Wednesday, 1 April 2015

A for Adventure, Archives, Ancestry & Anecdotes

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.

ADVENTURE - when I started toying with the idea of tracing my family history, how little did I know on what a journey of adventure it would be - finding my way through the resources; alighting on surprising coincidences such as my great grandmother Maria Rawcliffe (right)  born the same day as my daughter 114 years later;  discovering I had American connections, hitting obstacles,  with the birth of my grandmother and the name of her mother remaining  my major brick wall;  being at times astonished, puzzled  and moved by what I am finding.  The Adventure continues.....

This is the  photograph that started me on my family history adventure - my great grandmother  Maria Danson, nee Rawcliffe  with her orphaned granddaughter Annie Maria.

Research into Maria's life was a rich source of many a story.  It revealed a family  of eight daughters, (five surviving infancy),   the early death of their mother,  a step mother with  three illegitimate children, and the birth of four half-brothers and sisters.  And Maria went on to have 10 sons  and an only daughter!   So plenty of material to ponder over!

ARCHIVE CENTRES are "must contact" places!   Again it is a story of Adventure exploring the unique records and touching pages that record details  of  ancestors in their own lifetime, whether it be an old newspaper, a  poor law entry, a school record, or a mention in council minutes - many of which are not available online.  

If you cannot get to a centre relevant to your research,  search their online catalogue, and take a look at its  web site where on offer are a range of enquiry services from simple "look ups" to detailed research packages. 

In the course of my family history research,  I unearthed at Lancashire Archives   a marriage bond of 1786  two wills, dated 1821 and 1831,     plus an 1810  bastardy claim,  all relating to my Danson ancestors.  Tyne and Wear Archives were able to give me information on  the ships Robert Donaldson, master mariner sailed on, and also the service records of my husband's two  ancestors who were river policemen on the Tyne.  

 I shall  be looking in much more detail at a wide variety of records held at Archive Centres as I follow this A-Z journey. 

ANCESTRY ( - one of the leading  genealogical websites, with a huge range of resources.   It is a cardinal rule of family history to always look at the actual record and not rely on transcriptions, and Ancestry now has an increasing number of digitized records - not just census returns, but also parish records and much more. Be wary, however, of lifting information from the public trees without checking the validity of the findings - mistakes can easily get perpetuated. 

ANECDOTES - in how many families is there hearsay  along the lines of "Granny always said we were descended from a duke", or "Great Aunt Amy was supposed to have been jilted at the altar".  Such stories certainly add interest to your family history and can feature in your writing as long as you make it clear they are no more than  anecdotes - unless of course you can find  the evidence to the contrary!   

Onto B for Bibles, Businesses, Blogging & Black Sheep  

Copyright © 2015 Susan Donaldson.  All Rights Reserved

Sepia Saturday - Skirts on Show

Each week, Sepia Saturday, provides an opportunity for genealogy bloggers to share their family history through photographs.   

Only one vintage biking photograph amongst my family collections - a wartime picture of my husband's great aunt - Violet King, nee Hibbert.    She lived in Kent, near Manston Aerodrome, at the heart of RAF activity.

I might not have cycling images but I have plenty of skirts to  show.   
 A close look will reveal why Dorothy Chisholm is up a ladder, showing off her long skirt   - she is pruning the plant on the wall. Dorothy was engaged to my great uncle John Danson of Poulton-le-Fylde, Lancashire, who was a widower with a young daughter.  Sadly in 1917 John died  at Tidworth whilst in army training.    The Danson family remained in contact with Dorothy throughout her life  and I have vague memories of visiting her with my mother, when she was living in a bedsit - one of the many women whose lives were changed by the First World War. 

A younger picture of Violet Hibbert   with her fiance Frank King.  Violet is wearing a distinctive skirt with a broad ruched hem and arrow insets.  She  and Frank married in South Shields, County Durham  in 1915.  Could this be an engagement photograph?  

Violet again, in a typical 1920's look of  cloche hat, long bodice, straight skirt  and long beads.

"Bobbing, Shingling, Marcel Waving and Perming", was the promise of hairdresser "Elise" whose business in Blackpool, Lancashire was advertised in this lovely evocative 1920's "blotter".  I love the elegant green dress with its  draped skirt.    

Elise's real name was Elsie Oldham, my mother's second cousin, but perhaps the French adaptation was regarded as more appropriate for a hairdresser.  The business was conducted from the rather less glamorous setting of her home,  with large adverts in the windows and on the pole outside.      

Onto the 1930's 

 In their stylish midi skirts  are my mother Kathleen Danson (left) with her sister Edith.  My mother was apprenticed as a tailoress at the age of 14 and both sisters made their own clothes on a treadle machine at home, which did not have electricity until the late 1950's.  

Forty  years on to 1971 and here am I sporting a mini skirt.   This was the era when girls were frantically shortening skirts in their wardrobe to appear in fashion. 
 This was my husband's first car - a silver grey Ford Escort, bought just a few weeks before we met in 1970. He was always proud of his cars and looked after them well.   This brings back memories of our engagement. It must have been love, that he actually suggested I sat on top of the car for this photograph - not something he has allowed since! - at least he gave me a rug to sit on.  Note the miniskirt  and the so typical 1970's striped  coat! 

I am standing at the  stone marking the border of Scotland and England, and the entrance to Northumberland National Park.

And finally to return to the cycling prompt - how styles have changed, a hat of sorts, but with no skirts on show here,  with my little granddaughter enjoying a  ride on her first bike. 

Make you way  HERE to see contributions from fellow bloggers.

Copyright © 2015 · Susan Donaldson.  All Rights Reserved 

Friday, 27 March 2015

Sepia Saturday - Big Wheels to the Fore

Each week, Sepia Saturday, provides an opportunity for genealogy bloggers to share their family history through photographs.   

Wheels is my focus for this week's theme with my first photographs,  courtesy of my local heritage group Auld Earlston.
 A tractor - and a giant wheel!

 Donaldsons,  (no relation), the butchers still operate  Earlston -
 though they have updated  their vehicles!  

 A lorry of Brownlie's Sawmill which again is still operating in the village. 

Some family photographs:

My father (on the left), and his brother, 
standing proud in front of Dad's first car, c. 1936. 

Onto the 1970's.  to a family holiday in the North Yorkshire Moors National Park and here is a powerful view of one of the  steam trains on the heritage line between Grosmont and Pickering  - a photograph taken by my husband.

 A visit to the National Railway Museum at York was also on the itinerary where our  daughter enjoyed playing gymnastics on the giant wheels. 


Full circle - and back to tractors -  and here is my little granddaughter one Christmas morning with her present - so she could be like Daddy driving his tractor. 

Drive over HERE to see more images from fellow bloggers. 

Monday, 23 March 2015

A-Z Challenge 2015 - Theme Revealed

"Family History -  
Sources & Stories" 

is my theme for the
2015 A-Z Challenge.

I am a family history enthusiast, based in Scotland,  sharing my interest on my blog  Family History Fun.  In previous years of the Challenge. I have taken as my themes " A Sense of Place" and "My Scotthish Borders".  This year I am reverting to what I know best - Family History. 

Family History is so much more than names and dates, but all about discovering stories.  So in this challenge, I shall be  exploring a range of records that can  help you find out  about the lives and times of your ancestors and  in turn enhance writing  your family history.  For it is the richness of the detail in our family stories that make them so fascinating  to ourselves and interesting to others.

Much of my focus will be  on Scottish records, but I shall also be looking at sources (both formal and informal) that  I have used to tell the story of my English ancestors, going well beyond the standard big three of  Certificates, Censuses and Church Records.

I hope you will find the suggestions useful, particularly if you are at an early stage of your ancestral trail. 

As an introductio
A is forAdventure - when I started toying with the idea of tracing my family history, how little did I know on what a journey of adventure it would be - finding my way through the resources; alighting on surprising coincidences such as my great grandmother Maria Rawcliffe  born the same day as my daughter 114 years later;  discovering I had American connection;  hitting obstacles with the birth of my grandmother and the name of her mother remaining  my major brick-wall;  being at times astonished, puzzled  and moved by what I discovered.  

Here is a taster-  
I shall be looking at Archives & Anecdotes, Bibles, Businesses & Black Sheep,  Epitaphs & Ephemera, Funerals & Farming,  through to Mortcloths & Militias,  Occupations & Obituaries,   Sasines & Statistical Accounts, Timelines & Taxation, Wills and War,  ending with Z for Zeppelina  - a Christian name I came across in a 1916 newspaper report.  

So do join me on this A-Z Journey  and share with me your comments.

 A photograph that started me on my ancestral trail.  My aunt Edith & my mother Kathleen Danson  are the two little girl  at the front of this parade in Poulton-le-Fylde, Lancashire, c.1912.  My mohter (on the right) does not look too happy, but is so cute in her little boots and big hat.  

Thank you for your interest   

Thursday, 12 March 2015

Sepia Saturday - Furry Cuddles

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

There could only be one take for me on this week's theme - our much loved pets 

Our daughter was five  years old and Crufts Dog Championships Show was on television - how could we resist that combination. The result by the summer was that Beauty a golden cocker spaniel became part of the family. 

It was a sad time when we lost Beauty at the age of nine, and we said we would not go through that again. But surreptitiously we were all looking at adverts in the local papers, and within a month we had Colleen - a 2 year old gentle blue roan cocker. Somewhere amongst all that dark fur, there were two liquid eyes. 


 Sleeping  Beauties!
Colleen died suddenly at seven years old at a time when there were other stresses in the family. We could not imagine family life without a dog and that had to be another cocker spaniel.  So within a few months we had puppy Casmir (Cass) - an orange roan cocker - she had such a distinctive colouring, she became well known around our small town and lived to the grand age of 13.

I always felt that if Cass starred in a Disney cartoon, she would be the Princess. Judge for yourself here!


It's Love! 

(Based on an earlier posting in  the 2011 series 52 Weeks of Persona lGenealogy)

Click HERE to find more pet stories from fellow bloggers.
Copyright © 2015 · Susan Donaldson. All Rights Reserved

Thursday, 26 February 2015

Sepia Saturday - Marching Against the Demon Drink!

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

A Russian revolutionary march of 1917  features on this week's prompt and I have gone along with this more serious theme with a postcard from the collection of my local community heritage group - Auld Earlston. 

Here the Pipe Band leads a procession along Earlston High Street in 1908 to mark the "Semi-Jubilee" of the local Temperance Society.   

The Scottish Temperance Movement was founded by John Dunlop of Glasgow. concerned at the high level of consumption of spirits. He established an anti-drinks society in 1829.  For Dunlop a vital first step was education and social improvement.  A more radical approach was adopted by William Collins, a publisher and evangelist,  who favoured total abstinence.   By 1831, the Scottish Temperance Movement numbered 44,000.   Local abstinence societies were formed and many of these offered classes and concerts as alternative entertainments. National groups also began to be established, with branches opening in many areas of Scotland, with the Band of Hope targeting  children to "Take the Pledge".  

          Band of Hope Membership certificate
 A Band of Hope certificate presented in 1902 at the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Wales 


This  newspaper snippet also caught my eye. 
On 4th January 1890,  "The Hawick News" reported:

Yesterday before Provost Milligan, Gilbert Oliver, labourer of Baker Street, who was considered to be past redemption having made his 66th appearance in court, was sentenced to three days imprisonment for being drunk".

That Provost Milligan should consider Gilbert Oliver was “past redemption",  was a bit surprising, considering the  resources in the town to combat drunkenness.   In 1890 Hawick had around 15 churches, a Catholic Chapel, Salvation Army Corps, quite a few Mission Halls, Christian Brethren, and several long-established Total Abstinence Movements.  


For parades on a lighter theme of enjoyment and fun, click HERE to see my Sepia Saturday post in November 2014.  

You will find links  HERE to more  of this week's processions, parades and marches  from other Sepia Saturday bloggers.

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Sepia Saturday: A Loving Couple - My Grandparents

Each week, Sepia Saturday, provides an opportunity for genealogy bloggers to share their family history through photographs.

No question what the theme is for this week - Valentines. 

This lovely embroidered card was in the shoebox of memorabilia in my grandfather's house, along with the many World War One cards he had sent home from the battlefields.  There is nothing to indicate when this card was sent.   
 William and Alice, c.1916

Grandad (William Danson) married Alice English in 1907 and they had five children.  I never knew my grandmother as she died in 1945.  Unfortunately her early life is shrouded in mystery, as my mother and aunt hardly ever mentioned it.    I sensed this reluctance and never asked the right questions at the right time.

So Alice remains my family history major brick wall.   The marriage certificate gave  her father's name as Henry English, painter (deceased) and her age 22,  meaning  she must have been born c.1884.  I had to wait for the 1911 census to get some confirmation of her birthplace and that gave Bolton, Lancashire.  But I have still been unable to trace a birth certificate.

The cards below have featured before before on my blog, but they fit this week's theme so well I had to show them again.   They were sent back home from France by my grandfather.    He was a taciturn labourer, working as a cattle man in the local auction mart, when he enlisted in the army in 1916.  The pencilled messages on the reverse of the cards are very prosaic, compared with the loving sentiment on the cards themselves

[7 February 1918]  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.  

 [28th April 1918]   Dear Alice - just a line to let you know I am in the pink.  and hope you are all well at home........Your loving Billy, XXXX  

The Danson family - Edith, Peggy, my grandparents William and Alice, son Harry   and Kathleen (my mother), with youngest son Billy missing. Taken c.1940. 

William and Alice on the occasion of my parent's wedding in 1938. 

 Click HERE to see  romantic notions from other Sepia Saturday bloggers. 

Copyright © 2015 · Susan Donaldson.  All Rights Reserved