Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Sepia Saturday - Scribbles in Danson Bibles

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

This week's  prompt reminds us of the major pleasure we get  in finding original documents that our  ancestors must have touched and written.








This Danson family bible was an important impetus  in starting me on the family history trail.  Kept In the glass fronted bookcase in my grandfather's front room at Poulton-le-Fylde, Lancashire, the bible  recorded  the marriage of his parents James Danson (1852-1906) and Maria Rawcliffe (1859-1919) on the 12th May 1877 and the birth of their first four children - all sons - Harry, John, Robert and Albert.  

Sadly all but Robert died young - Harry aged 30, Albert as an infant, and John in 1917 during the First World War.  

As their family grew, enthusiasm for keeping the record obviously waned, as they went on to have five more sons (William - my grandfather, another Albert, Tom, Frank, and George) and as their last child only daughter Jennie, none of whom were listed.     
 
Unfortunately the bible entry did not give the place of marriage, and in pre-internet days, efforts to trace a marriage certificate through various registrar offices proved  tricky.   The ceremony took place in neither Maria nor James  birthplace.  It was thanks to a local member of the Lancashire Family History Society   who traced the record of marriage at St. Anne’s Church, Singleton - a small village near Poulton.  As I had already found through the 1881  Poulton census  that their first two sons had been  born in Singleton, this should have been an obvious starting point that I failed to see.


 
On the marriage certificate, James (left) was described as a joiner of full age from Singleton, with his father Henry a toll receiver (at nearby Shard Bridge over the River Wyre)  

James' wife’s names were given as Martha Maria, (right)  a spinster, aged 18 of Thistleton, with no occupation, no address given, so nothing to indicate why she was then living at Thistleton - a tiny hamlet. Later research revealed that Maria’s eldest sister Ann was living in the village where her husband was a gamekeeper. The witnesses to the marriage were Henry Danson and Elizabeth Ann Bailey, who proved to be James’ brother and eldest sister.

Maria’s Christian name was a source of some puzzlement too.  On her birth certificate and early census returns it was given as Maria – and this was the name that her granddaughters recalled.  However a number of official documents, including this marriage cert6ifcate)  had her name as Martha or Martha Maria.  Research into the Rawcliffe family established that her youngest sister Martha had only lived a few months, dying when Maria was only four years old, so she could hardly have remembered her.  What prompted her to adopt the name for herself?   

 It is mysteries like this that make family history so absorbing a hobby .

A second Danson Bible  came to light through an internet contact who proved to be descended  from John Danson, brother of my great grandfather James (above).  John as the eldest son had inherited  the family bible which included three pages of scrawled writing.  It gets a bit confusing as the same Christian names appear down the generations!



The  page ((above)  headed January 4 1827 “Be good to the poor” features, among the  signatures, Henry Danson (my GGG grandfather), Elizabeth Danson (his wife)  and James Danson (their son);  also an entry “January 1st 1827 James Danson, Sone of Henry Danson” – which must mark the death of Henry’s youngest son at the age of 15.   Another entry that can be deciphered is for “Elen (?) Simpson Borne 29 October 1811”

 

Another page (below)  also features signatures scrawled all ways - ones that can be deciphered are    Henry Danson, Trap, Elizabeth Danson,  Ellen Danson, Carleton, Peter Danson, Ellie Simpson, Carleton, Trap, Servant, 1830.

 

 



 
Trap Farm was where my GG grandfather Henry Danson was living in the 1841 and 1851 censuses, so this record established  for the first time that  the family were there a previous generation.   Ellen and Peter were siblings of Henry. The fact that servant Ellie Simpson  was also included in the activity and signed her name,  somehow casts  a lovely informal light on the household - though the fact they used the Bible for these scribbles  raises other issues !
 
 

Sole entry on another page (below)  reads “January 4 1827 Henry Danson Son of Henry Danson Born 25 of July 1806”.  This entry was dated just after the death of Henry' s brother James, so is there a significance in this?

Fifty years on, John (1844-1914),  my great grandfather's brother, made a much neater job of recording births and deaths in his family,  with this beautifully written page  which even includes the days of the week when they were born.



Click HERE to find other ancestral discoveries by Sepia Saturday bloggers.  
          
Copyright © 2013 · Susan Donaldson.  All Rights Reserved
With thanks to Janet, my third cousin once removed,   for the images from the earlier Danson Bible. .

23 comments:

  1. Fascinating, and I can see why you find it so absorbing. Our curiosity is piqued as to why Maria adopted her dead sister's name. There must be a story behind it.

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    1. If I only could find that elusive story! We can find out the when, where and who of family history, but the "Why" is the big question which we may never be able to answer.

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  2. So interesting. The willy nilly writing is fascinating. It must have been the only paper they had?
    You are so fortunate to have these pages to mull over and wonder about.

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  3. I found many pages of notes in our bible and noticed, as you did, some repetition that made it confusing. At some point, when my grandmother came to own the bible, she had her mother write down all the details of *that* side of the family so that my dad and his siblings would have the full details, as it were. This is a tradition that surely has gone out of fashion but is so helpful in keeping details straight. I do so appreciate the neat and beautiful hand of the antique writing styles!

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  4. Oh... such wonderful treasures. Thanks for sharing :-)

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  5. I've seen pages in parish registers that aren't much more decipherable than those family bible pages.

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  6. With treasures like this, scanning or copying the pages must have been difficult. Or did you photograph them?
    I never saw a bible in our house when I was young.

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    1. Thanks, bob, for your comment. The pages were photographed and then scanned.

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  7. You are so fortunate to have these bibles. It's amazing how they can solve a mystery and then create a new one.

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  8. I envy you, having access to family records like these.

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  9. A comprehensive post and beaut pictures. I am rather envious. Thanks, Sue.

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  10. All those signatures are just amazing -- such a tangible link to your past!

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  11. Oh I love a good story too! Your bible looks much like one of ours. Such an interesting story, thanks.

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  12. Wow! Your family bibles go back so far. How fantastic to have writing from your ancestors. I suspect that mine that far back were not literate or were semi-literate.

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  13. Family history is so complicated and interesting, ours goes back to the 1400 and it wanders in all directions. Most of the time men had two or three marriages because the women died in childbirth.

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  14. A family Bible sounds like the perfect place for your genealogy to begin!

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  15. Sue, what treasures! And I liked the way you took me along on your family research. Fascinating.

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  16. Your bibles with all their ancestral information are amazing. We have a leather-bound bible printed in 1881 by Cranston & Stowe that was given to Kit's father as a wedding gift. It's big - measuring 10"x 12" and 4" thick, and weighs a 'ton', illustrated throughout with gorgeous works of art. Unfortunately I left my camera with Kit up at Lake Tahoe when I had to come home early from vacation, and the book is too big to try to scan the pictures, else I would have included some of them in my Sepia Sat. blog. :->

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  17. There are many possible reasons for the Maria/Martha name, but you'll probably never know the real reason.

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  18. The differences in the bible notations are so interesting - from the willy nilly scrawls to the very neat and complete list.
    Nancy

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  19. We live in the information age, but earlier generations did not think about records in the way we do now. They may have considered names placed into the family bible as different than the parish registry, and preserved as more of a memorial or blessing. I find handwriting to be a real talisman to the people of the past.

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  20. Thank you to everyone for such kind and thoughtful comments.

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  21. I and mum have many pages photocopied from various family bibles, collected by mum or grandparents or maiden aunts. The challenge not only seems to be who owned the bibles and were are they now but the new questions such as you have found - an unexpected name (or two).

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