.jump-link{ display:none }

Saturday, 18 December 2010

Christmas Greetings

A Happy Christmas and New Year to all my Blog readers. 
Thank you for contributing to this engrossing new hobby I discovered this year.  

The postcard above, sent in 1877,  was in the family collection of a distant cousin.  The verse reflects  Victorian maudlin sentiment of the time,  but it is still a lovely picture.

My great grandfather was James Danson of Poulton-le-Fyle, Lancashire.  His eldest brother was John Danson  and I made contact with John's great great granddaughter Janet through the Genes Reunited website. I am not too sure what relation that makes us, as I get rather mixed up between cousins four times removed and fourth cousins etc.  I was delighted to discover a new relation and we exchanged family papers and memorabilia.


  A frozen River Teviot at Hawick in the Scottish Borders

Thursday, 16 December 2010

A Church with Danson Memories

St. Chad's Church in springtime - a photograph taken by my Uncle, Harry Rawcliffe  Danson
Other photographs are from my own family collection

St. Chad’s Church, Poulton-le-Fylde, Lancashire  is at the heart of my family history, as Dansons were baptised, married and buried there down the generations from John Danson, born 1736, son of Peter. My parents married at St. Chad's in 1938 , my father sang in the choir and my brother and I were baptised there.

Tradition dates back the church to 669. It was dedicated to St. Chad, a Northumbrian missionary who became bishop of York and then bishop of Mercia.  In 1349 the Black Death struck, with the vicar of Poulton amongst those succumbing to the plague. Registers date from 1591, with the oldest part of the present church, the Tower dating from before 1638. A major rebuilding took place around 1751.

John Danson's daughter Jennet married John Brining, whose family boxed pew,   dated 1778,  is in the  gallery.
Margaret Danson married into the Brownbill family of clockmakers,  responsible in 1865 for the new tower clock 

The War Memorial  includes the name of George Danson, my great uncle, killed in 1916 on the Somme. 

Inside St. Chad's.  I was baptised here. 

Wedding of my parents
John Weston & Kathleen Danson (left)
with Edith Danson & Charles Weston
Although I moved away from Poulton when I was 13 years old, St. Chad's Church remains a fond place in my memory.   I recall my recent last visit in springtime when bell ringers were practising and the carpet of crocuses covered tthe churchyard -  a beautiful part of my heritage.  

Copyright © 2010 · Susan Donaldson.  All Rights Reserved

Postcards from Flanders - Treasure Chest Thursday

Treasure Chest Thursday   is a daily blogging prompt used by many genealogy bloggers to help them tell stories of their ancestors..   
Postcards from Flanders, sent by my grandfather William Danson to his family back home, are the most prized items in my collection of family memorabilia.  They  were kept in a shoebox in the cupboard by the fire in my grandfather's house and it was a treat as a child to be allowed to look through them.  

They are made more poignant by the pencilled messages from William to his wife Alice and children Edith, Kathleen, Harry and baby Billy.

Message: 7 Feb. 1918.
Dear Alice, received your letter all right.  I have landed back at the Batt and am in the pink.  I have had a letter from Jennie and am glad they have heard from Tom.  Your loving husband, Billy XXX


                                                           Look at for further blogs featuring more postcards from Flanders.

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Danson Sisters All Dressed Up, c.1912 - Wordless Wednesday

Wordless Wednesday  is a daily blogging prompt used by many genealogy bloggers to help them tell stories of their ancestors.  Here the empahsis is on family photographs.  

I love this photograph of my mother and aunt,  Kathleen and Edith  Danson,  who are the two little girls  at the front of this photograph.

All dressed up, they are in some kind of procession (Empire Day or Gala Day? ) at Poulton-le-Fylde, Lancashire, with the group lining up outside St. Chad's Church.   It must have been taken around 1912, judging by the age of my mother and aunt,  and also the dress of the bystanders.  My aunt recollected that the little boy behind (Thomas ?) had been sent the Indian banner by an uncle in America.

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Patrick McFarlane and his 9 Sisters - Wordless Wednesday

Wordless Wednesday  is a daily blogging prompt used by many genealogy bloggers to help them tell stories of their ancestors.  Here the empahsis is on family photographs.  

This is such a striking picture that I had to share it. I was doing some family history research for a friend and this was among the family memorabilia, though with no names on the reverse. 

My friend's grandmother was Bridget McFarlane who was known to have Irish connections and be part of a large family of women. The certifcate of  Bridget's marriage to Thomas Spowart  in 1894 provided the names of her parents - James McFarlane, a quarryman and Ann Lauchlin.  Bridget’s age was given as 18, so born c. 1876.  In the 1901  census, her birthplace was given as Bannockburn, near Stirling.  These three pieces of information enabled Bridget's family to be traced in the census returns.  Parents James and Ann were both born in Ireland and they had ten children in 22 years (1876-1898)  - Bridget (the eldest), Kate, Mary, Patrick, Annie, Ellen, Sarah, Jane, Maggie and Jemima.    

The dark clothes and solemn expressions indicated that the occasion was a funeral.  Could the central figure holding a bible or prayer book be Ann McFarlane, nee Lauchlin, surrounded by nine daughters and only son Patrick?  Was the young girl carrying flowers the youngest daughter Jemima?  The style of dress and the possible age of the girl could date the photograph to the early 20th century c.1910.   The estimated date of the photograph was confirmed by tracing father James’ death online (http://www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk/)  to October 6th 1912.  

This was indeed a McFarlane family photograph. 

With thanks to Edna for allowing me to feature this photograph

Monday, 13 December 2010

Are These My American Ancestors? Mystery Monday

Mystery Monday  is a daily blogging prompt used by many genealogy bloggers to help them tell stories of their ancestors.    

My mystery question is who is this striking family group?  The photograph was found  in the large  collection of my great aunt Jennie, only daughter of my great grandmother Maria Danson, nee Rawcliffe.  Unusually it was not identified on the reverse with names – something that Jennie did on most of her other photographs.   Also there was nothing to indicate where it had been taken. 

It must surely be of one of Maria’s sisters - Anne, Jane, Alice, or Jennet?  The composition of the family and ages of the children ruled out Anne, Jane or Jennet.  So could it be Alice?

Alice, born 1853 at Hambleton, near Poulton-le-Fylde, Lancashire,  was the fourth daughter of Robert Rawliffe and Jane Carr.   She married John Mason and they settled in Fleetwood where they had six children -  Robert William, Jane Elizabeth,  John Thomas, James Richard, Margaret Alice and George Rawliffe - all family names.

A casual browsing for Rawcliffes through http://www.familysearch.org/  resulted in a surprise finding that Alice Mason, nee Rawcliffe had died in Jamesburg, New Jersey on 24th February 1930 - the first time I was aware of any American connection.     The information had been supplied by a contributor. Frustratingly when I wrote to find out more,  the letter was returned “not known at this address”.  Further efforts to make contact with any American descendants have been slow to bring results.

American census returns showed that John Mason  entered the USA in 1886, with Alice and their children following in 1887.  The family took out American citizenship in 1895 and at some point moved from Brooklyn, New York, across the river to Jamesburg, Middlesex County, New Jersey.

Alice was 34 when she set sail from Liverpool with six children aged 1 to 13 (and two pieces of baggage) aboard the  ship Auronia. Within twelve years of her arrival in Brooklyn, New York, she had a further five children  - Arthur Valentine (born 14th February), Harold Arthur Victor, Lillian Eveline, Bessie Irene and Florence Adelaide.  Arthur, Bessie and Lillian all died in infancy.

But back to my family photograph -  is this Alice and James Mason?  Eldest daughter Jane Elizabeth was still unmarried in  the 1920 census, so she could be the woman on the back left,  and is that her younger sister and brother - possibly Florence and Harold? 

The mystery remains - or do you know better?   If so,  please do get in touch - I would love to hear from you. 

Friday, 10 December 2010

Great Grandfather James Danson in the Stocks - A Black Sheep in the Family


The only photograph of my great grandfather James Danson, came from his daughter's shoebox collection. 

James, sitting in the stocks in the square at Poulton-le-Fylde, Lancashire  is the merry bearded figure on the left, clearly enjoying life.

Poulton is a small town east of its more famous neighbour the seaside holiday town of Blackpool.  Poulton, though had the far longer history, noted for the church of St. Chad's and its market square with a stone slab table for selling wares, and for those who fell foul of the law the old whipping post and stocks.

By all accounts of his grandchildren, James was something of a ne'er do well with anecdotal comments that "Granny had a hard time with him".

James was born in 1852 at Trap Farm, Carleton, the nineth child  of Henry Danson and Elizabeth Calvert. A joiner, he married 18 year old Maria Rawcliffe in 1877 at St. Anne's Church,  Singleton  and in 1881 they were living at Potts's Alley, off Poulton Square. It was ironic that Maria,  one of seven daughters,  and James with six sisters (and two brothers) should go on to have ten sons before their only daughter Jennie in 1897.   

James died in 1906 at the age of 53.  

See other blog postings for more tales of the Dansons and Rawcliffe families.

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Jennie Danson's Wedding - Fashion 1929

Wedding  Wednesday  is a daily blogging prompt used by many genealogy bloggers to help them tell stories of their ancestors.  

My great aunt Jennie was,  by all accounts,  quite a feisty character.  She was the only daughter and last child of James Danson and Maria Rawcliffe of Poulton-le-Fylde, Lancashire, born on 24th December 1897, after eight surviving brothers whose ages ranged from 3 to 20.    Her father died when when was eight years old.

Jennie was determined to lead her own life - much to the dismay of her unmarried  brothers who were used to her running the home after the death of their mother (Maria) in 1919.  Jennie married Beadnell (Bill) Stemp in 1929. 

Do look at the report below from the local paper  "The Blackpool Gazette" - it makes for fascinating reading, not least for the fulsome journalistic style and descriptions of the dresses.

"A wedding of much local interest took place in the Poulton Parish Church on Saturday afternoon the bride being Miss Jennie Danson daughter of the late Mr and Mrs James Danson, Bull Street and the bridegroom Mr Beadnell Stemp, son of Mr and Mrs B. Stemp, Jubilee Lane, Marton.

The bride who was given away by her brother Mr R. Danson was stylishly gowned in French grey georgette, veiling silk to tone.  The bodice which was shaped to the figure was quite plain, with a spray of orange blossoms at the shoulder, while the skirt, which was ankle length, was composed entirely of five picot edged scalloped circular frills, and the long tight sleeves had circular picot edged frilled cuffs in harmony.  Her hat was of georgette to tone with uneven pointed dropping brim, having an eye veil of silver lace and floral mount.  She carried a bouquet of pink carnations with silver ribbon and horseshoe attached,

Mrs H. Ditchfield (niece of the bride), wore a gown of delphinium blue georgette, the corsage being in silver lace as also the edge of the handkerchief pointed flare skirt.  Her hat was in georgette to tone, in picture style and she carried a bouquet of blue irises in harmonise.

The little bridesmaids, Miss Peggy Danson (niece of the bride) and Miss Nellie Stemp (niece of the bridegroom) were daintily attired in primrose and eau-de-nil georgette, the picot edged circular skirts made to correspond to the dress of the bride, and they wore Dutch hats in harmony, and both carried posy bouquets, with long streamers of ribbon to tone with their dresses. 

The reception was held at the home of the bride’s brother after which the newly married couple went to Chester where the honeymoon is being spent.

The bride travelled in a dress of picky beige double georgette, the skirt which was circular scalloped, with coat of faced cloth to tone, with collar and cuffs in brown skunk fur.  Her hat had a drooping brim of brown felt, while the crown was made o ribbon in shades of orange, reseda and fawm." 

Look for further blog entries on the Danson family of Poulton-le-Fylde, Lancashire

Monday, 6 December 2010

Donaldson Maritime Ancestors

To me "snow" was the white stuff falling in winter and a "smack" was a slap to a recaltrant child.  But that all changed  as I  began researching my husband's maritime ancestors and learnt about the different names for ships in the 19th century - barque or bark or barc, brig, sloop. smack and snow - an illustration of the diverse routes that family history can take you.

I traced the Donaldson family back to the marriage of Samuel Donaldson, merchant in South Leith (near Edinburgh),  His grandson Robert went from South Leith to the port of South Shields on the River Tyne  and his son Robert moved to Porstmouth on the  English south coast - the linking factor the sea with family occupations ranging from merchant, master mariner, seaman, caulker, roper, ship's carpenter and river policeman.

Tyne and Wear Archives provided information on the life of Robert Donaldson (1801-1876), master mariner of South Shields, and the ships he sailed on, listed in "“A Dictionary of Tyne Sailing Ships:  a record of merchant sailing ships owned, registered and built at the Port of Tyne 1830-1930”, compiled by Richard Keys.  This is a complete A-Z of Ships, master mariners and owners, detailing ships, voyages, disasters and share-ownerships, and much more - a must for anyone with maritime ancestors in this region.

The entries make fascinating reading, with all six ships on which Robert Donaldson sailed, having an eventful history and coming to a sad end (though not under his charge).  

The Thetis became a wreck after sinking off the Yorkshire coast in 1869.

The John was stranded in 1861 and became a wreck during a severe easterly gale.  Twenty-eight other Tyne ships went ashore in the same area during the same gale.

The Emerald, in  December 1855, when on passage from the Tyne to London, foundered in five fathoms on the Dough Sand (Long Sand) Thames estuary.   Three survivors were brought ashore by two Bridlington smacks.  Eleven others were unaccounted for, including some of the crew of the rescuing smack who were in a small boat, which disappeared. 

The Hebe was wrecked in Robin Hood’s Bay, along with other vessels on 27 January 1861. The  Ann & Elizabeth  disappeared after leaving the Tyne in November 1863, with her captain leaving a wife and six children.

The  William Mecalfe was Robert Donaldson's largest ship    On her maiden voyage, it transported 240 male convicts from Portsmouth to Hobart, on a passage that took 102 days.  In January 1855 eight of her crew were sent to goal for three months each by the North Shields magistrates for refusing duty.  In October 1858 her master and one man were washed overboard.  Nine days later, the ship was abandoned, with the crew taken off.

These incidents were by no means unusual  and bring home the hazards our mariner ancestors faced in their daily lives.