Sunday, 26 April 2015

Military Monday - Eisenhower's Visit to a Scottish Village

M"As we mark the end of the Second World War in Europe, here are two photographs from the collection of my local heritage group in Earlston, a Berwickshire village in the rural Scottish Borders. 

The photographs  recollect  the time in 1944 when General Eisenhower came to inspect Polish soldiers from  a tank regiment who were stationed in the village.

General Eisenhower arriving at Earlston Station to inspect the 
Polish Tank Regiment stationed in the village in 1944. 

 Tanks in Earlston Square - note the two little boys giving them close inspection!

Following the formation of the 1st Polish Armoured Division, in February 1942 at Duns, the county town of Berwickshire, Polish troops under the command of General Stanislav Maczek  trained across Scotland including Berwickshire, before taking part in the Normandy Landings of 1944.   At its peak, the division numbered 16,000 soldiers. 

In Earlston,  the rugby club pitch and clubhouse were requisitioned by the military. Approximately one third of the pitch was dug out and concrete laid to make a  "hull-down" park for the tanks  stationed in the area preparing for D-Day.  

Earlston was far away from military action and  from the wartime devastation that hit so many parts of Britain, yet here it was playing a role in the D Day offensive.

                                               Wartime photograph courtesy of Auld Earlston

Military Monday is one of many daily prompts from encouraging&@ bloggers to record their family history.


Saturday, 25 April 2015

A-Z Challenge - V for Verses & Vicissitudes

A-Z of Family History Sources & Stories 
Join me on this A-Z journey to explore the fascinating records 
that can  enhance your family history research and writing. 

VERSES - this may seem an unusual theme to feature but it is sparked by two memories. 

My father in this 80's could still recite poems that he learned at school.  He enjoyed the dramatic tones of his favourites: The Border ballad "O young Lochinvar", "The "Charge of  the Light Brigade", "The boy stood on the burning deck",  and  "The High Tide on the coast of Lincolnshire".

O young Lochinvar has come out of the west ,
Through out the wide Borders, his steed was the best.
And save his good broadsword, his weapons were none

He rode all unarmed and throde all alone
So faithful in lvoe and so dauntless inw ar
There never was knight like the young Lochinvar

My great grandmother Maria Rawcliffe (below)  came from Hambleton, one of a  group of small villages in north coastal Lancashire.  In a local history,  I came across the following traditional jingle.

    Pilling for Paters (potatoes)
Preesall for pluck
Hamelton for bonnie lasses
Stalmine for muck! 

An apt rhyme for the Rawcliffe family of five daughters - and I like to think of my great grandmother  as a "bonnie lassie".
Did your parents or grandparents have favourite poems, songs or books that you remember them by?  Are there rhymes and local songs connected with your ancestral homes?   

I particularly like this one from Hawick in the Scottish Borders, where two rivers (the Slitrig and Teviot) meet.

"Where Slitrig dances doon the dell
To join the Teviot Water,
There dwells auld Hawick's honest men
                                         And Hawick's bright-eyed daughters" 

VICISSITUDES  of life are generally easy to find amongst our ancestors living in harsher times,  as  illustrated by the experiences of my families. 

  • The many children who did not survive infancy.
  • Elizabeth Bailey, nee Danson - who died in 1885, followed by her husband a year later, leaving their youngest children orphaned, aged  only 12 and 9.  Margaret went to live with her eldest married sister, whilst Mary Jane joined the household of her eldest brother Henry.    
  • Mary Gaulter, nee Danson - who died in 1864 aged just 26, following the birth of her second son.
  • Ellen Danson -  who had an illegitimate daughter in 1866, named Mary, probably after Ellen's sister above. 
  • Margaret Brownbill, nee Danson -  who was  childless and widowed twice  by the age of 32. 
  • Jane Rawcliffe, nee Carr  - who died in 1865, leaving five young daughters motherless,  including my great grandmother aged only 4.
  • Anne Rawcliffe - who in 1873 had an illegitimate daughter Jane Alice (named after her sisters?).   Anne married but still faced sadness with the death of her twin son Matthew  aged just 7 weeks and five years later the death of Jane aged only 14.  
  • Sarah Danson, nee Lounds -  who died of TB in 1906 at the age of 21, leaving her baby daughter Annie motherless. Annie made her home with her grandmother  Maria, but suffered the loss of her father John Danson in 1917. 

  • George Danson, John Danson, Arthur Matthews,  and Frederick Donaldson - who all  died in the First World War.
    Copyright © 2015 · Susan Donaldson.  All Rights Reserved 

    On to W for War and Weddings 

    Friday, 24 April 2015

    A-Z Challenge - U for Unusual, Unforgettable, Unlucky & Uniforms

    A-Z of Family History Sources & Stories 
    Join me on this A-Z journey to explore the fascinating records 
    that can  enhance your family history research and writing.

    This letter has proved a challenge in itself, so here are a random selection of suggestions for family history writing.

    UNUSUAL WORD - UNQUIHILE  - this word was new to me until I began researching Scottish records in more  depth   You may come across this in old documents, wills etc. and it  is an archaic Scots word meaning "the late" or "the deceased."  I lay claim  for this being the  most unusual U word!  

    UNLUCKY SEARCHES  - sometime researching family history is a matter of luck.  In researching my  my father's childhood in Shropshire. I was delighted to find that the Broseley Historical Society website included extracts from newspapers  with fascinating titbits of life in the local church and school.  But guess what?  The crucial years I wanted of 1925 and 1926 were missing!  

    You may also be unlucky when trying to trace  World War One service records for an ancestor, as so many were destroyed in a 1940's bombing raid on the National Archives in London.  My five Danson great uncles served, but I have only managed to trace the records for one of them - George.

    Tom and George Danson
     UNIFORMS   - Whether  it is military, school or work, photographs of our ancestors in  uniform   put them in the context of their wider lives.  Below  is my Great Aunt Jennie Danson  (second left)  with colleagues who worked in the local post office in Poulton-le-Fylde, Lancashire.

    UNDISPUTED RECORDS We are always looking for that undisputed  record on an  ancestor.  My four times great grandfather John Danson had a daughter Ellen Danson, baptised at St. Chad's Church in 1763 (Poulton Parish Register).   In searching for a marriage I came across an Ellen Danson marrying a Ralph Dewhurst - and made the basic fatal error of assuming this was "my " record - until I discovered that there were two other young Ellen Danson's in Poulton around the same time.  Given that the marriage entry does not name her father, I remain Unsure that I do have the right record.

    UNFORGETTABLE - we all have a person in our ancestry who makes a particular impact.  For me it is my great grandmother Maria Danson, nee Rawcliffe.  It was Maria's photograph that started me on the ancestral trail and has been at the heart of my blogging activity.   Below with her only daughter Jennie, born after 10 sons (2 died in infancy) and her little granddaughter Annie whose mother died of TB aged only 21.

    And finally I remain Unflagging in my family history activities and in following this A-Z challenge - soon nearing its end.  

    Copyright © 2015 · Susan Donaldson.  All Rights Reserved 

    On to V  for Verses & Vicissitudes

    Thursday, 23 April 2015

    A-Z Challenge - T for Tributes, Timelines & Travel

    A-Z of Family History Sources & Stories 
    Join me on this A-Z journey to explore the fascinating records 
    that can  enhance your family history research and writing.

    TRIBUTES  - I perhaps was slow to realise this, but I have discovered that blogging gives me a marvellous opportunity to pay Tribute to my ancestors through profiles of my great grandmother Maria Danson, nee Rawcliffe, to my great uncle George Danson who was killed in the First World War, to my grandfather William Danson who won the Military Medal,   to my feisty Great Aunt Jennie, to the war time experiences of my father John Weston, to my uncle Harry Danson  who was evacuated at Dunkirk, and to the talents of my mother and aunt - Kathleen and Edith Danson. I am proud to have done this.

    A Painting by my Aunt Edith

    TRAVEL  is a sideline on family history whether we  follow the ancestral trail by  exploring in  the footseps of our forebears or discover  how our ancestors got about.   Both aspects can provide you with inspiration for a family story.

      Earlston Parish Church Outing, 1907  -
    one wonders how they managed going up and down the Scottish Borders hills!

    My brother on the  ancestral trail in front of the famous Ironbridge, in Shropshire built in 1779.  Our father grew up here, sang in the local church choir from the age of seven and was vice-captain of the school football team.  His father Albert Weston walked  35 minute each way across the bridge  each day  to get to work.

    TIMELINES   to me are an important feature of a  family history narrative.  Our ancestors did not live in a vacuum.    I am  a firm believer in setting their  lives in a wider context of life around them - what was happening at a local, national and international leveL?  I usually present this in the form of a text box in each chapter. 

    My father was always called a Titanic baby - a bit of a misnomer, but it related to the  fact  he was born 15th April 1912, the night the Titanic sank.  For major events, date reference books can help, but local newspapers and local histories are invaluable sources of information.    Some ideas here: 
    • Was your ancestor alive when there was the threat of a Napoleonic invasion with towns and villages were ready to light beacons to warn of the French attack? 
    • Might your ancestors have seen the Jacobite army marching through Scotland and the north of England  in 1745,   as Prince Charles Edward Stuart (Bonnie Prince Charlie) attempted  to take the Hanoverian throne.
    • The coming of the railway to a community must have been a thrilling event to witness, with local newspapers giving extensive coverage of the excitement generated. 

    • What about the impact of the invention of the sewing machine  on the task of making a family's clothes?  
    • Might your female ancestors have seen suffragettes campaigning  locally?
    • When was your local cottage hospital built, or the local football  club formed? 
    • How did your  ancestral town or village mark the death of Queen Victoria in 1901?  

      The possibilities are endless.for adding colour to a family story................

      Copyright © 2015 · Susan Donaldson.  All Rights Reserved 

      On to U for Unusual, Unforgettable,
      Unlucky & Uniform 

    Wednesday, 22 April 2015

    Sepia Saturday - Down the Decades with Hair

    Sepia Saturday give bloggers an opportunity to share their family history and memories  through photographs.

    My focus this week is on hairstyles down the decades. 
    Not quite as luxurious a head as in the prompt photograph, but here is Annie Bailey of Blackpool - an ancestor of my third cousin. Taken in the 1880's-00's perhaps? 
    The impact on the First World War on the changing role of  women saw an abandonment of the  traditional long hair styles of the Victorian period to the new short styles of the bob, finger-wave, Marvel wave, shingle and Eton crop, with their popularity continuing well into the 1930's. 

    An elegant unidentified portrait in my husband's collection - thought to be a relation of his aunt Annette.  

    My great aunt Jennie Danson  who sacrificed her long plait for the new look.

    My mother Kathleen Danson -Jennie's niece, though there was only 11 years difference in their ages.  

    My mother again - with more waves this time

    My mother's second cousin Elsie Oldham - hairdresser "Elise".

    In the 1930''s and 1940's  a  softer look crept in, with curls and waves all the rage, and during the war the "roll" was the defining style.  This was the age of trying to emulate  Hollywood glamour, despite the realities  of life during the  depression and war

    My mother  - Kathleen Danson
    My aunt - Edith Danson

    Another new look for my mother who seems to have adopted an Austrian style, with what looks like  braids over  her head.  She was always very proud of her distinctive widow's peak.  

    Below some typical 1940s looks from my aunt Peggy Danson (in WAAF uniform), my mother and finally  my husband's elegant aunt Annette.

     On some decades  - with my student look of the 1960's,  and the heavy glasses of the 1970's (now back in style), though I wish I had hair like that now! 


    The nearest I came to big hair  with the permed look and big shoulder pads for this photograph taken for a work Annual Report c.1991.   With owlish glasses to match, there were comments that I looked like  Deidre out of soap opera  "Coronation Street"!!

    Copyright © 2015 · Susan Donaldson.  All Rights Reserved

    Click HERE to see how other Sepia Saturday bloggers
    have taken up this week's theme

    A-Z Challenge - S for Scottish Records to the Fore

    A-Z of Family History Sources & Stories 
    Join me on this A-Z journey to explore the fascinating records 
    that can  enhance your family history research and writing.

    SCOTLANDS' PEOPLE.  is the definitive site for anyone researching Scottish ancestry, and the only one to date which offers digital, downloadable records.  

    The website at features old parish records (pre-1855), census returns, statutory BMD - wills,  catholic registers, and a more recent feature valuation rolls of property + much more e.g. research tools and background information. 

    A pay-as-you-view site where you buy 30 credits for £7.  Search results only cost 1 credit (23p), but to view the actual record costs 5 credits (£1.16), which is where you can soon go through your £7 purchase, f you click to view on a wrong record.

    A tip - as I have a subscription to Ancestry, I search initially on this to establish which record is "my" family, before paying to view and download the right record from ScotlandsPeople.

    SCOTLANDS' PLACES is a much lesser known site at   The website  allows  you   to search across different national databases using geographic locations. It features historical buildings and monuments,  gazetteers, name books  & maps.

    Of particular  interest are  largely unknown tax records from the 17th and 18th centuries.  e.g. window tax, hearth tax,  carriage tax, male and female servant tax rolls, farm horse tax, cart tax, clock & watch tax, and non-working dog tax.    Well worth looking at for their curiosity value!      A subscription site.

    STATISTICAL ACCOUNTS - Written by each parish minister  they give a contemporary  account of life at the time, with the first edition published 1791-99 and the "New Statistical Account" 1834-45, so they largely precede the first census.   They tell you how many paupers, cattle, sheep, horses,  etc. were in the parish,  give details on the land,  trades and occupations, the school, and the church, with frank comments on "miserable hovels", "the church roof leaks rain  on the congregation"  and "there is a want of fuel in winter".

    if you have Scottish ancestors  these are "a  must see" rich  source of background information.  Take a look at

    SADNESS, SOLEMNITY & SISTERS  are all sources of family history stories,  illustrated in this photograph of the MacFarlane family of  Fife in Scotland -  nine sisters (Bridget, Kate, Mary, Ellen, Sarah, Annie, Jane, Maggie and Jemima)  and one brother  (Patrick), with their mother Annie.  The dark clothes and solemn expressions, with their mother holding a bible or prayer book suggest this was on the occasion of a funeral.   The style of dress and the estimated age of the youngest daughter indicated c.1910 and I believe this was taken after the death of their father James in 1912. 

    And finally  
    SCHOOL RECORDS  have a look HERE at an earlier post on the topic.

    SASINES - Scottish property records
    Records of all land and property titles or transfers by grant, inheritance or sale as appearing in the Sasine (pronounced 'say-zin') Register or the Land.

    The General Register of Sasines - also known as the Sasine Register - is the oldest land register in the world, dating back to 1617. Its name comes from the old French word 'seizer', which means 'take'.
    The Sasine Register is a chronological list of land deeds, which contain written descriptions of properties. It is gradually being replaced by the map-based

    Onto T for Tributes, Travel  & Taxation 

    Copyright © 2015 · Susan Donaldson.  All Rights Reserved  


    Tuesday, 21 April 2015

    A-Z Challenge: R for Reconnecting & Research

    A-Z of Family History Sources & Stories 
    Join me on this A-Z journey to explore the fascinating records 
    that can  enhance your family history research and writing.

    Records, Resources, References and Registrars are  at the heart of our family history activities.

    RECONNECTING WITH RELATIVES   - family history has given me the push  to get in touch with relatives e.g. my mother's cousins, who  I knew about from my childhood,  but had had no personal contact  with as an adult  particularly when we moved to another part of the country. I prevaricated about this for ages,  but what  a resource I had been missing out on!  I have had a marvellous reception from them  to hearing  a family voice from the past - "I remember a little girl with pig tails".  We have exchanged memories, paid visits and I have gathered additional material for my blog posts. 

    The daughter of my Great Aunt Jennie had a box of memorabilia in her loft, which she  wondered what to do with - and I was the benefactor of photographs, used heavily in my blog, including the only photograph of my great grandfather James Danson  and two unknown photographs of my great grandmother Maria Rawcliffe - plus much much more.   I was also able to read  the moving letter written by my great uncle George three weeks before he was killed on the Somme in 1916, and  photograph Maria's tea set and jewellery.  I was touching personal possessions used by Maria who lived 1859-1919. 

    So don't delay in accessing the wonderful resource of family.  

    RESEARCH in itself can be a source of family history writing,  especially if you are blogging.  Do you always use a dose of sceptism and  question information you find,  sources uncovered, the validity of online transcriptions and  family trees?   We all like to learn from others, so do you have you a particular research story to tell?  Mine was a tale of following false trails and making wrong assumptions.  Yours may be  a particularly exciting discovery.

    Copyright © 2015 · Susan Donaldson.  All Rights Reserved 

    On to S for ScotlandsPeople, ScotlandsPlaces, Sasines, Statistical Accounts, Sadness & Sisters