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Friday, 13 May 2022

Seated Out-of-Doors: Sepia Saturday

This week's Sepia Saturday photographic prompt is a rather vague shot of some people sitting on a park bench.   Cue  for  images of family & friends,  and people at leisure or at work - all seated out-of-doors with many on benches. 

On the left, wearing the cloche hat is my husband's Great Aunt Pat, beside her daughter Annette - with unknown friends. Judging by the fashions and the age of Annette,  it  was most likely  taken in the late 1920's  on the beach at Margate in Kent,  where the family lived. 

 A photograph from the collection of my great aunt Jennie Danson.  Unfortunately it is not identified, but seems to date by the fashions to the late 1920s.  But why do they all look so glum

My parents, seated on a rock, c,1937,  with Mum (Kathleen Danson) on the left and Dad (John Weston) on the right  - plus an unidentified friend.

 A photograph from my local heritage group Auld Earlston in the Scottish Borders - here an early image of Earlston Bowling Club founded in 1882 - and still gong strong today. 

 Earlston women munition workers in the Second World War.  
Around 950,000 British women worked in munitions factories during the Second World War, making weapons like shells and bullets. Munitions work was often well-paid, but involved long hours - two shifts working seven days.  Workers were also at serious risk from accidents with dangerous machinery or when working with high explosive material. Some munitions workers handled toxic chemicals every day. Those who handled sulphur were nicknamed ‘Canary Girls’, because their skin and hair turned yellow from contact with the chemical. [Source: My Learning.Org ]
On the Bench In More Recent Times 
I have have shown this photograph before, but it fits the prompt so well.  It was was taken in 1961 of my mother (second left) out with a group  of friends on an outing.  My mother would be in her 50s but the clothes now seem so old fashioned with three of the women wearing hats and clutching  their handbags - a far cry from today's casual style for  all ages.

1965 - Dad and I taken shortly before I headed off for a year working in the USA.  Just look at those winkle picker shoes!
1977 - with my daughter, all dressed in blue!
1980s with my parents - and our pet cocker spaniel. 

1998 - a lovely family group of three generations, taken after my brother's (second) wedding - and yes he did wear that red shirt for the occasion. Dad in the middle, with my niece and daughter seated.
And finally - I began with  sitting in deckchairs on the beach - and will finish with sitting on a donkey! 

 Daughter  (in the middle) enjoying a donkey ride on Blackpool beach. This was taken in Blackpool in the school  October half term holiday, so not exactly summery. c.1980. 

Sepia Saturday give bloggers an opportunity 
to share their family history through photographs  
 Click  HERE  to see how other Sepia Saturday bloggers
have been enjoying themselves out of doors. 

Friday, 6 May 2022

Ten Years to Identify My Mystery Photo - Sepia Saturday

"Unknown Faces" is the theme of this week's Sepia Saturday prompt, and here I relate  how it took me ten years to identify the photograph below. 

For over 10 years I puzzled over  "Who is this striking family group?"   The photograph mounted on heavy dark card,  came to me in 2001 from  my great aunt Jennie Danson,  of Poulton-le-Fylde, Lancashire.    Unlike many of Jennie's photographs, she had not written anything on the back - perhaps because of the dark mount, and there was no photographer's name and address  to indicate where it had been taken   But it  must surely be of one of of my great grandmother's sisters - Anne, Jane, Alice, or Jennet?  The composition of the family and ages of the children ruled out Anne, Jane or Jennet. So was  this Alice and James Mason and family?   This was a mystery.

Alice's Background 
All the research into my mother’s Danson and Rawcliffe families showed them to be very firmly based in the Fylde area of north west Lancashire around the settlements of Poulton-le-Fylde, Fleetwood and Blackpool.

Alice was born in 1853 in the village of  Hambleton, near Fleetwood, the fourth  of eight daughters (five surviving infancy) of Robert Rawcliffe and Jane Carr.  In the 1871 census, she was a 17 year old domestic servant at the home of Thomas Shepherd.   Two years later Alice  married John Mason, son of Robert Mason and Elizabeth Jolly. 

The 1881 census saw the family living in Fleetwood, Lancashire, where John was   a general labourer with four children - Robert William, aged 7, Jane Elizabeth 5, John Thomas 3 and baby James Richard,  9 months - their names all reflecting those of extended family members.  A second daughter Margaret was born in 1882 christened Margaret Alice - the reverse of her mother's names.

There the trail ran cold.  I had been unable to trace the family in the 1891 and 1901 censuses, but had not investigate any further.    

The American Discovery 
It  came as a complete surprise when  a casual browsing of Rawcliffes on Family Search resulted in an  entry for Alice Mason née Rawcliffe (1853-1930) with the statement that she had died  in  Jamesburg, Middlesex County, New Jersey - the first time I was aware of any potential American connection.  All the information fitted with "my Alice" - dates, names, places etc. 

I was keen  to find out more about my first known emigrant. ancestors.  

American Research 
I boosted my Ancestry UK subscription for a short term, so I could access American records. The results:
  • The  New York Passenger Lists on Ancestry revealed  that James Mason had emigrated from Liverpool in 1886, joined a year later by Alice, aged 34  and now with six  children aged from  13 to 1 year (plus two pieces of baggage).   How on earth did she cope on the voyage?  This was the first revelation too  of another son George Rawcliffe Mason, born in 1885 in Fleetwood.  

  • Between 1888 and 1898, Alice had a further five children, born in the USA - Arthur Valentine (born appropriately 14th February 1888), Harold Arthur Victor, Lillian Eveline, Bessie Irene and the youngest Florence Adelaide - their names in sharp contrast to the family names of their siblings, born in England.  Arthur, Bessie and Lillian sadly all died in infancy. Were  the crowded living conditions in Brooklyn, New York a factor here? 
  • The family took out US citizenship in 1895.  
  • The 1900 census for the City of New York, Brooklyn showed a large Mason household of ten living at 72 Hall Street in what was probably an apartment building with four other families at the same address.  John was described as an insurance agent.
  • The 1910 census for New York found the family still on  Hall Street,  Brooklyn, with John working as a labourer at the Customs House. 
  • At some point the family moved  across the river to Jamesburg, New Jersey. The 1920 census saw a depleted household with John and Alice, now both 66, with their eldest and youngest daughters (Jane  and Florence) and widowed son Robert with  his baby son, also Robert.  

The  Search for my America Long-Lost Cousins
 My early research had been in  the days when Family Search gave contact details of the submitter of the information, so I wrote away.  Frustratingly my letter was returned "Not known at this address.   I put enquiries on various message boards but with little success.  I did get one potential positive response  of a connection, but my request for more details was ignored.
Then I set up my blog in 2010  and posted about my mystery photograph.   A year  later came SUCCESS!!  The granddaughter of Florence Mason (the young girl in the top photograph) was pointed to my blog by another relative.  She got in touch and she had the very same photograph  as mine,  but mounted with the name of a photographer in Brooklyn, New York.

We  exchanged e-mails, photographs and information of our ancestors down the generations and remained  in touch with one another until Bonny's sad recent death.
This discovery meant a lot to me, as Bonny's contribution added a new dimension to my family history and  gave a tremendous boost   to my blogging activity.  Her relations are still in touch through my Facebook page. 


John Mason (Alice's husband)  with his youngest daughter, Florence

It was special to receive a later photograph of the Mason family (below)  with all eight surviving children. 

Top - Robert, Jenny (Jane Elizabeth), Mother Alice, Father John, Harold
Bottom - Thomas (John Thomas), Alice (Margaret Alice), Florence, George and James
Alice died in 1930 and John 7 years later, both buried in Fernwood Cemetery, Jamesburg, New Jersey.

So it is all thanks to the power of the Internet and of blogging, that my mystery photograph was eventually identified and I discovered the story of my first emigrant ancestors.
 It pays to be patient in family history research!  
If only I could discover why the Mason family  took this step of adventure from the small Lancashire coastal community of Fleetwood to the teeming streets of New York, along with researching  the story of my other American cousins.   That will be my next challenge!      
Adapted from posts first published in 2011-2013.  

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

Click HERE to read tales from other Sepia Saturday bloggers

Monday, 28 March 2022


I am delighted to feature here a contribution from my guest writer, Chris Glover  from Yorkshire.  He is a  DNA match and third cousin of my husband through their respective ancestry,descended  from great great grandfather  Moses Armitage of a mining family in West Yorkshire.  

Few people in the country could have escaped the impact of the First World War, and for  the Glover Family of Barnsley, Yorkshire, it meant the tragic death of their son Fred Glover (1889-1916),  aged 26, whilst serving in what was nicknamed  “The Suicide Squad”

Fred was the son of Alfred Glover and Mary Elizabeth Glover, nee Sykes, a granddaughter of Moses Armitage.   Fred  was born in the December of 1889 in a miner's cottage in Hermit Lane, Higham, Barnsley. He was baptised on the 11th December 1889 in Gawber, St Thomas, Barnsley, Yorkshire.

In 1891 Fred still lived in Hermit Lane Higham. However, the family later moved, and by the 1901 Census, were living in Brick Terrace, Ardsley, Barnsley. Fred’s father, Alfred, a *trammer at Darfield Main Colliery, had died in 1898, from TB.   

Mother Mary was now head of the family, bringing up 5 children – Thomas, aged 12, at that young age already working in the mines as an  underground pony driver; Fred, aged 11; Frances, a daughter, aged 7; Herbert, aged 5, and baby, Joseph Jepson Glover.

According to the 1911 Census, Fred was a patient in Beckett Hospital, Barnsley. He had probably had some accident whilst working in a local colliery. He was a *trammer, like his father, working underground. He was single at the time. By 1916 he had married Clara Oldfield in July-September 1911. They had three children: Olive, born 1912; Herbert H, born 1913; and Harold, born 1915.    


It is not clear when Fred first enlisted in the Army. His service record  has not survived - almost certainly lost to fire at the Army Records Office during the blitz on London in September 1940.   His Medal Index Card (MIC), shows that he originally enlisted in the 6th (Service) Battalion of the King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry, as No 19768, but did not go abroad with that unit. He was transferred to the 6th (Service) Battalion of the York & Lancaster Regiment and given the new number 20972. These details are out of order on the Medal Index Card but he cannot possibly have served with the York & Lancs AFTER his service with the Machine Gun Corps, since he was killed serving with the machine guns in 1916.

Fred, with colleagues - second from the right

In Gallipoli The 6th York & Lancs went overseas on 3rd July 1915, sailing from Liverpool, and arrived at Mudros (an island just off the coast of Turkey) on 10th July 1915. His Medal Card tells us that he entered the war zone, landing on mainland Turkey - the Gallipoli peninsula, on 29th September 1915. The failed campaign there was almost over, and the battalion was withdrawn back to Mudros in December 1915. In February 1916 it was sent to Egypt and would soon after be on its way to France, where it arrived in July 1916.

In the newly formed Machine Gun Corps.  However, Fred was not with his original unit when it was sent back to Egypt, and subsequently to France in July 1916.  He must have been sent back to the UK in order to have been transferred to the MGC, and to receive the new service number 30080, which was first used, in the UK, some time in February 1916. He could not have been in Egypt for this to happen.

It is probable that Fred was either wounded or fell sick (probably the latter) whilst at Gallipoli and was invalided back to the UK.  After recovery, instead of being sent back out to Egypt to join his regiment, he was "snatched" by the newly formed Machine Gun Corps. From his third number (30080) it is possible to say that he was transferred-in, while still in the UK, between mid-February and the end of March 1916. He would have been sent to the HQ of the MGC at Belton Park, Grantham for a six week course in gunnery, and then sent out straight away to France. He joined the 124th Company which was formed in the 41st Division.

 In its short history the Machine Gun Corps gained an enviable record for heroism as a front line fighting force. Indeed, in the latter part of the war, as tactics changed to defence in depth, it commonly served well in advance of the front line. It had a less enviable record for its casualty rate. Some 170,500 officers and men served in the Machine Gun Corps  with 62,049 becoming casualties, including 12,498 killed, earning it the nickname "The Suicide Club"


Fred, an Infantry Machine Gunner, was killed on the Somme on 16th September 1916 during the battle of Flers-Courcelette.

The unit war diary for the period of his death is of no help in discovering how he died and exactly where. The Machine Gunners Corps Database indicates that he was the only casualty of the unit that day and his death was almost certainly the result of enemy shellfire, since the unit appears to have been stationary on 15/16th September 1916. 

He would almost certainly have been buried near to where he fell, and his grave marked, but the ground was fought over and intensely shelled over the next two years. His grave marker was probably lost and when the battlefields were being cleared by the War Graves Commission in the 1920s, his remains could not be identified.


 The War Graces  Commission Records state that Fred was aged 26, leaving a widow Clara Glover of 39 Bartholomew St, Wombwell, Barnsley.  

 "The Barnsley Independent" broke the new of Fred's death on the 14th October 1916 in a brief report, traced on the website British Newspaper Archive


A much fuller obituary  appeared  the following week on 21st October 191.  It makes for poignant reading, especially the news that he died on the anniversary of his wedding day. 

"The South Yorkshire Times" of 25th November 1916  reported on a memorial service held at Wombwell Parish Church "in memory of the nine local men who had fallen in a action" - amongst them Fred Glover.

Fred is remembered at the Thiepval Memorial Pier and Face 5 C and 12 C, one of 72,247 unidentified casualties. A large inscription on an internal surface of the memorial reads:

He is also remembered on the War Memorial at Wombwell Church. 

Thiepval Memorial to the missing.jpg

                    Thiepval Memorial (Wikipedia)    

Thiepval is he largest British battle Memorial in the world. On Portland stone piers are engraved the names of over 72,000 men who who have no known grave and who were lost in the Somme battles between July 1916 and March 1918. Designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens, who also designed the Cenotaph in London, the memorial was unveiled by Edward, Prince of Wales in 1932.

The UK Army Registers of Soldiers’ effects 1901-1929 show that Fred’s widow was left a war gratuity of £8.10s – worth just over £500 in today’s money. 



  • A Trammer in a mine was the man who helped the hewer fill tubs with the coal which which he then conveyed to the mine shaft  for raising above ground.

  • On the same day 16th September 1916 died a distant relative of Fred Glover  - Frederick Donaldson, of South Shields, County Durham  - my huband's great uncle, also remembered on the Thiepval Memorial.



Thursday, 24 March 2022

ON YOUR BIKE - Sepia Saturday

This week's Sepia Saturday prompt photograph  showed a woman. probably in the early 1900's,  standing alongside  a bicycle.    I wrote about "Wheel Women" only in January 2022, so instead today I turned to cycles with an engine - i.e. motor bikes - and women were to the fore here as well.  

There was just one photograph in my family collection that fitted this my theme.  Here  in c.1949 is my husband as a little boy on the back of his  father's motor bike, which I am told was a  pre-war 500cc Rudge Spurts Special.

Nowadays there is a Rudge Enthusiasts Club, dedicated to the Rudge-Whitworth Motorcycles. 

No concerns in those days about health and safety and wearing crash helmets and leathers, with husband in his school cap and coat and his Dad in a beret.  

They rode all over the North of England  together, including journeys  from South Shields to Catterick Camp  where brother Ian (below)  was doing his National Service - a 120 mile round trip.

But if pundits frowned upon the first women cyclists, what would they have made of the move onto motor cycles?  The photogrpahs below all come from my local heritage group Auld Earlston, here in the Scottish Borders.


Again they all look as if they were enjoying themselves, oblivious,  in their choice of clothing,  of the potential dangers we identify today.  

 Sepia Saturday gives bloggers an opportunity
 to share their family history through photograph
Click HERE to read posts  from other Sepia Saturday blogger