Coventry cousins meet for the first time after discovering their shared great-grandfather online
Despite having grown up in Coventry just a few minutes apart, Maggie Sheppard and Patricia Webb never knew they shared a great-grandfather until they discovered each other on an ancestry website earlier this year.
With lockdown restrictions still in place when they struck up their first conversation, it was some time before they were finally able to meet up in-person, but when our café reopened to the public in July, it provided the perfect location for their first face-to-face encounter.
“Before I arrived, I was really worried that I might not recognise Pat,” Maggie recalls. “I’d only seen her profile picture before, so if that wasn’t up-to-date, I wouldn’t know who I was looking for,” she recalls. “As it happened though when I saw her, I actually thought it was my sister at first, they look so alike!”
But it was Pat who first suggested the meeting, after reaching out to Maggie online a few months earlier.
“I’ve been putting together my family tree for a few years now, but it’s taken a lot of research, because most of my older relatives have died now, so there isn’t really anyone left to ask about it,” she explains.
“She’d been looking for members of the Sheppard family,” adds Maggie, “but at the time she had no idea we’d turn out to be so closely related!”
As the two got talking, they quickly realised that they’d been at school just ten minutes away from each other, with Maggie at Whitmore Park and Pat at Coundon Court. It seems remarkable that the pair could have lived so close together with no knowledge of each other – but there is reason to believe they might have met or at least been in a room together when they were younger, even if they have no memory of it now.
“My gran kept the Brassworkers’ Club in King Street, and we know that Maggie’s dad used to go there regularly – there’s a photo of him there with my uncle,” says Pat. “After she left the club, my gran came to live with us for a while, and I can remember going to a funeral for one of Maggie’s relatives.”
Hearing their family’s story is like looking through a window onto Coventry’s industrial past: their shared great-grandfather was a watchmaker back when the city was world-famous for the trade, living at number 17 Spon Street.
But perhaps more importantly Pat and Maggie, it’s been an opportunity for both of them to find a friend they might otherwise never have met.
“We’ve kept in touch via FaceTime – we talk a lot,” says Maggie. “She’s a lovely lady, and we’ve got such a lot in common with our families, you wouldn’t believe!”
“We found out that we both have our birthdays in April,” adds Pat, agreeing, “We do really seem to have hit it off!”
For Maggie, it’s been lovely to be able to revisit a place that means a lot to her as well.
“The Belgrade is somewhere I used to go a lot with my sister before covid,” she says. “In fact, there have been occasions when we’ve been three times in a single week, so it’s a very special place for us.”
While they might have struck gold in finding each other, however, their search for information isn’t over.
“We’re going further into different branches of the family now,” says Maggie. “I’m looking into my grandmother’s ancestry, and Pat’s started looking at her married family.”
The hunt continues…
The Belgrade Theatre café is currently open 9am-6pm Monday-Saturday. Thanks to the government’s Eat Out to Help Out scheme, from Monday-Wednesday throughout August, you can enjoy 50% off food and non-alcoholic drinks, including our popular afternoon tea package. For a full menu and details of how to book, please visit our Food and Drink page.
Thanks to Maggie and Pat for sharing their story with us. If you’ve got a special memory of the Belgrade you’d like to share, please get in touch by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.