint at what life must have been like for James Bunyard.