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Guest blog – my family story by Clive Bonny


Genealogy opens the door to many unanswered questions. Where do we come from? What character traits have we inherited? Who else do we share them with? Where are they now? Like Alice through the looking glass our past can be a fascinating glimpse into the present and the future. So, thanks to Emma Cox, let me share a few experiences on my own ancestral journey! The caterpillar in Alice on Wonderland says “Begin at the beginning and go on till you come to the end. Then stop.” So, starting with the present


I’m Clive Bonny, born in Blackpool in May 1953. It was the month Blackpool Football Club called “The Seagulls” won the FA Cup at Wembley watched by my father John Bonny. My home town now is Brighton who coincidentally adopted The Seagulls name after Blackpool dropped it 50 years ago. My interest in genealogy came from my father’s creation of our family tree going back 400 years. More recent digital records based on paper archives have helped me track back a further 400 years family history to the thirteenth century.


John Bonny’s will in 1550 details important possessions at that time. 30 sheep and a bed to his wife; 10 shillings, a bullock, barley and copper to his sons; a cart and plough to his tenants; two pence to each of his god children and the church; cloth, ducks, hens, wheat, rye, cattle, horses and hogs, all being vital for life with a value of £22 pounds 12 shillings and 7 pence. Todays national archive currency converter values that same money at 754 days (over 2 years) wages for skilled tradesmen. In those days of almost zero savings this was a substantial amount.


My family records across the last 800 years show considerable consistency in family activities for farming and land development, with new buildings of inns, hotels and community infrastructure. I’m able to relate to those activities with my own consultancy career in training and advice on environmental conservation, community engagement and social values.  My own business motto since 1990 “Success Breeds Success When Values Sustain Value” and recognitions for “Responsible Business” are on my website . I really believe common family behaviours are passed down in our DNA and influence our present and future.


For those who watch TV ancestral tracking you’ll know it’s not all good news! We all have a few skeletons in the cupboard. My ancestor activities include a theft resulting in a convict ship to Australia, family member imprisonment in UK for substance abuse, and a more recent suspected misappropriation of estate assets from one generation to the next. I’m trained in personal background vetting and fraud and I found over a million pounds of assets had disappeared unaccounted from one family member. Whilst genealogists are not forensic accountants these occurrences can spark an additional train of enquiry if qualified persons and time allows. Regrettably family deaths and probate disputes often result in estate assets being misappropriated. All these things remind us that life can be difficult and requires understanding and resilience to inevitable unexpected set backs.


For me adding to these records is an important legacy for the Bonny grandchildren Joshua and Isabelle. I’m leaving them my own personal daily home diaries from the 1970’s which describe my life and my family activities in (sometimes embarrassing) detail. I’ve also compiled for their future reading an album of good wishes and advice from my chosen heroes of our time. During the 2020 pandemic I wrote to 40 community leaders, in UK and abroad. All are successful role models in society representing education, arts, sports, news, social media, church, public bodies, country ambassadors, and businesses. All the replies from highly respected community leaders are a wonderful compilation of their successful experience and advice to others on how to navigate our lives in difficult times. My letter read:   

I would be grateful if you can consider this request for your valued advice.

I have two grandchildren, Isabelle aged one and Joshua who is three years old. I’m 67 years old and still working and volunteering. They need the best advice to help them manage the future in these uncertain times. I am a strong believer that guidance from our most respected community leaders is important. Can you spare a precious moment of your time so I can share your advice with them and others?

38 years ago, my mother Joan Bonny wrote to community leaders asking for some supportive comments for my son Ben after he was born. We hold those valued replies with great respect. My son Ben read them as he grew up and has kept them diligently.  He has flourished with the wise words from elders and consequently helped others on their own life’s journey.

I humbly wish to ask if you can write a brief note to Joshua and Isabelle via my address to help them navigate their future in our global village and support our joined-up communities:

What is the biggest future challenge in the wider world, and how should Isabelle and Joshua play their part to help their own communities navigate this uncharted territory?

You have carved your successful path with a helicopter view from the top. In doing so, you have guided countless others. Success Breeds Success. By sharing your advice, your reply will help my grandchildren and next generation take care of the future.

With sincere thanks from myself and my wife Susan,

Clive Bonny         

I attach an example below from Lord Ian Botham whose success in sport, charity support and public life is inspirational.

To hear more about Clive’s family history please listen to his interview on the Journeys into Genealogy podcast.

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