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Sunday, 30 January 2011

Food: 52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy and History - Week 5.

This is the fifth challenge in a weekly series from GeneaBloggers called 52 weeks of personal genealogy and  history, suggested  by Amy Coffin,  that invite genealogists to record memories and insights about their own lives for future descendants.  Week 5 - Food

Fussy and unadventurous - that describes me as regards food  in the 1950's when  meals were simple, hearty and all home prepared. 

Breakfast was Weetabix, but as I hated milk over anything I used to spread it with marmalade and eat it dry.  Saturday meant a cooked breaksfast treat of bacon, sausage, fried bread and fried egg.
My mother's recipte book

Main meals did not vary much - a roast on a Sunday with the left-overs on Monday either turned into cottage pie (delicious)  or served cold with chips;  sausage and mash, Lancashire Hotpot, (one of my favourites)    corned beef hash and on Friday fish and chips.  For vegetables my only memory is of peas, onions and carrots plus Brussel sprouts (ugh)  at Christmas. Desserts were puddings at least once a week, such as spotted dick with custard  or golden syrup sauce, baked apples, and rice pudding (which my father loved all his life  but I hated),wih the weekend treat fruit pies or crumbles or lemon meringue.  Shrove Tuesday meant pancakes served with sugar and lemon.

A page from my mother's recipe book
My mother was a great baker and a great follower of the Bero Book  - Caribbean  slices, Victoria sponges, chocolate crispies  coconut pyramids, ginger biscuits and Shrewsbury biscuits, flapjacks, fairy cakes, butterfly cakes. Eccles cakes, home made jam and jellies with the muslin bag slung between to two chairs to drip.   I loved home-made marmalade - nothing to beat it.

Sunday tea was invariably egg & cress or paste sandwiches followed by tinned peaches or jelly.  or jelly fluff (whipped up with evaporated milk) and chocolate cake with butter icing. or other home baking.

We always sat round the table for meals, apart from Sunday tea when it was round a  trolley,   whilst we watched the classic Sunday serial on the television - or "The Lone Ranger" with Tonto and "Hiya Silver".

Standard birthday party fare was sandwiches, sausage rolls, sausages on sticks, jellies in fancy dishes,    and little iced gem biscuits. The pieces  de resistance were the iced cake with candles and (very special) an Ice Cream Cake. bought at the last minute  from the nearby Palatine Dairy - we had no fridge then. 

I used to go with my mother into town to meet my aunt at a cafe on a Saturday afternoon, but I can't remember ever as a child  going out to a cafe or restaurant for a meal.

Another Saturday treat came from my father who bought us all a small bar of chocolate - for me Fry's Turkish Delight and for my mother a Kit Kat - this continued until I was well into  my teens.  Other penny treats we bought with our pocket money - sherbet, liquoricee sticks, Pontefract cakes,  or sweet cigarettes when we pretended to be grown up.    My grandfather gave us most Sundays a bag of pear drops.  Otherwise snacks were generally unheard of - bread and jam in the afternoon, very occasional packet of plain crisps where you had to hunt for the little  blue twist of salt,  or in summer a rhubarb stick from the garden to dip into a poke of sugar.

I stayed for school dinners as we lived a bus ride away from school.  Like most people I hated them, especially the fatty  meat, red cabbage and the milk puddings - rice, tapioca (called frog spawn) and semolina where I tried to eke out the miserable spoonful of jam to disguise the awful taste.  Also among my dislikes soggy  bread & butter pudding and Queen's pudding (apart from the meringue topping),   Current pie was one of my favourites - despite its nickname of fly pie or fly cemetery.  Menus did not change much over my 13 years of school life.

Looking back so much of this food seems stodgy and fattening, yet I cannot remember obesity being an issue.  I suppose we walked everywhere, played outside, got plenty of fresh air and exercise and did not snack as today.  

Most of these memories come from my primary school days and the towns we lived in had little cosmopolitan influences.  Nothing sticks particularly in my mind of later meal trends - we had  chicken more often, tinned salmon for Sunday tea and grapefruit for breakfast.  It was years before I became more adventurous with my tastes and braved pasta and pizzas, Chinese and Indian food!  

My mother

My mother's baking, though  continued  apace, and she made sure that the bisicuit tin and cake tin remained filled until she  was well into her 80's.   

                                     52 Weeks Personal Genealogy and History

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Home: 52 Years of Personal Genealogy and History - Week 4.

This is the fourth challenge in a weekly series from GeneaBloggers called 52 weeks of personal genealogy and  history, suggested  by Amy Coffin,  that invite genealogists to record memories and insights about their own lives for future descendants.  Week 4 - Home   

I am the baby - with my Dad in our back garden,  1944
My first home was a rented end-terraced house on the edge of Blackpool, Lancashire.  My memories are of open fires,  and an  icy front room used for special occasions (birthday parties, Christmas plus my piano lessons)  when the fire was lit.     

The kithcen was small and basic,  It was rather dark and gloomy with a solid back door and little light getting in.   A pantry with a cupboard with a mesh door was the primitive fridge!.    Washing (always on a Monday when my mother donned  a cross-over overall and put her hair in a turban),   was done by hand and then put through a mangle to dry either outside on the clothes line or  on an overhead pulley. The other alternative was a steaming clothes horse around the fire.
As the end house of the terrace,  we had plenty of space down the side  for my brother and I to play - he in his  pedal car and myself with my tricyle and doll's pram (I was a very dolly girl and because my mother was a dressmaker, I had the best dressed dolls on the street).  I remember tall  pink and purple lupins in the garden and I pretended they were ladies at a ball and curtseyed and danced to them - but only when my brother was not around to tease me!

It was an event when we heard the rag and bone man passing by on his horse and cart.  We also had a lorry coming around selling drinks and it was a treat was to get  in a stone jar sasparella- a forerunner of Coca Cola? 

We were one of the first people to get a televions in 1953, so the house was crowded around it to watch the Queen's Coronation.  We also got a phone then, largely because my father worked away a lot and it was a way to keep in touch - so we felt we were living a modern life in the new Elizabethan age.
My "second" home was my grandfather's house, (right) which he bought in 1924 - I have the receipt for the deposit of £67.   It looks quite big, but, with only three small bedrooms, it must have still been a squash for parents, 3 daughters and two sons who all lived at home until they married. The front door had a round stained glass window which I thought was very posh.  Half way up the side wall was a small door which revealed the coal shute where the coal men emptied  their sacks down into a small cellar under the stairs. My uncle later took on the hard task to clear it all out to create a much needed "glory hole". The side trellissed gate was later taken down and a driveway created to take my uncle's car.  The former hen house at the back then became the garage.  The large gardens were my grandfather's and later uncle's joy - with floral displays in the  front and vegetables and fruit  grown at the back.  There was one surprising feature about the house, though - it did not have electricity until the late 1950's, because my grandfather refused to have it installed. I remember my aunt standing on a chair to light the ceiling gas lights, and ironing with a heated flat iron, and the flames from the gas cooker frightened me.

Home 1956-1961 at Upper Poppleton, near York.
In 1954 we moved to our own semi-detached house not far away and my mother was delighted to have a Rayburn - a solid fuel cooker which she loved for making stews, soups, casseroles and baking.

Two yaars later my father was transferred from Lancashire to Yorkshire,  where we lived near York in  a lovely named village  - Upper Poppleton - complete with a village green and maypole.  This home  (left)  was going up in the world - a new build and detached. Instead of the two small downstairs rooms we now had a through lounge and fitted carpets and cumberstone storage heaters to get at least some background heating.  From the outside it hasn't changed much when this photograph was taken  a few years ago.

1961 saw another move, this time north  to Edinburgh to a lovely  bungalow and our first central heating - bliss!  The colour scheme was rather strong - red units in the  kitchen and a bathroom with a yellow suite and black tiles, which my mother  could not wait to get rid of.  This was the last of my childhood homes, with my parents moving again in 1970 - but all left me with happy memories I am pleased to share here. .  

52 Weeks Personal Genealogy and History

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Wedding Telegrams, 1938

Last week I posted a blog on a wartime New Year telegram  my father sent to my mother on December 31st 1940.  I had some lovely comments, including one expressing surprise at the striking pictorial design - very patriotic in style with the royal coat of arms and floral emblems from the four countries of the United Kingdom.

So I thought, as a follow up,  I would share two other such telegrams sent with congratulations on my parent's marriage on 18th April 1938 at St. Chad's Church, Poulton-le-Fylde, Lancashire.

My parents John Weston and Kathleen (Kay) Danson, 18th April 1938


Copyright © 2011, Susan Donaldson.  All Rights Reserved

Friday, 21 January 2011

John Danson's "Said Bastard Child"

 In the course of research into my mother's Danson family,  I came across this document at Lancashire Record Office which identified a black sheep in the family!

In 1810,  John Danson, aged 21 and eldest son of Henry Danson and Elizabeth Brown of Carleton, Lancashire  was served with an affiliation order ordering him to contribute to the upkeep of his “said bastard child”  - a daughter by Ann Butler of Marton.   The poor child was repeatedly given this tag in the document below which  is fascinating on its choice of language:
“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”.

In 1810, £1 18s 0d would have the same spending power of today's £64.52 with 2s 0d being  worth today  £3.40.  (www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/currency).  - not much for bringing up a child! 

Unfortunately I have been unable to trace anything further on this story.  John Danson died in 1836, aged 46, as far as I know unmarried and predeceased his father Henry by 3 years.

Copyright © 2011 · Susan Donaldson.  All Rights Reserved

Thursday, 20 January 2011

Stop Press! A Female Navie - 9th March 1849

In historical fiction I have come across stories of girls, running away from home, dressed up as a midshipman or army cadet, serving at the Battle of Trafalgar or in the Crimea etc. I have usually regarded the plot as rather far fetched and ridiculous. 
But truth is stranger than fiction - as witnessed by this article in the "Kelso Chronicle" of 9th March 1849" Someone could write a novel out of this!

 “A FEMALE NAVIE. – Cases are occasionally reported of females assuming the garb of the roughest sex – generally under the influence of some romantic motive – and undergoing without flinching all the inconveniences and hardships which their disguise, and the laborious employment of males, entail upon them. It is not often, however, that we hear of them doffing the petticoat and doffing the trousers, apparently out of shear dislike of the monotony and irksomeness of a country girl’s life, and envy of the greater freedom enjoyed by the lord of creation.

A case of this kind appears, however, to have occurred in our own town during the last year or two. The particulars, so far as they have been furnished to us by a correspondent, are as follows: - A young woman, 22 years of age named Jean Smith, left her fathers house in the village of Preston, East Lothian, on the 22d September, 1846, dressed in her brother’s clothes, a blue jacket, cap, and white moleskin trousers, leaving her own at home. The day before, she had borrowed money from several persons of her acquaintance, and was pretty well supplied in that respect. She took the train at Longniddry station for Berwick, intending to seek work as a navie. She fell in, however, with a mason, with whom she bound herself as an apprentice for three years at 9s a week, under the name of Alexander Johnston. She appears to have soon tired of wielding the mallet and chisel and engaged herself as a ganger of the Railway.

She lodged in Berwick with a Mrs Hogg, conducting herself in all respects as one of the better sort of navies. She had her sweetheart too, a young woman whom she invited to tea on Sunday evenings, escorting her afterwards for a walk “Sandy” it is said, received several hints from the chosen of his heart, that an excursion to the Toll would be very agreeable; but he was always remarkably slow in taking them, and contrived on some pretence or other, to put off the happy day.  Leaving the gangership on the railway, she hired herself as a hind to one of the farmers near the town, with whom she continued till March 1848, when she appears to have changed her mind, and returned to her father’s home, resuming the dress and employment proper to her sex."

With thanks to local historian Gordon for bringing this article to my attention

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Ancestor Approved: Part 2. My top ten bloggers.

Last week I posted my delight at being given an Ancestor Approved Award. The Ancestor Approved Award was created by Leslie Ann Ballou (http://ancestorslivedhere.blogspot.com/).    Leslie Ann asks award recipients to "list ten things you have learned about any of your ancestors that has surprised, humbled, or enlightened you and pass it along to ten other bloggers who you feel are doing their ancestors proud."  

I described my top ten lessons I have learned along my ancestral trail  and here is Part 2.   I am happy to pass this award to another 10 bloggers to receive the Ancestor Approved Award - some have already received recognition, but I wanted to show my appreciation as well.

  1. Audrey Collins at The Family Recorder
  2. Susan Petersen at Long Lost Relatives.net
  3. TCasteel at Tangled Trees  
  4. John Gasson at The Wandering Genealogist
  5. Gina at http://www.ginisology.com/
  6. Family History Writing
  7.  Mike at http://mikeydawson.wordpress.com/ - You Don;'t Choose Your Family 
  8. Diane at http://randomrelatives.blogspot.com/
  9. Greta's Genealogy Bog
  10. Jo at http://imagespast.wordpress.com/

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

A 1920's Charabanc Trip

I know next to nothing about this photograph.  It was in the  collection of my great Aunt Jennie of Poulton-le-Fylde, Lancashire, and judging by the style of dress must have been taken in the 1920's.  There was no inscription on the reverse, but the photographer/publisher was idenified as Arthur Hadley, Photographer, Ramsey, Isle of Man.   This could be a clue, as one of Jennie's many brothers. Albert,  worked on the  Isle of Man ferry between Fleetwood,  Lancashire and the Isle of Man.   

I like it as a happy holiday photograph,  though I wonder how safe I would find the vehicle with so many people on it.    I could imagine someone might need to get out and push,  if going up hills! 

Monday, 17 January 2011

First Cars : 52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy and History - Week 3.

52 Weeks Personal Genealogy and HistoryThis is the third challenge in a weekly series from GeneaBloggers called 52 weeks of personal genealogy and history, suggested  by Amy Coffin,  that invite genealogists to record memories and insights about their own lives for future descendants  

Week 3: What was your first car? What was the make, model, colour, but also what memories do you have of the vehicle.

This was my husband's first car  (above) - a silver grey Ford Escort, bought just a few weeks before we first 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!  Note the miniskirt  and 1970's striped  coat! 

By 1972 we had graduated to a bronze Ford Cortina (right)  and this reminds me of the time when we were planning for the birth of our daughter - so a larger car was called for with room for the pram and all the baby paraphernalia etc.   This photograph was taken  near  Smailholm Tower in the Scottish Borders.

Silver metallic (very classy)  remained my husband's favourite colour and we returned to this for later cars, changing loyalty from Ford, via Toyota  to Renault.

For me a car is very much for getting from A-Z in reasonable comfort, and they do not stick strongly in my memory

But I cannot resist in this blog sharing my father's memory of his first car, told in his "Family Recollections " that he wrote down for me.  He was a commercial traveller  and in the 1930's got a new job with instructions to pick up a car at Derby and drive 90 miles north  to a new position in Blackpool.

""I had never driven a car before.  On Boxing Day, I went to the British School of Motoring and said I wanted some urgent lessons.  When I told the instructor I was driving to Blackpool the next day, he nearly had a fit.  I collected my car - a four door Morris saloon which I was expected to buy on hire  purchase at 18shillings per week.  It was a traumatic journey with me being  a complete novice, having had no proper tuition.  There was no heating, no radio of course to help pass the time, and the windscreen wipers kept seizing up.  I had also been told that the tyres were awful for punctures.  Still I made it, as darkness fell - just as well, as I wasn't too sure about the lights!"

This is a photograph of my mother taken I suspect before my parents married in 1938.  I have no idea of the make of the car.

Sunday, 16 January 2011

A Wartime Telegram - Sentimental Sunday

My parents - John & Kathleen Weston during the war.

I came across this telegram whilst sorting through papers following the deaths of my father and mother, John and Kathleen Weston nee Danson.   I love the design and the message, with the frank on the reverse showing it was sent on December 31st 1941.  

My father was then serving in the Codes and Cipher Branch of the Ministry of Defence in Whitehall, London and had witnessed the Battle of Britain over London earlier in the autumn of 1941.

For his granddaughter, he wrote  of his wartime experiences in "Family Recollections" and very movingly I discovered a series of letters, still in their envelopes,  exchanged between my parents throughout the war.

A great source of stories for further blog postings, so watch this space!    

Sentimental Sunday  is a daily prompt from http://www.geneabloggers.com/, used by many bloggers to help them tell stories of their ancestors.

Copyright © 2011 · Susan Donaldson.  All Rights Reserved


Thursday, 13 January 2011

Alice English & the Making of a Wedding Dress?

My grandmother Alice English married William Danson in April 1907.  In the shoebox of family photographs and memorabilia was this receipt  paid by Alice on February 26th 1907 for:

Two yards of bodice lining, hooks, silk sundries and bodice making - was this her wedding outfit?  It surely must have had sentimental value for it to be kept with the photographs?

I never knew my grandmother  I am sorry to admit that the search for my maternal grandmother Alice English (1884-1945)  quickly hit the proverbial brick wall.

My mother and aunt were surprisingly reticent about her, though her photograph (below)  was on display in both homes. I failed to ask the right questions at the right time, and ended up with vague and conflicting information.  Was she born in Manchester or Bolton?  There were stories that her mother had been a matron, with some Irish connections;  that Alice was orphaned and her uncle went off to America with her money and never called on her to join him, as arranged. 

Alice went to Poulton-le-Fylde, Lancashire as nursemaid to the Potts family, prominent local Methodists and was confirmed at St. Chad's Church in 1904 (I have her prayer book from that occasion).  She became known locally as an unofficial midwife and the doctor wanted her to train but this was not possible.

Alice English - could this be a wedding photo,
given she is wearing a corsage?
I did know (from the marriage certificate) that she married my grandfather William Danson in April 1907, at St. Chad's Church when Alice was 22 and her father's name was given as Henry, a painter (deceased), plus I was always told we shared the same birthday - September 23rd.  And that is it! 

Despite many years of hunting and using a professional researcher,  I have been unable to trace a birth certificate for Alice to find out the name of her mother.  I cannot link an Alice born in Lancashire 23rd September 1884 with a father Henry, a painter, and have gone down several fruitless paths.  

Nor could I trace Alice in the 1891 census when she would have been 6 years old.  The 1901 census did not move things forward  - there were two possibilities but both Alice English's were living-in domestic servants - one in Stockport and one in West Yorkshire, so nothing to prove if it was "my" Alice.

So I was eagerly awaiting the early release of the 1911 census to find the record for the married Alice.   It  confirmed that Alice's birthplace was in fact Bolton. However I am still no further forward.  The Improved search facility on http://www.findmypast.co.uk/ came up with a Harriet Alice English born Bolton - my hopes rose, but her father turned out to be James, a weaver. So the frustration continues!  

Wedding Wednesday is a daily prompt from http://www.geneabloggers.com/, used by many bloggers to help them tell stories of their ancestors.

Copyright © 2011 · Susan Donaldson.  All Rights Reserved

Creating Christmas Scrapbooks - Sorting Saturday

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

My last Saturday was spent sorting Christmas cards in one of my favourite post Christmas occupations - creating yet another Christmas Scrapbook.   It seems such a shame to bin so many lovely images that I have come up with my own way of retaining the cards for future pleasure.

I began doing this years ago when my daughter was small, with  "Gillian's Christmas Scrapbook"  (right)  a way of conveying the Christmas story,   message and traditions in a strong visual way and displaying  cards that had been spent especially sent to her.  I hand-wrote the words as this was long before the days of computers. The scrapbook came out of the cupboard every Christmas to look through and reminiscence over  and  it became part of  our family tradition.   

More years down the line, I had a growing collection of cards that I had refused to throw out, so I created something similar in a more adult version calling it "Christmas Kaleidoscope"- (above left) annotated this time by the computer, which of course made a huge difference to the style of presentation.

By then I had the bug, so the next year it was "A Christmas Anthology", (left)  using the cards to illustrate poems, songs and literature relating to Christmas.     

I am back to square one now, with a 2 year old granddaughter, so the emphasis is on cards  that will appeal to her.

My latest edition that I am currently working on is "Christmas A-Z"  (right)  focusing on a  wide range of aspects of the Christmas story.  What would I do without the internet to help with history and definitions?  

I do mean to stop - but already my mind is on next year - perhaps looking at the stories behind Christmas carols.  

Since I began, scrapbooking has become  a sophisticated hobby, but I have kept to  a very simple style with  the focus on the illustrations.

So to anyone who sent me a card, it continues to give pleasure long after the 12 days of Christmas have past.

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Winter Woolies: 52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy and History - Week 2.

This is the second challenge in a weekly series from GeneaBloggers called 52 weeks of personal genealogy history - a series of weekly blogging prompts (one for each week of 2011)  by Amy Coffin that invite genealogists and others to record memories and insights about their own lives for future descendants     Week 2: Winter. What was winter like where and when you grew up? Describe not only the climate, but how the season influenced your activities, food choices, etc. 

A Liberty bodice, skirt with short socks (short trousers for my brother), homeknitted jumpers and pixie hood,  wellington boots, gloves kept safe on string through my sleeves,  plus a long scarf criss crossed over my chest and tied at the back - this was the ritual dress for going out in winter in my early 1950's childhood.   I hated Liberty bodices - the rubber buttons were difficult to do and undo, and if the day got warmer you ended up all sticky inside them.  

I grew up in north-west England where winters were relatively mild, but  this was the days before tights and girls then did not wear trousers  Boys were stuck in short trousers until  the milestone of their voices breaking.  I have no winter photographs of my childhood - cameras must have  been reserved for summer.

Getting a cold meant a Vick rub on the chest and a hot drink of lemon and honey - my mother's panacea for everything.  Food was simple and hearty and all home prepared - a roast on a Sunday followed by cold meat & chips on Monday, sausage and mash, stews, cottage pie, steamed puddings such as spoted dick with custard  or golden syrup sauce, and rice pudding (ugh!), with the weekend treat fruit pies or crumbles and chocolate cake.  I can't remember ever going out to a cafe or restaurant  for a meal.

By 1963  (a notoriously bad winter) we were in Edinburgh and I recall my moother worried at the non-arrival of my father from a business trip to London (before the days of mobile phones and instant communication).  He was stranded overnight on a train stuck in the Border hills, with an engine sent to rescue it also trapped..

In the late 1960's I was very proud of my fur hood, the winter fashion statement of the times,  with echoes of the  Dr. Zhvago film.

Birthday 1978
Birthday 1977
My daughter was born in January which meant on birthdays it was always  a question,   will relations  and friends travel to the Borders for  her party?  (I know the snow we get is nothing compared to outher coutnries, but this is Britain where the excuse is we do not get bad winters often enough to deal with them efficiently.)

Then came all the talk of global warming, mild and wet winters (umbrellas the essential accessory) and the decimation of the Scottish sking industry.  2001 was a blip with some of  the worst snow for years, and Hawick was cut off for three days and I could not get to work.   I resorted to creative  cookery from what was in my store cupboard and for the first time for years had time to make pancakes on Shrove Tuesday.

Winter 2001

We had to wait until 2009-10 and 2010-2011 for real winters to strike again, coinciding with the first two years of my granddaughter's life.   

She is enjoying it but I have now reached the stage of rather favouring winter hibernation!

Winter 2010 - the frozen Rriver Teviot

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

A Delighted Recipient of the Ancestor Approved Award - Part 1

I was absolutely delighted to go into my blog  at the weekend and read that I had been given an Ancestor Approved Award by Jennie (http://theycametomontana.blogspot.com/) and Jo (http://imagespast.wordpress.com/).

I only came to blogging in August 2010, after reading an article in "Woman and Home" magazine, though I have limited IT skills, compared to some of the impressively designed sites I have come across. I did wonder at the start if anyone was discovering  the site and more importantly finding it of interest.  Thank you to John of the Wandering Genealogist blog for pointing me in the direction of geneabloggers.com.  Its network has been great and I am now an avid follower. 

I am over the moon that,  as a beginner, other bloggers are enjoying my posts.  Thank you again to all my fellow bloggers for their  appreciation  and their inspiration.  Keep watching!

The Ancestor Approved Award was created by Leslie Ann Ballou (http://ancestorslivedhere.blogspot.com/).    Leslie Ann asks award recipients to "list ten things you have learned about any of your ancestors that has surprised, humbled, or enlightened you and pass it along to ten other bloggers who you feel are doing their ancestors proud."  

So here is my Part 1 response  to Leslie's request - top ten listing on how family history has given me pleasure, satisfaction, delight, enjoyment, understanding and humility.  A list of my favourite blog sites will follow in Part 2.

 1.  Finding that my great grandmother Maria Rawcliffe (at the core of my family history) shared her birthday with my own daughter 114 years later.

2.  Finding Maria was one of 7-8 daughters (some dubiety here) and went onto have 10 sons and finaly a daughter - plenty of scope  for blog stories.

3. Renewing contact after many years with my mother's cousins, who had  large collection of old photographs including the only one of my great grandfather James Danson - the black sheep of the family.

4.  Finding in Lancashire Record Office the wills of my great, great, great, great, grandfather John Danson who died in 1821 and my 3 times grandfather Herny Danson  who died in 1839 - and seeing their signatures. 

5.  Exploring the background to my ancestors' lives,as they faced the vicissitudes of Victorian England.  Elizabeth Danson died at the age of 57 leaving a young family;  sister Mary died in childbirth, sister Margaret was widowed childless twice by the age of 33,  and sister Ellen had an illegitimate child.

6.  Appreciating the sacrifice of my two great uncles killed in the  First World War - George Danson, a stretcher bearer on the Somme, his brother John Danson who committed suicide in 1915,  and my grandfather William Danson who survived the horrors of Passcendaele.  

7.  Realising the impact on my father  of his experience in the Second World War. He  often talked about them and  I am afraid it did provoke the reaction at times of “Not the war again, Dad”. It was only later that we came to realise what a life-defining period it was, and I persuaded him to write an account for his granddaughter, Gillian.  I was also  proud to add my father's accounts to the BBC World War Two People's Story online.

8.  Recalling  with pride the achievements of my father and the talents of my mother (recorded in my December blog "Happiness is Stitching - Talented Tuesday")

9.  Linking my family happenings with local, national and international events to put their lives in a wider context.

10. Relishing the blog experience in telling my family history stories to a wider audience, discovering a new style of writing, creating a title and content  that evoke interest - and making new social contacts who share my enthusiasm. 

Thank You.

Sunday, 9 January 2011

Why was Young John Donaldson Left Behind? Mystery Monday.

We can often find out the "who, where, and when" of our ancestors, but what about the "why"?   My mystery is  - why was 6 year old John Robert Donaldson left behind when his parents moved 350 miles south.

John was born in 1854, the son of Robert Donaldson, a shipwright,  and Isabella Walton of South Shields. On his birth certificate, only the Christian name John was given  but in other records, he appears to have added the name of his father Robert.   South Shields is a  community on the north east coast of England, dominated  by the sea and maritime activity.  An obvious next step in research  was to find the family in the 1861 Census, but frustratingly, in the days before online records, this proved impossible to trace.   Yet all the indications were that direct Donaldson descendants had remained in South Shields down the generations.

It was only much later  the opportunity  to do national searches online at http://www.ancestry.co.uk/ and http://www.findmypast.co.uk/revealed that by 1861 Robert and Isabella were at  Portsea in Portsmouth on the south coast of England. With them were two young sons Thomas, aged 4, born South Shields and one year old Frederick W. (Walton perhaps after Isabella's maiden name?) born at Portsea, indicating a move c.1857-1860.  But there was no mention of their eldest son, John  who would have been 6 years old. 

How had the family travelled 350 miles from South Shields to Portsea, by rail or more likely by sea?  Was work the reason,  with Robert now employed at Her Majesty's Dockyard as a shipwright?  Why was John not with them? 

Back in South Shields, I returned to the 1861 census and  found John's maternal grandparents, John and Hannah Walton, with the household also including their grandson John Robert Walton aged 6.  This must be "my" John Robert Donaldson, mistakenly recorded in the census with the wrong surname.     An entry in the 1871 census gave further confirmation - a John Donaldson, aged 16, born c.1855 was living at the home of his maternal uncle Robert Walton. Death records showed that John  must have lost his grandparents (and his home)  in 1868.

Eight year later John married Jane Elizabeth Rushton. and they had four sons - John Robert, Henry, Thomas, Frederick and one daughter Isabella.  Interestingly these names echoed those of his siblings in Portsmouth.  For Robert and Isabella had more children, making a family of Thomas, Fredrick, Henry, Robert, Charles, Isabella and Alfred.   The fact that John retained the name of his father and mother  for his eldest son and daughter suggests that the split had been amicable.  One cannot help wonder did the two families ever meet?

But why John was left behind remains a mystery and we shall never know - another factor  that makes family history so absorbing.

Thursday, 6 January 2011

The Danson Ancestral Home - Trap Farm

Trap Farm, Carleton, c.1998.  My ancestral home - but not quite as I imagined it!   

In the 1841 and 1851 Census, my great, great grandfather Henry Danson and family were living at Trap Farm, Carleton, near Poulton-le-Fylde, Lancashire.     I found the farm on the current Ordnance Survey Map and set out to find it on a visit to the Fylde.

Situated amidst fields on what is now a busy road,  it was a sorry sight - dilapidated and overgrown. 

In the 1841 Census, 30 year old Henry was there with his wife Elizabeth (Calvert), five daughters - Betty, Grace, Mary, Margaret and Ellen, his much older brother Peter and two servants.  

By the time of the 1851 Census,  it was a household of 13. Henry was described as a farmer of 31 acres. Eldest daughter (now married)  Elizabeth was there  with her three sisters and her husband Thomas Bailey, whilst second daughter Grace had left home.  But there were now two sons - John and Henry  plus Henry's brother  Peter and two servants.   How did they all fit into what looked a small farmhouse?  My great grandfather James, born 1852 at Trap Farm, plus another daughter Jane,  completed the family.

By the time of the next census in 1861 the Danson family was no longer at Trap.

Postscript:  Two years ago I returned to Carleton,  fully expecting Trap farm to be wiped off the map and replaced by a modern housing estate.   To my surprise it was still there, but had undergone a transformation into a modern home.

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

Stop Press! 4th January 1890 - 66th Court Appearance Follows New Year Merriment

My local paper,  "The Hawick News "of 4th January 1890 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. 

Saturday, 1 January 2011

New Year Greetings

With best wishes for 2011 to all my blog readers. 

This is an embroidered card from the collection my grandfather brought back at the end of the First World War.