Sunday, 17 August 2014

A Blog Makeover Challenge

Go for a makeover!  Who can resist that prospect!

Alex Daw of Family Tree Frog has invited bloggers to join her in a different challenge - to look at each other's blogs, give feedback and make suggestions.

I had been thinking recently: 
  • Does my blog look rather tired, jaded,  and,  dare I admit it,  boring?"  
  • Does it need a facelift?   
My 4th blog anniversary is next week, so this is just the time to go for a refreshing makeover!

I should add that I am not particularly IT savvy as regards procedures and terminology, so it was an achievement to have got where I have with it! 

I have been trying out different colour themes, but have ended up with virtually the same as before, as I do like the clean look of blue.  Some time ago, I followed advice and moved my blog favourites and blog awards to a tab - and feel this has worked well.  in de-cluttering the side bar.

 I do like a suggestion from Sharon to Wendy to set up a Search widget and must look into this.

 So do give me your thoughts.  I look forward to hearing from fellow bloggers.  Susan.

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Sepia Saturday - Letters Home From the Front

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

Stories of  my family's military service have featured before on my blog.  But I am pleased in this special commemorative year to make a further tribute to them through their moving letters, telegrams and cards home from the front

Dad with my mother (right) and my aunt (left)
I came across this telegram whilst sorting through papers following the deaths of my father and mother, John and Kathleen Weston nee Danson.   I love the design and the message, with the frank on the reverse showing it was sent on December 31st 1941.  

My father was then serving in the Codes and Cipher Branch of the Ministry of Defence in Whitehall, London and had witnessed the Battle of Britain over London earlier in the autumn of 1941.

Very movingly I also discovered a series of letters, still in their envelopes,  exchanged between my parents during 1944-45 when my father  was in France and Germany. Dad by this time was attached to the US forces under General Bradley.


In  a typed letter home, Dad asked "I hope you have managed to have Baby's photograph taken".

This is the photograph!


The telegram below was sent by my Uncle Charles to my father on 24th September 1945 following Charles release from a Japanese prisoner of war camp.   

Charles and my father John Weston were close as brothers and had nicknames for one another - "Ace" and Mel".   Unfortunately I failed to ask my father about the origin of these names and neither my cousin nor I have been able to find out any thin.  Were Ace and Mel popular radio characters for instance?  I would love to know, if anyone has any ideas.  

When he was back home in Leicester, Charles wrote a long letter to my father in November 1945 with details and thoughts on his experience as a POW.   It starts "Dear Mel" and is signed "Keep batting!" - Ace". 




Postcards from Flanders, sent by my grandfather William Danson to his family back home, are the most prized items in my collection of family memorabilia.   They are made more poignant by the penciled messages from William to his wife Alice and children Edith, Kathleen, Harry and baby Billy. 

Grandad was a taciturn labourer, He never spoke about the war and would never have put into words the sentiments expressed  in the cards he sent to his wife Alice and his messages were rather prosaic. 


Dear Alice, received your letter allright.  I have landed back at the Butt and am in the pink.  I have had a letter from Jennie and am glad you have word of Tom.  You loving husband, Billy xxx.  [7 February 1918]

The two Brussels scenes  below were sent to William's daughters, Edith and Kathleen (my mother) around Christmas 1918, when presumably he was waiting to be demobbed.



 ?8th December 1918 - Dear Kathleen, I am in the pink and hope mother and family are the same.  Will send a few more cards in a day or so.  From her Dad XXXXXX


24th December 1918 - Dear Edith, Just a card to let you know that I am in the best of health.  I am staying not from the ?? that is on the card.  From her Dad XXXXXX

"I had to assist the wounded at a dressing station and stuck to it for about 40 hours. It's blooming hard work being a stretcher bearer in the field."  
These were the words of my great uncle George Danson, written three weeks before he was killed on the Somme in a letter to his brother Frank the nearest in age of his seven brothers.  

 "At present we are abut 8 miles behind the firing line. I had to assist the wounded at a dressing station and stuck to it for about 40 hours. It's blooming hard work being a stretcher bearer in the field. On Friday I was in a big bombardment and will say it was like a continual thunder and lightening going off. As I write there are blooming big guns going off abut 50 yards away every few minutes. Don't I wish that all of us could get home. Wouldn't that be great, lad, there's a good time coming and I hope we shall all be there to join in."

"The good time" was not to be, for three weeks later, and a week after his 22nd birthday,  George was killed on 16th September 1916 at the Battle of the Somme, and buried in the Guards Cemetery, Les Boeufs, near Albert. 

Click HERE to find more other blogger tales of letters home

Copyright © 2014 · Susan Donaldson.  All Rights Reserved

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Wedding Wednesday - A 1913 Wedding with a Sad End

Looking through old newspapers gives us such a picture of another age,  and here is a poignant tale of a wedding in 1913 - with a sad ending.  

In the "Berwckshire News" of 4th March 1913,  I  came across a full page account of a society wedding, complete with portraits of the bride and groom  and great detail given on the guests,  the costumes worn, and the lavish  gifts.

The bride wore "a Princess robe of ivory velvet, with falling sleeves of applique, with pearl tassled ends.   The square decolletage being embroidered with pearls and Rhinestones.  The skirt drapery was caught up at one side showing an underskirt of lace. The train entirely of Brussels lace was lined with ivory chiffon.  The bridesmaids wore frocks of daffodil yellow satin, with soft ruffles of chiffon and sashes of blue to match blue suede shoes worn with shite silk stockings.  The costumes were comnpleted by white mob caps  tied with blue ribbons and they carried posies of daffodils."

The list of presents  painted a portrait of the age, ranging  from an opulent platinum and diamond watch,and crystal cigarette case set with rubies, to the slightly more mundane - a pair of cartridge pepper pots, an ivory tusk corkscrew (now very  environmentally incorrect!),  a fitted motor valise,  an  Irish bog oak carved inkstand, a  dark green Russian leather blotter. a mounted antelope  horn cigarette lighter, purple silk cushions embroidered in gold, a maeve parasol, a silver egg stand and  silver filigree  fan.  Of a more utilitarian nature were an umbrella, set of waistcoat buttons. a biscuit warmer, set of thimble, paste shoe buckles,  and a dog's biscuit tin. 

Like many newly married couples, the bride and groom ended up with numerous blotters, inkstands, photo frames, cut glass bowls, and butter dishes with knives.

The marriage had been delayed a few weeks, because the groom had suffered appendicitis. 

Perhaps this could be regarded as a portent.  For given the date of 1913,   further research gave this happy occasion a  poignancy in marking the end of an era.  Within three years the groom had been killed in Flanders, leaving a young widow and child.  

[Wedding Wednesday is one of many daily prompts from Geneabloggers to encourage bloggers to record family history] 

Monday, 4 August 2014

Black Sheep Sunday: A Public Apology?

You can pick out such fascinating titbits when reading old newspapers  and I came across this entry recently.  

Hawick Advertiser, 25 January 1868:


"I,  Mary Turnbull or Chisholm do hereby declare that I have falsely accused Margaret Thornburn or Wilson, wife of Archibald Wilson of improper conduct, and I do hereby apologies for the same.
Mary Turnbull, Ladylaw Place, Hawick
21st January 1868.”

The mind starts whirling as to what the accusation was!    We shall never know.    


Lookiong down on the mill town of Hawick

 The 1861 census for Hawick identifies an Archibald and Margaret Wilson aged 38 and 40 - no children listed.  Archibald's occupation was given as "wool puller"  in a town that was the centre of the Borders's textile industry.  

A Mary Turnbull married a James Chisholm in Hawick in 1856 - both popular surnames  in the Scottish Borders, so impossible to say if this was the perpetrator.  

Otherwise I have been unable to trace any further background on this story.  It does occur to me - how many ordinary people would be able to read the newspaper in 1868, so how "public" would be the apology. 

[Black Sheep Sunday is one of many daily prompts from to encourage bloggers to write about their family history] 

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Sibling Saturday: Anne Rawcliffe - Eldest of 8 Sisters

The Roskell Gravestone at St. Anne's Church, Singleton

This gravestone is the only photographic link I have with my great great Aunt Anne,  the eldest sister of my great grandmother Maria.   I have a soft spot for Anne and just wish I had a photograph of her.  

For my research uncovered that Maria was staying with Anne and family at the time of her wedding to James Danson, and Anne named her own daughter Maria - so there must have been a closeness between the two sisters,  daughters of  Robert and Jane Rawcliffe of Hambleton, near Poulton-le-Fylde, Lancashire.  

Anne's life, though,  was marked by  some sadness.  She had an illegitimate daughter before her marriage, but Jane Alice (named after two Rawcliffe sisters)  died at the young age of 14 in 1887.  Five years earlier, Anne and husband Robert Roskell had lost their infant twin son Matthew who only survived three weeks.  Robert died in 1894 leaving Anne a widow with two young daughters - Agnes 12 and Maria 8, and older son John.  


Anne's  family history encompasses three names - Rawcliffe, Roskell and Hesketh -  that were prominent in the Fylde - the area of Lancashire between the River Ribble at Preston to the south and River Wyre at Fleetwood  to the north.

Research through census records and parochial records  traced evens in Anne's life. 
Anne was born 1 June 1847 at Hambleton, and baptised 23rd June at the Church of the Blessed Virgin Mary  at  Hambleton (right)  - the eldest of eight daughters born to Robert and Jane Rawcliffe. 

346 residents lived in Hambleton at the time of the 1851 census.

Ten years on in 1861, Anne was not listed with her parents and sisters, but may well be the 13 year old Anne Rawcliffe, a house servant,  resident with John Rawcliffe, a taylor and grocer, his wife Barbara, 5 year old son Thomas and apprentice Richard Parkinson.  So far no family connection has been traced between these two Rawcliffe families.   

By the time of the 1871 census, Anne, at 23,  was back home with her father (by this time a widower) and two sisters Jane and Maria. 

Anne married gamekeeper Robert Roskell at St. James, Stalmine on 17th March 1874, the witnesses her sister Jennet with her future husband Richard Riley.   Internet contacts produced a wealth of information on Roskell ancestors.  
Thatched Cottages - - 41962.jpg

The 1881 census showed the family to be living in the small hamlet of Thistleton at Thistleton Cottages (left).  This fact,  for the first time explained why my great grandmother Maria's  address was Thistleton  at the time of her marriage to James Danson in 1877 - presumably staying with her eldest sister and family – with James in the neighbouring village of Singleton.  

The 1881 census entry showed in the population of 386:

Robert Roskell
Born Garstang
Ann Roskell
Born Garstang
John Roskell
Son, scholar
Born Kirkham
Jane A. Rawcliffe
Daughter, scholar
Born Garstang

Anne’s birthplace, given as Garstang, could be a mistake, as her birth record is clearly   Hambleton.  This was also the first knowledge of  daughter Jane born c. 1873 before Anne's marriage, with Jane retaining her mother’s surname.  Parish records at Hambleton noted Jane's baptism - with both her Christian names those of Rawcliffe sisters.

In 1882 the parish records of St. Anne’s Singleton showed the baptism of Matthew and Agnes, son and daughter (twins) of Robert and Anne Roskell, Thistleton and named after their paternal grandparents. Sadly Matthew did not long survive and was buried at Singleton on 21 June 1882 aged just three weeks.

A daughter Maria (named after her aunt, my great grandmother) was baptised 14 February 1886.   Burial records, however, showed a year later  another death in the family - Anne’s eldest daughter Jane Alice buried 4 May 1887 at the young age of 14.

The 1891 census entry showed the two daughters Agnes and Maria with their parents - but no mention of their brother John who would be 16 years old. 

Three years later, Anne's husband Robert  died, buried 4 May 1894 at the young age  of forty-two.   

By the time of the 1901 census, Anne, then a 53 year old widow, had moved from the hamlet of Thistleton to the busy fishing port of Fleetwood, where at 21 Kemp Street, her occupation was given as  she was a grocer/shopkeeper, living with her two daughters – Agnes A. Roskell aged 18, a draper’s assistant, and Maria Roskell aged 15, a draper’s apprentice - both born Thistleton.  

Come the 1911 census, I could find no trace of Anne, nor confirm a death.  Then a spurt of inspiration made me look for her daughter Maria, to discover  that Anne had remarried and was now Mrs Jenkinson married to John a retired farmer and living at Blakiston Road East, Fleetwood, with Maria - no occupation given.  Helpfully the census entry noted that Anne had been married for two years.

Daughter Maria was to marry, on 2 May 1912 at St. Peter’s Fleetwood, William Hesketh,  (another prominent Fylde surname),  a telegraphist of 7 Hesketh Place, Fleetwood.  Maria’s address was given as 4 Blakiston Street and her age 27.   The witnesses to the wedding included John Roskell – Maria’s brother?  On their third wedding anniversary in 1915,  son Frank was christened at St. Peter’s, with the family now living at Rose Cottage, North Street, and William described as a clerk. 

Sister Agnes could well be the Agnes Anne Roskell who married in the third quarter of 1901.   

Anne Roskell, nee Rawcliffe died 4 April 1928 and was buried, not in Fleetwood, but beside her first husband and young children at St. Anne's Church, Singleton.  Her age on her gravestone was given as 79. 

The monumental inscription for St. Anne’s Churchyard, Singleton no. 90 records:

 In Affectionate Remembrance of
  Matthew son of

Robert and Ann Roskell of Thistleton

Who died June 17th 1882 aged 3 weeks

Also Jane Alice, sister of the above Matthew Roskell

Who died April 7th 1887 aged 14 years.

We thought they were our own for yet a while,

That we had earned them by the love of heaven,

To be a life’s, not a season’s smile, then tears forever.

 Also of the above Robert Roskell 
Who died May 2nd 1894 aged 42 years. 

Also Ann, beloved wife of the above.  
Who died April 6th 1928 aged 75 years

[Sibling Saturday is one of many prompts from 
 to encourage bloggers to record their family history. ]