Proud author’s bid to prove family matters

PUBLISHED: 11:14 25 September 2008 | UPDATED: 10:19 12 August 2010

AN HISTORIAN has written a book to encourage others to find out about their family history. Farnborough-born historian John

AN HISTORIAN has written a book to encourage others to find out about their family history.

Farnborough-born historian John Pateman wrote Hoo, Hops and Hods, the story of his great great grandfather, Robert Pateman.

Robert Pateman was a 19th century gypsy who spent most of his life travelling between his base in the Hoo Peninsula, Surrey and Middlesex and his story is told through the associations of people such as Charles Dickens and Flora Thompson.

Librarian Mr Pateman, 51, said: "Robert Pateman had an incredible life travelling around, fixing chairs for people and selling pegs.

"He married Mary Enis and they had 13 children together. They travelled in proper ornate gypsy caravans.

"Dickens makes references to the chair mender in his stories and I'd like to think that maybe that was Robert Pateman because they lived in the same area at the same time, though I have no real way of knowing if that it true."

Mr Pateman's father died when he was nine and his mother passed away when he was 30, but neither of them ever told him anything about his family history.

He said: "I'm not sure whether they were waiting until I was a bit older. Perhaps if my father had lived longer he would have told me something because he must have remembered the caravans.

"I know from talking to other people from gypsy families that once they settle in a house they try to bury everything from their past because of the stigma.

"But I want to tell the world about it. I can understand where they're coming from but I'm really proud of my gypsy heritage."

The author's interest in his ancestors was sparked in 2001 after he saw his great uncle Walter Pateman's name on Orpington war memorial. He became the subject of his first book, Seven Steps Seven Steps to Glory - Private Pateman goes to War.

He said: "I've found it really interesting finding out about my family's history and I want to encourage other people to find out about theirs. It's so easy now with the internet to trace birth and death records. Twenty years ago it would have been much harder but now it's quite easy and doesn't cost a lot of money."

Hoo, Hops and Hods costs £7.50 including postage and packaging from Pateran Press and can be ordered online at

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