My maternal grandfather died ten years before I was born. His own father, my great-grandfather died when my grandfather was thirteen and by all accounts my grandfather was a very taciturn man who did not like to discuss  his personal life. We tried to research my great-grandfather for our family tree, but as there were two Albert Edward Cullums born in neighbouring districts of London’s East End within two years of each other, we don’t even know which one he was. As such, we have an empty space in our family album and I know next to nothing about my great-grandfather.

He could have had the Cullum nose, that long, large, slightly crooked nose shared by my mother, several of her siblings and multiple cousins. There would be the Cullum bug eyes as well, the ones that were one of the first things we pointed out when one of my second cousins was born the year before last. Judging by both my grandfather’s brothers and my mother’s brothers, he would be tall.

Except, one day we visited my grandfather’s sister-in-law and she had a picture of her mother-in-law, my grandfather’s mother and my great-grandmother. My mother’s observation when looking at his photograph and at photographs of my great-grandmother’s family? She could see her sisters there, the sisters they had always said took after the Cullums. The Cullum nose and the bug eyes? They actually had nothing to do with Albert Edward Cullum, but with his wife, Sarah Smith. There is no Cullum nose after all.

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