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Monday, 19 June 2017

Bringing Betty Out of the Shadows: Matrilineal Monday ,

The further we go back in family history, the more shadowy  our ancestors can appear - especially on the female side, where we don't usually have the benefit of a photograph or portrait,  or knowledge of an occupation to define the person. 

I was prompted to look afresh  at my research  on  my great, great, great grandmother  Elizabeth Danson, nee Brown, (1766-1840) who was little more than a name to me  as the wife of Henry Danson, yeoman farmer.

St. Chad's Church, Poulton-le-Fylde, Lancashire where Elizabeth, along with my other Danson ancestors,  was baptized,  married and buried.  
I had never written a profile on Elizabeth, so I set out to see how I could bring her more to the fore of my family history  by  revisiting  the records. 

My first information on Elizabeth came in her Marriage Bond [below]  which gave her age - 20, so born c.1766 and her father's name as William. 
The English Christening Records on Ancestry include an Elizabeth Brown at Poulton-le-Fylde, Lancashire born 27th June 1766 - father Wiliam, but no mother's name cited.  A search for a William Brown marriage in Poulton c.1760 traced  only one possible entry - a union with Ellen Clegg 17th November  1751 - this could be Elizabeth's mother, given that the witness to her marriage was a Nelly Clegg - Nelly being the diminutive of Ellen. 


Elizabeth and Henry  married 29th October 1786 at St.Chad's Church, Poulton-le-Fykde Lancashire, as recorded in the Poulton Parish Register, with one of the  witnesses Nelly Brown - Elizabeth's sister perhaps?

I was  lucky enough to trace a marriage bond at Lancashire Record Office
This was a promise between two people, normally the groom and a friend or relative (in this case Henry's brother-in-law John Bryning) that,  if the marriage proved invalid in the eye of the law,  they would pay a penalty to the church of a substantial sum of money - in this case £200.

The marriage bond reads: 

Know all men by these present that we, Henry Danson and John Brining of the parish of Poulton, County of Lancashire, are held and firmly bound by….two hundred pounds of good and lawful money of Great Britain, sealed with our seals, dated twenty eighth day of October in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and eighty six….there shall not hereafter appear any lawful let of impediment by reason of precontract, consanguinity, affinity or any just cause but that Henry Danson, husbandman aged 19 years and Elizabeth Brown….aged 20 years, with the consent of John Danson and William Brown, their fathers…….” 

So the marriage bond was dated a day before the actual wedding.  Marriage licences could be obtained as an alternative to having the banns read.  They enabled marriages to take place at any time and were useful  if the marriage had to take place quickly or be kept quiet for some reason.   

Henry and Elizabet's first born child, daughter Margaret was born 7 months after the wedding - was that the reason for a hasty ceremony? 

Obtaining the marriage licence was always a more expensive way of ensuring the legality of a marriage and never as popular as Banns.  That Henry could afford this form   seems to suggest that the family was relatively well off.
The young Elizabeth went on to have  seven children between 1787 and 1811 - Margaret, John, William, George, Peter, Nelly, Henry, and James - with her two youngest sons born  when  she was in her 40's.  Their Christian names had family significance, with Margaret, John and William named after grandparents, Peter after Henry' (senior)'s   grandfather and Nelly (Ellen)  a name in both the Danson and Brown families. 

A sideline on family life was revealed in the Family Bible  where a page headed "Be Good to the Poor" had been scribbled on by various member of the fmaily, criss-crossed on the page in what  can only be described as scribbles.   Elizabeth's contribution can just be made out  in the middle of the section here, with Henry's above it left. 

The entries cite the family living at Trap Farm, Carleton and signatures include that of "Ellie Simpson, Carleton, Trap, Servant, 1830".  The fact that servant Ellie   was included in the activity  somehow casts  a lovely light on the household informality - though the fact they used the Bible for these scribbles  does raise other issues!   

But family life was not without tragedy.  In the space of 12 years (1827-1839), Elizabeth saw the loss of her husband and three children.

  • Eldest child Margaret married before her 17th birthday on 28 April 1804  (and before the birth of her two youngest brothers);   her husband  Roger Ryding, a bricksetter,    Margaret was dead by the time of her father's will (1833)  and death in 1839, with her five children receiving legacies. 
  •  First born son John died aged 46 in 1836, with no marriage traced.  However at the age of 21 he was served with an affiliation order ordering him to contribute  to the upkeep of his "said bastard child" (a forerunner of the current Child Support Ageny!)   The order, traced at  Lancashire Record Office, notes: 
    “Ann Butler, single woman, was upon the 27th day of August last, delivered of a female bastard child in the said township of Marton…and that John Danson, husbandman of Carleton did begot the said bastard on her body and is the father of the same....... Thereupon, we order… for the better relief of the said township…and the sustenance and relief of the said bastard child…John Danson pay unto the churchwardens and Overseers of the Poor…the sum of One Pound Eighteen Shillings for and towards the charges and expenses incident to the birth…further sum of four shillings towards the cost of apprehending and securing the said John Danson….the sum of Two Shillings weekly…towards the keeping, sustenance and maintenance of the said bastard child”.

  • James, the youngest son, died at the age of 15, with an inquest held into his death on 11th January 1827.  Unfortunately the only record traced on this tragedy was in the  Quarter Session Records at Lancashire Record Office, which noted that the coroner claimed £1 expenses and 16s.6d travelling costs for the post mortem.
  • Henry - second youngest son (and my great great grandfather), was born 20 years after his parent's marriage and was to continue the Danson name down the generations.
  • Peter never married,  making his home with his brother Henry's household until his death in 1866. 
  • Second son William died at the age of 41 in 1833. as recorded in Poulton Parish Register.
  • No further information has been traced on George and Nelly. 

Trap Farm, Carleton - Elizabeth's married home c.1827 at the time of the scribbles in the family bible [see above]. Her sons Henry and Peter were living there with Henry's large family in the 1841 and 1851 censuses.  I took this photograph c.1998 when it was in a dilapidated state.  The property has undergone major refurbishment since them.


Elizabeth was left a widow on  21 October 1839 and a copy of Henry's  will dated 26 August 1833 was obtained from Lancashire Record Office.It noted:

" I give and bequeath unto my dear wife Betty all my household goods, plate, china, linen and household furniture for and during her natural life….I also bequeath during her natural life one clear annuity of thirty pounds".

I came across this short but  beautiful testimony to Elizabeth  almost by chance during a  quite casual browslng of  British Newspapers Online 1710-1953 on the website Find My Past. -

"Blackburn Standard Wednesday 20 May 1840 
Betty, widow of the late Mr. Henry Danson, yeoman, Trap Estate, Carleton, near Poulton-le-Fylde. She was much esteemed, and will be greatly regretted by a large circle of acquaintances".
The Blackburn Standard is not a newspaper I would have every thought of looking at for events in Poulton, so it was also a lesson to widen  a search beyond the obvious.  

But that little piece somehow brought Elizabeth (or the more familiar Betty)  alive for me, as no other record had done. 

Postscript:  Elizabeth (Betty) Danson, nee Brown died  seven months after her husband Henry, buried  on 13th May 1840 at the age of 73, predeceased by at least four of her seven children - Margaret, John, William and James. She was buried in St. Chad's churchyard. Unfortunately  most of the old gravestones were removed some time ago, so no memorial remains to her life. 


I first published  this post in 2014  on the website Worldwide Genealogy Collaboration, but have reprinted it here so it is together with my other research into my Danson family.  

Matrilineal Monday is prompt focussing on our female ancestors - one of many prompts from www.geneabloggerstribe.com to encourage bloggers to write about their family history.  

Copyright © 2017 · Susan Donaldson.  All Rights Reserved

Friday, 16 June 2017

A Garden Setting for Five Generations

This week's prompt photograph shows a little lad watering a plant in his garden - cue for my family photographs in a garden setting.  


 This is the only photograph I have of my four grandparents - William Danson & Alice English on the left  and Albert Weston & Mary Barbara Matthews on the right - taken after my parent's wedding in 1938 - with my mother in her going-away outfit.  Taken in the front garden of my grandparents house. 

My grandfather's house in Poulton-le-Fylde, Lancashire, c.1950. The large gardens were my grandfather's and later my uncle's pride and joy - with floral displays in the  front and  productive vegetables and fruit  grown at the back.   The front garden was also the setting for many a family photograph. 

In teh same corner of the garden, my grandmother,  Alice Danson, nee English,  with her three daughters, Peggy, Edith and Kathleen (my mother) .  


My mother Kathleen (standing) playing with her sister Edith in the garden of their home, c.1914.  
My dressmaker mother modelling one of her dresses.

My father setting off for war with my mother right, and my aunt left. 

 A lovely  photograph of  my parents  in the back garden of our Edinburgh home -
ready to go to  my graduation from university.  


With my father in our back garden  - note that cigarette! 

 With my baby brother

I am dressed for taking part in the local village gala - in what I remember as a peach coloured dress, and with my hair in ringlets. 


 Daughter - and furry friend playing  - in the garden.

Ready for first day at school - and not looking too happy!

 Our pet cocker spaniel enjoying a good chew in our  garden


Onto the fifth generation  - and my little granddaughter having fun in her sandpit. 

Smiling and bright eyed for  her first day at school

High jinks here! 

And finally - I had to show this photograph.  It was not taken in the garden, but my daughter's 1970's fashion statement of the tank top, knitted by my aunt,  matches the prompt photograph so well.  

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

                      Click HERE  to see how gardens have inspired other bloggers

                       Copyright © 2017 · Susan Donaldson.  All Rights Reserved

Thursday, 8 June 2017

My Great Grandfather - A Joiner: Sepia Saturday

A hatted workman with a moustache, posed at a wooden crate, 
 features in this week's prompt photograph. 

It brought to mind the only photograph I have of my great grandfather James Danson, by trade, a  joiner, in Poulton-le-Fylde, Lancashire.  The image  manages to combine wood, hats and moustaches  to match the prompt.

My great grandfather  James Danson is the bearded figure,   sitting merry in the old wooden stocks at Poulton.  Surrounding  him are a number of onlookers,  sporting moustaches and hats. 


The  starting point for research into  my great grandfather James Danson (1852-1906) was the family bible which recorded his marriage in 1877 to 18 year old Maria Rawcliffe and the birth of his first four sons - entries petered out after that. The births of six more sons (two did not survive infancy) and one daughter were not recorded.

The 1881 Census Return   provided the information  that enabled  me to trace James'  birth certificate.  He was born on 7th August 1852 at Trap Farm, Carleton, Lancashire (below).  He was third son, tenth and youngest child of Henry Danson, yeoman farmer and Elizabeth Calvert. 

Trap Farm, Carleton c. 1998

The 1881 census showed the family living at Pott's Alley, off the Market Square at Poulton-le-Fylde. In the various literature on Poulton, Potts Alley earlier in the century comes in for some condemnation, described as “the town’s slum quarter….contained some of Poulton’s most squalid over crowded properties…..the subject of severe criticism in a public health report of 1852”.

Little knowledge has come down through the family on James Danson who died in 1906 before the birth of my mother and aunt. Anecdotal evidence does not reflect creditably on him - he was by all accounts of his grandchildren a bit of a ne-er do well - in contrast to the obvious respect for “Granny” - a view reinforced by this  photograp. 

Barrett's  1904 General and Commercial Directory  for the Fylde area of Lancashire listed James Danson, joiner of 2 Bull Street, Poulton - a row of terraced houses just off the Market Square, which around the 1960's was demolished to make way for a small shopping centre. 

James died at the age of 53 on 20th September 1906, A report in "The Fleetwood Chronicle and Fylde Advertiser" of 28th September noted: 
"The deceased gentleman who was 53 years old was a native of Poulton. His father was toll collector at Shard Bridge for 14 years.  Mr Danson had been ill for some time but had only recently taken to his bed.  The chief mourners were Mrs Danson (wife), Messrs Robert, John, Tom, Willie Danson (sons) and Mr John Danson (brother from Clitheroe), Miss Cookson (niece),  Mrs Riley, Mrs Roskell and Mrs Geo Riley (sisters-in-law), Mrs Porter, and Mr Threlfall.  There were a number of beautiful wreaths."
There was no reference in the funeral report to James' first born son Harry who died a year later at the age of 30, nor to the younger sons Albert, Frank and George, and  only daughter Jennie, but perhaps as children they did not attend or  did not warrant a mention.

James was buried in Moorland Road Cemetery, Poulton-le-Fylde, leaving his  widow, with a large family all still at home, including 3 children  under 14 years old.

Funeral Card for James Danson

A new headstone for James Danson and family was erected a few years ago by his surviving granddaughter, to replace  the original one which was badly worn away.  The white stone behind remembers James's second son John who died during the First World War. 
Sepia Saturday give bloggers an opportunity to share 
their family history and memories through photographs

 Click HERE  to see how other bloggers have been inspired. 

Copyright © 2017 · Susan Donaldson.  All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, 31 May 2017

Trees, Seasons and Memories: Sepia Saturday

This week's Sepia Saturday prompt features a tree in full leaf with rustic fencing  round about.   Memories of family and home in the Scottish Borders, with trees as the backcloth is my theme.  

I wonder how old  these trees are at the ruined Roman fort of Houseteads on Hadrian's  Wall in Northumberland?   Here I am treading in the footsteps of the Romans who manned this northern windswept outpost, of their empire. Spanning 80 miles across northern England, building began c.AD122 and took six years to complete. For almost three centuries Hadrian's Wall  was an important defensive frontier between England and Scotland, with Housteads one of 15 forts built along the wall.   The Wall is now a World Heritage Site.

Moving onto the early 20th century - two  vintage photograph of my village of Earlston show  the old village pump well  which was demolished in 1920 to make room for the War Memorial.  


A leap of 50 years to more recent family photographs: across the seasons.

 1974  - with my daughter,   beside the River Teviot in Hawick 
with  the trees of Wilton Lodge Park  in the background. 

Easter 1975 -  daughter a year older, with my parents on a sunny day in our local park.
 I am still  sporting a miniskired dress.

 On an April walk around Earlston where we now live - 
looking east across to the Lammermuir Hills


1981 -  a special photograph as it is the only one I have of my mother taken with her three grandchildren  - at a family wedding. 

The War Memorial in Earlston Square  - a reminder of our ancestors lost in conflict.

My brother at Ironbridge over the wooded Severn Valley in Shropshire  
Our father spent his childhood in the area. 
The cast iron bridge, the first of its kind was built in 1779 and the gorge became known as the "Cradle of the Industrial Revolution".  Now a World Heritage Site.

No family connections here, but another lovely scene in the Scottish Borders at Yetholm which marks the end of the first long distance path in Britain. - the Penine Way.  Here looking towards the Cheviot Hills across the English/Scottish border.


2010 - little  granddaughter enjoying a walk through the woods at Earlston. 
Two autumn scenes in Cowdenknowes Wood, Earlston 

On a  woodland walk, with the carpet of leaves 
and the Leader Water a streak of blue below.


1990's   - Daughter on the hill above our homer in Hawick. 
2012 - Little granddaughter trudging home in the snow, 
with the trees on the appropriately named  White  Hill ahead.


2012 - my husband lending a touch of colour  to the winter woodland scene 

And to finish with two more photographs of  trees and rustic fencing. 

Autumn in Earlston - round the corner from our home.

On Mill Meadow walk  in Earlston 

We are so lucky to live in such a beautiful  part of the country


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

Click HERE  to see how trees this week have inspired  other bloggers