Sunday, 16 September 2012

A Surfeit of S's - Sadness, Sisters, Surnames, Stimulus - and So much more.

I am enjoying participating in this series from Aona at
S is for
Sympathy and Sadness -  at what we discover.  In my own family:
  • Mary Gaulter, nee Danson whos died in childbirth.
  • Sarah Danson, nee Lounds who died of TB at the age of 21 leaving a one year old daughter  
  • Margaret Brownbill, nee Danson, widowed twice and childless by the age of 32.
  • Jane Rawcliffe, nee Carr, who died, leaving five young daughters including my great grandmother aged only 4.
  • George Danson, John Danson, Arthur Matthews, John Matthews, and Frederick Donaldson - all who died in the First World War.
  • The many children who did not survive infancy.

Sadness, Solemnity and Sisters are all illustrated in this photograph of the MacFarlane family of 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. 

Surnames always fascinate me. Whenever I come across an unusual name in the news etc., my immediate reaction is - "I would love to research that". Two examples come to mind - in my own Scottish Borders the surname Govanlock and in my home county of Lancashire Sturzacker.  What is the background to such distinctive names?  One of the many challenges from my "to do" list would like to explore further.

How often have you come across people saying "I have traced my ancestors back to William the Conqueror, (or Robert the Bruce)" !!!   Do you belive them?  Scepticism should be part of the family history experience,  as we should always be questioning information we find, sources we uncover, the validity of on line transcriptions and family trees etc. etc.  I know as a beginner, using contacts in my local family history society  I was delighted to get information and just assumed it was correct.  Some of it I now have second thoughts on.   
Signatures - how great to have something actually penned by an ancestor, even if it is a  a photocopy - such as the wills found in the Lancashire Archives. signed by my g.g.g.g.grandfather  (dated 1813) and g.g.g. grandfather (dated 1833).  In this age of electronic communication  when handwriting is becoming a dead art, will our descendants have this experience?.  


  Sources. Searches and Stories - the bedrock of family history, found in:

  • School Records  have a look here for further information

  • Sasines - Scottish property records.
  • Statistical Accounts - if you have Scottish ancestors  these are "a  must see" rich  source of background information.   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.    They tell you how many paupers, cattle, sheep, horses,  etc. were in the parish,  give details on the land,  trades and occupations, the school, the church, with frank comments on "miserable hovels", "the church roof leaks rain  on the congregation"  and "there is a  the want of fuel in winter".

    Hobkirk in Ropxburghshire was described as having "32 farmers in the parish, with 127 servants, 46 ploughs and 70 carts".
    For Wilton parish in Roxburghshire  
    “The people are, in general industrious, sober-minded, compassionate and devout.  Work is not difficult to be had; and provisions are reasonable.  The dearth of fuel is the greatest hardship, which the poor experiences in this part of the country.”
Take a look at
Family History is Stimulating.    If one line of research hits the buffers, I go sideways to look at extended family.  I thought I would only have enough personal material to last about 18 months on a blog.  How wrong I was!  The prompts from Geneabloggers and from fellow contributors are inspiring and  mean I have a have  a long iist of drafts, even if they are no more than an initial thought or a  title to develop further.  

This A-Z Challenge is a classic example of how blogging keeps the  brain buzzing. So thank you, Aona. 

A final thought -  I heartily recommend Family History as a
Safeguard Against Senior Moments! 



  1. That is a very sad list of losses and the photograph taken of the widow and 10 children after the death of her husband, also sad.

    Good list of Ss.

  2. I like how you found so many "S" words and how appropriate they are to genealogy research. Well done!

  3. Sadly sweet, such stunning s's!

  4. All such valid genealogy-related S words. And big thanks for the tip on Statistical Accounts, I haven't followed my hubby's Scottish lines yet, but shall be sure to check out these records when doing so.

  5. What a remarkable family of all those sisters! I enjoyed your S post.

  6. Of a surety there is no shortage of S words :-) I "liked" the one of the whole family dressed in mourning clothes, certainly a help to dating the photo. I remember being thrilled to bits with my first signature of an ancestor, and another from the mid-18th century.

  7. Oh Susan... Another FABULOUS post and what an amzing number of S's you came up with. Has certainly got my old "brain box" fired up. Thanks :-)


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