In the summer of 2015, I encouraged my husband Brent to join me in returning to the British Isles. He agreed.
After a few weeks in London, we flew to Inverness, Scotland, located so far north in the Scottish Highlands that it was not yet fully dark when we landed at 11PM. We were picked up by friends, David and Jane Gardiner whom my daughter Becky and I had met briefly the previous year at church. David, a student of British family history and Jane, a gourmet chef, treated us like royalty. Over the next two months the Gardeners kindly took us on several one and two-day outings where we saw parts of beautiful Scotland the average tourist never encounters. Not only did we learn much history of the island nation, but we also admittedly gained a few pounds (and I don’t mean Scottish Sterling Pounds) from Jane’s nightly five to seven-course meals.
Near the end of our two months, David, Brent and I had signed up for a family history conference being held at the John Gray Library Centre in Haddington. All hotels and bed-and-breakfasts were booked, but we managed to rent a little cottage outside of town for a week.
Some writers have commented that they occasionally feel a special influence guiding them. Such was the case at the conference. Brent had gone in early to save me a seat at a presentation. However, I had heard bagpipes playing outside and could not resist running out to listen to them playing in the town square for the weekly Farmers’ Market celebration.
Finally, I forced myself to go back into the conference. By the time I arrived (late) at the lecture, there was only one seat left in the entire room. I didn’t know it at the time but it was next to Helen Robinson, an outstanding historian of both Haddington, Scotland, and my 24th great grandmother, Ada de Warenne. I had not met Helen at the time, so I had no idea who she was. Helen was soon to become an important part of our life and my new quest to gain information on this newly found ancestor.
Some days earlier, I had inquired at the same library regarding books and papers on Ada. We had found little material that even mentioned her name. Then the librarian brought me a paper by Helen, “The ‘King’s’ Palace: A Medieval Royal Palace Revealed,” along with Helen’s email address. Her well-written paper was a timely find for me. Helen and I emailed each other and then spoke briefly on the phone, hoping to find a time we could get together.
Within a day or two, Helen, Brent, and I met up again at the John Gray Library in Haddington. Upon hearing my goals to learn more about Ada, Helen offered to drive Brent and me to various sites. During the next few days, we were on our way and in research heaven as we traveled throughout the area to see many locations important to Ada almost nine-hundred years earlier.
All too soon, it was time for us to catch our ten-hour flight back to Arizona. We bid adieu to Scotland, confident that lasting friendships had been born. My life had changed forever and I knew I would never be the same, having walked the land of my beloved ancestor.