I’ve had a chance to sort it out and here’s what I’ve got so far.
What I know for sure:
1. My memories of a previous life correspond well to those of one John Harris (1877-1915).
2. John was a private in the King’s Shropshire Light Infantry, based out of Shrewsbury
3. That in Sept. 1914 (when John is known to have enlisted) there were regiments closer to his home in Hereford, but instead he chose one based more than 50 miles away in a town where I can find no record of direct relatives living at that time.
4. I also have memories of a Romanesque abbey in ruins which I can’t quite place; I had seen similar ruins before but not exactly like this one.
5. There are two abbeys of a Romanesque type near Shrewsbury.
6. I have had possible memories of a life in the 13th or 14th century. These memories have not been confirmed or traced to a specific individual yet.
7. One of these memories involves becoming a monk against the wishes of my family, and being from a family of means. The abbey where I became a monk was also Romanesque.
8. There was a family by the name of Harris in the late Middle Ages in the Shrewsbury area, but I cannot trace them back further than about the 15th century with the records available freely online.
9. “John Harris” was among the names I came across among the Shrewsbury Harrises, so if I did live before in the Middle Ages, it’s possible I had the same name in that life.
What I strongly inferred from intuition but have not confirmed:
1. That I was the third son of a noble house meant by order of birth to be in the military in the Middle Ages, and that I had chosen to be a monk to get out of that obligation.
2. That I was John Harris in my most recent previous life.
3. That I remembered that medieval life in 1914 while visiting an abbey near Shrewsbury and that this influenced my decision not only to enlist, but to join the KSLI in particular rather than enlisting closer to home and family.
4. That I learned Received Pronunciation in Hereford, and that after leaving the farm I took work in a position that required me to look and sound posh, but paid little (e.g. a butler or waiter).
5. That I regretted my decision to not become a soldier in my life as a monk, and that I had ambitions of becoming an officer and held the misguided hope that my age and my efforts to learn received pronunciation would mark me as a candidate for becoming one.
Ideas that I’ve so far disfavored:
1. That I had a mistress in Shrewsbury. This was based only on intuition and the vague idea that a woman was there with me in the old abbey in 1914. I have since realized that it could just as easily have been my wife if there was anyone with me at all.
2. That the ruined abbey was somewhere in Herefordshire or Somerset. A search reveals most of the ruined abbeys in those counties are of a later Gothic style (including the famous Glastonbury and Tintern abbeys).
3. That the ruined abbey was actually a childhood memory from this life of a plantation near Charleston, SC. None of the plantations (including Mepkin Abbey, which was built on the site of an old plantation) have the sort of architecture I recall seeing, particularly the columns and rounded archways.
I’m not sure what to think, or how to dig up anything more on that medieval life aside from maybe hiring a researcher (which is sadly out of my budget). I have a feeling the records I need to fill in a lot of these gaps are tucked away in dusty libraries somewhere in England and it’s very discouraging. If I can confirm the details of two past lives, that alone will be remarkable, but it seems I may have just gotten very lucky with the records on John.