IMAGINE a present which keeps on giving each time you look at it.
Mary Sutheran has just such a gift thanks to the thoughtfulness of her caring family.
A few Christmases ago, they presented her with a massive document. It was her family tree going back to the 1700s.
Ever since, it has been a constant source of interest.
Mary, 74, a former children’s home domestic, and factory worker at Siemens and Reeds Packaging, said: “I’ll put it away and then take another look, and I usually find something new that I had not spotted before.”
Mary’s own past has been busy.
As well as her working life, Mary spent 14 years raising her family of four children – David, now 49, John, 47, Stephen, 42, and Joanne, 40 – and retired from work at 58.
It was her children who presented her family tree as a Christmas present – a fantastically detailed document which covers both her own side of the family and that of her late husband Kenny.
Mary, from the Hart Lane area of Hartlepool, said: “It was a lovely surprise.
“I do know something about some of the people in it but it is lovely to see it all written down.
“It is something I keep getting out to have a look.”
Research shows Mary’s ancestry traces back to Ireland.
Her grandfather, Paddy Connor, married Mary’s grandmother Annie Rouse and originated from Rathlee in County Sligo in Ireland.
Paddy was born in 1858 and Annie four years later.
They had three children. All sons.
There was Joseph, Thomas and John Connor. John was Mary’s father and lived from March 1890 to July 1971.
That side of her family can be traced back to 1763 and to John O’Boyle, part of the Irish side of her ancestry. O’Boyle was the maiden name of Mary’s mother Winifred.
Her grandmother Annie O’Boyle – nee Clarke – worked at the Hartlepool pottery near Newburn Bridge.
Mary said: “On her marriage to James O’Boyle, she received a piece of pottery dated 1882 and it is still in a good condition.”
The Christmas gift is packed with other details, linking Mary to families in Yorkshire, Hampshire and other parts of the UK as well as plenty more relatives in Hartlepool.
But an overriding twist to the story is the love Mary’s family puts into her presents.
In another gift, this time for her 70th birthday, her family took Mary to visit the area of Ireland where her heritage lies.
Her son John told us: “The family property was still there and there was also a cousin who was 98.
“She could still remember and relate a bit of the history for us.”
Mary’s view on it all was that her family history was “fascinating”.
On her late husband Kenny’s side, the Sutheran story is just as interesting and shows they were very much a family of crofters and of lifeboatmen.
In fact, a picture showing three generations of the family has been on show at the Museum of Hartlepool and shows that they were part of a very early lifeboat crew from the town.
That side of the family has been traced back to 1680 and to a Francis Hastings.
And the fact that Mary knows all about it, is down to the current generation of Sutherans who thought up the idea of the gift.