Chance museum visit leads to book on family history in Thorney


Lower Town Street in Upwell

The World Health Organisation warns one in four of us will suffer with a mental health disorder and people with mental health problems have a disproportionately higher rate of disability and can die earlier.

The good news is family historians are well placed to have a vital role in the fight for good mental and physical health.

Author Helen Parker-Drabble has just completed a new book titled A Victorian's Inheritance, which concentrated heavily on Thorney and Upwell after a chance discovery.

Helen said: "In the summer of 2013, I found myself near Thorney. Imagine my delight to find that the house in the Tank Yard where my grandfather, Walter Parker, had grown up was now the Thorney Museum.

"Incredibly, the volunteer steward, Jeremy Culpin, overheard my interest in the Parker family. He asked if I wanted an introduction to a lady whose mother was a Parker and had lived her life in Thorney.

"It had never occurred to me I could meet people who knew my granddad. My Cousin Phyllis Mary Skells, née Woods, known as Mary, was Walter’s niece and lived in nearby Peterborough. She was born in 1918 and we had several delightful years getting to know each other.

"Our meeting led to my reuniting three branches of the Parker family - I not only found two living cousins, I wrote a book, just published!"

Helen wants to reminds us that the story of our families has enormous value:

  • It can be a powerful antidote against adverse life experiences. It shows you too can overcome disaster and survive tough times.
  • Children with a strong sense of their ancestors are more self-confident.
  • Sharing stories promotes bonding and helps adolescents develop a sense of identity.
  • Family histories can help determine, and challenge, our psychological inheritance

Helen is a lifelong explorer of social history, a weaver of factual family tales, and holds a Diploma in counselling.

Fascinated by psychological theory and the stories we develop to make sense of ourselves and our family, her original quest was to understand her Victorian grandfather, Walter Parker, born in 1885 in Upwell.

During Helen’s research, a transgenerational legacy of loss, trauma, anxiety, and depression unravelled. It revealed repeated patterns of behaviour that she too had unwittingly passed on. This discovery helped her understand her work’s focus.

As a geneatherapist her mission is to use historical and current understanding of mental health, psychology, epigenetics, and neuroscience to deepen our understanding of our ancestors and benefit present and future generations.

For more information click here 

The Parker family reunited in 2014 . By Helen Parker-Drabble