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Friday, 25 February 2011

Great Grandfather James Danson


Maria Rawcliffe,
James' wife

The  starting point for information on 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.

Trap Farm, Carleton c. 1998
The 1881 Census Return   provided the information  that enabled  me to trace James'  birth certifcate.  He was born on 7th August 1852 at Trap Farm, Carleton, Lancashire. He was third son, tenth and youngest child of Henry Danson, yeoman farmer and Elizabeth Calvert. 

The 1881 census showed the family living at Pott's Alley, off the Market Square at Poulton-l;e-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”. This is borne out by the only photograph of him (above), sitting merry in Poulton stocks.  (See my blog Great Grandfather in the Stocks - Black Sheep Sunday (10th Dec, 2010)

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 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 soem 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 wife a widow, with a large family all still at home, including 3 children  under 14 years old.

Funeral Card for James Danson
This the third posting to show how I traced back my direct Danson line.
See Also:
Danson Discoveries - posted 4th February 2011.
Grandfather Willian Danson - posted 17th Feburary 2011

To follow - Great Grandfather' s 10 sons and 1 daughter 

Copyright © 2011 · Susan Donaldson.  All Rights Reserved

Monday, 21 February 2011

Technophobe or Technocrat? 52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy and History: Week 8 .

This is the eighth  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 8 - Technology

Technophobe or technocrat?  That is the question. 

Central heating, automatic washing machine, instant communciation and entertainment, cars, trains and planes - what would my life be like  without these elements of techology ?   I like my home comforts.

I suppose the radio must have been my first encounter with technology, followed in 1953 by television. 20 years on colour television came along and then the mysteries of videos and DVDs - and yes - I am the stereotype woman,  as I haven't a clue how to programme them.   For me they brought my favourite art ballet directly into my home, something that before I could only experience in the theatre  itself.   As far as the TV goes, things such as high definition and the red button I ignore.

Soundwise it was a big event around 1959 when our family Christmas present was a gramophone/record player, though we could only afford a few records for it and I remember spending my pocket money in Woolworths buying 78's of Oklahoma, Carousel and Gilbert & Sullivan.  Technology moved on to those cumbersome decks for recording on tape,  to be replaced quickly by what seemed miniscule tape cassettes and then CDs, though I still have some of my favourite long playing records up in the loft.  A Walkman proved a godsend for me when I was in hospital for a major operation.  What a pleasure and change from reading, crosswords and sudoku  to be able to tune into my favourite radio progammes  - though there were regular anxious pleas to family "Bring in some batteries"!  Pop culture passed me by and I Pods and MP3's are other new mysteries I don't know anything about  - and don't see much need to know.

I remember the early days of getting a telephone, although it was on a shared line.  Today my mobile is for quick contact with family and not much else.  I stick with my old model and again don't see the need for  all those fancy functions.   To me a Blackberry remains a delicious fruit - not a bit of up-market technology.

I love curling up in bed or on the  sofa with a good book and can't see that an electronic book has nearly the same appeal.  However I have moved on this a wee bit, and am quite taken with the latest Amazon TV advert for a Kindle.

At work I progressed from manual typewriter, to an electric one,   to word processor and to computer.  I achieved the status of becoming  a home silver surfer around 1999 when getting linked online was my Christmas present - and I haven't looked back since.  After all where would my blog - and my life -  be without this wonderful piece of technology which has  brought me so much pleasure.  

So yes, perhaps I am a bit of a stick in the mud when it comes to technology - in no way  a technophobe, but not exactly a technocrat.  

Thursday, 17 February 2011

Grandfather William Danson

My grandparents William Danson and Alice Engluih

Alice with Edith, Kathleen, Harry
and baby Billy, c.1916.
My grandfather William Danson (1885-1963) was the fifth of ten sons and one daughter of James Danson and Maria Rawcliffe of Poulton-le-Fylde, Lancashire.  In 1907 as a 22 year old labourer, he married Alice English and then went on to have six children - Edith, Kathleen (my mother), George (who only survived six weeks), Harry, Billy and  after the First World War Peggy. 

Grandad won the Military Medal at Givenchy and sent back from Flanders a wonderful collection of postcards that remain among my family treasures and feature on many of my blog postings. 

In 1924 the family moved from a small terraced house in the  centre of Poulton  to a new 3 bedroomed semi-detached house, bought on the deposit of  £67 - I have the receipt.  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.  The side trellised 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.

Grandad was a country man at heart, and before the land around him was turned over to housing, I remember him taking my brother and I out on a Sunday afternoon down lanes and across fields, showing us rabbit burrows and helping me collect items for the Nature Table at school.  Our Sunday treat from him was a bag of pear drops.

Of his children - creative, talented and good-looking would be a good description.  

Kathleen and Edith Danson

Eldest daughter Edith (left)  was the only one of the family to go to a Grammar School. and later became head of an infant school at Burn Naze, Thornton.  She remained at home looking after her father and brother.  She was a feisty lady with lots of anecdotes about her teachibng days, and widely travelled , including a trip to Russia in the days of the Iron Curtain.  Like my mother she was a great craftswoman, with a particular interest in painting and Jacobean embroidery. She married for the first ime at the age of 73 a friend of my parents.   She was someone who left behind an indelible mark - you could not forget her and she lives on in our memories.

More about second daughter (my mother) Kathleen in a separate blog.  I showcased her life in "Happiness is Stitching - Talented Tursday" in December 2010.

Son Harry Rawliffe (right)  took his middle name from his grandmother Maria and like his grandfather James  became a joiner.  I remember him making me some little doll's house furniture and itnroducing me to stamp colelcting.   He was part of the large army rescued at Dunkirk, arriving home days later still in the clothes in which he entered the sea.  He loved ballroom dancing  (so living near Blackpool with its famous ballrooms was ideal), and was growing his own fruit and vegetables well into his 80's. 

Uncle Billy, (left)  was named after his father, and I knew him the least of the family.   He served in the navy duirng the war and later went to live in Evesham Worcestershire.

Peggy was the baby of the family, born after the First World War, so 12-13 years younger than her two older sisters.  Shortly after her marriage she emigrated to Australia

Edith, Peggy, Wiliam, Alice, Harry and Kathleen Danson
with just son Billy missing from the  family group c.1940

To follow - My Great Grandfather James Danson  (1852-1906)

See Also:  http://www.dansonfamilyhistory.co.uk/

Copyright © 2011 · Susan Donaldson.  All Rights Reserved

Monday, 14 February 2011

Favourite Toys: 52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy and History - Week Seven

This is the seventh  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 7 - Favourite Toys

I was a "dolly girl" -  I loved my dolls and soft toys, which, as my mother was a dressmaker, were the smartest in the street.  With my best friend, Carol, we would wheel  our prams up and down  and put the dolls in their cot (an old box), with a crocheted blanket and lace trimmed pillow and quilt cover, again  courtesy of my mother, or set up the doll's tea set for a tea party.

My dolls were not particularly sophisticated, though I had one that said "Mama" if you pressed it in the right place.  My mother made rag dolls, but my very special doll she made me in 1953 for the Queen's Coronation, with a long fur trimmed purple velvet train, and embroidered, beaded dress.  I so wish now I had kept it as a family heirloom.   

I had a "Last Doll" for my 11th birthday, which seems in today's lifestyle, really old for a doll. The inspiration came from the book "Sarah Crewe or the little Princess", by Frances Hodgson-Burnett, where Sarah was given a grand doll with an extensive wardrobe on her 11th birthday.  I saw the book serialised on television and decided that would mark the end of my "dolly" era - it didn't really,  as I went on to collect costume dolls.

We got a new jigsaw every Christmas.  The one I best remember was of a winter scene of skaters at the White Horse Inn, near Salzburg in Austria - 45 years later I actually visited the inn on holiday.  Games were popular such as dominoes, snakes and ladders, ludo, tiddlywinks and colouring books and join-the-dot books.

I loved getting a pristine notebook to write in, a blank scrapbook to show off my collection of scraps and a new pencil case, with new pencils, rubbers and sharpener to take to school at the start of the fresh term.  The really classy one that everyone wanted was wooden where the top swivllled round to show the bottom compartment - the only drawback was it was heavy in your satchel. 

I remember being  given (from the TV series) a Muffin the Mule and a Sooty puppet and these formed a major part of the "make believe" games we played.  Puppets was a favourite pastime.  We would set up a makeshift theatre in the  front room with the clothes-horse and a sheet, and make simple glove puppets from felt and bits and pieces from my mother's trimming box.  I was usually the script-writer and my brother did the sound effects, with  my father the hero or villain role and my mother and aunt the audience.  

I enjoyed playing at shops, so a toy till , with play money  was an ideal choice.   We also played at libraries, so I was in seventh heaven to be given a date stamp - and I went on to become a librarian!

Books remained one of my favourite presents for anytime of year, with Enid Blyton at the top of my list.

For my brother it was  meccano, marbles, his train set, Dinky cars and Airfix models.  Outside, he had his pedal car and football, whilst  I had my tricycle and skipping rope to practice  "crossovers" and "bumps".

Looking back, toys seem very simple compared with the range today's children have in their crowded toy boxes, but none then  needed batteries!  I have happy memories of what we did have.  

Sunday, 13 February 2011

Maria or Martha? The Mystery of my Great Grandmother's Name

I had always been told my great grandmother's name was Maria Rawcliffe of Hambleton, the Fylde, Lancashire.   But there was a puzzle in that many official  records, such as her 1877 marriage certificate, the 1881 census entry and my grandfather's  birth certificate  gave her name as Martha.   I sent away to Garstang Registrar for Maria's  birth certificate c.1859 and outlined my confusion over her Christian name.

To my great surprise the result was two certificates - for Maria, daughter of Robert Rawliffe and Jane Carr, born 15th January 1859 and another daughter Martha, born to Robert and Jane on  20th January 1863. 

Four months later Martha had died.  Maria would only have been four years old then, but did she later adopt the name of her younger sister?   

I also found on the International Genealogical Index  that Martha was listed with the middle name Septima - 7th daughter,  after Anne, Jane,  Margaret, Alice, Jane and Maria.  How her Ag. Lab. father knew the Latin tag is another puzzle!  The submitter was American (I suspect a descendant of Maria's sister Alice who emigrated to USA).  I did write to the address given, but the letter came back "unknown", so very frustrating.

Another puzzle, Lancashire OPC online and the IGI record a Peggy Rawliffe , born 1861 to Robert and Jane.   which means Martha would not be the 7th child but the 8th.  Sadly Peggy only survived 16 days. 

It is scenarios like this that make family history so absorbing a hobby. 

The photograph is Maria Rawcliffe (1859-1919).  At the age of 18, she married James Danson in 1877 and they lived in Poulton-le-Fylde, Lancashire.  Maria, one of 8  daughters went on to have 10 sons before finally a daughter Jennie. 


Copyright © 2011 · Susan Donaldson.  All Rights Reserved

Monday, 7 February 2011

Radio & TV: 52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy and History - Week 6

This is the sixth 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 6 - Radio and TV

Calling all British bloggers - do you let me know if these memories strike a chord with you? 

There could only be one key memory of radio in my childhood- "Listen with Mother" with its phrase "Are you sitting comfortably, then I'll begin" - with 15 minutes of a story and rhyme, sitting on my mother's knee;  closely followed by Saturday morning's "Children's Favourites" with Uncle Mac - singing along to such music as:

The Owl and the Pussy Cat, sung by Elton Hayes, 
There was an Old Lady who swallowed a fly, and Big Rock Candy Mountain  sung by Burl Ives,
The Animals went in Two by Two 
Nelly the Elephant, sung by Mandy Miller  (my favourite)
Happy Wanderer
The Runaway Train went over the Hill
The Laughing Policeman.
Changing the Guard at Buckingham Palace

I remember sitting at  Saturday or Sunday lunch with Family Favourites (Cliff Michelmore and Jean Metcalfe) playing requests for soldiers  in BFBO  (I loved the sound of reciting those initials for British Forces Stationed Abroad).  Later years brought the comedy  programmes such as Hancock's Half Hour and The Navy Lark.  Sunday was a favourite  radio night for the family with popular classics on Melodies for You, Sunday Half Hour (hymns) and 100 Best Tunes.  

1953 was the year television came to our house in the shape of a small 10inch screen Bush set , so we could watch the Queen's Coronation on June 2nd.  There was only one channel and broadcasts were generally just in the evening, introduced by the announcers in dinner jackets (Macdonald Hobley) and evening dress (Sylvia Peters and Mary Malcolm) - talking  what seemed very pucka la-di-da accents to someone from the North of England. If we switched on too early we got the test card with the little girl with long hair in the centre.  The interludes were as much a delight - the potter's wheel, or horses ploughing a field.

 Children's TV seemed to centre on puppets - Muffin the Mule and Sooty (with the spin off toys as  Christmas present).   I must surely have been too old for Andy Pandy,  and Bill and Ben the Flower Pot Men, but perhaps saw them with my brother.   The  forerunner of family soaps The Grove Family and The Appleyards were also favourites;  as were  were Billy Bunter's Schooldays (I had a crush on  Bob Cherry), George Cansdale from London Zoo on Looking at Animals, and Crackerjack, with its Double or Drop challenge
Mum, Dad, Chris & myself c. 1954

Saturday and Sunday were treats in that we had tea on the trolley around the television to watch such programmes as the Lone Ranger (Tonto and Hiya Silver!) and Circus Boy - my brother's favourites, and All Your Own presented by Huw Weldon and introducing talented youngsters.  

Then there were the memorable  BBC  Sunday serials which we enjoyed so much as a family and which fostered my love of history, costume  and reading the classics - Children of the New Forest, David Copperfield, Nicholas Nickelby, Tale of Two Cities,  Great Expectations, Count of Monte Chrsto, Railway Children, Pride and Prejudice, Worzel Gummidge. Robin Hood, Emil and the Detectives, Robin Hood, and the Silver Sword - which  told   the story of children caught up in Poland during the war - a time close enough to have meaning of what living during the war must have been like.  

When the new ITV channel first came on the scene, our old television could not receive it, so I missed out on the school gossip of the previous night's Emergency Ward Ten and Coronation Street, though once we got a new set, I later became fans along with the other soap Compact, set on a woman's magazine - I was an avid follower of that.

Programmes I remember from my teenage years:
Z Cars  (Jock Weir my favourite)
Billy Cotton's Bandshow 
Black and White Minstrels (now very politically incorrect,  but I enjoyed the music, singing and dancing)  
What's My Line
Eric Robinson's Music For You.
Francis Durbridge Detective Stories
This is Your Life
Sunday Night at the London Palladium
Man from Uncle (David McCallum my favourite)
Opportunity Knocks (with my father often said to look like Hughie Green)
Eurovision Song Competition where we were impressed with presenter Katie Boyle speaking French)
Gripping modern drama which seemed either to be Welsh miners trapped underground, or a plane about to crash with the crew going down with food poisoning and a passenger saving the flight.  
Comedy such as Charlie Drake, Hancock's Half Hour, Likely Lads, Morecombe and Wise  
For my brother - Doctor  Who.
For myself - classical ballet, especially at Christmas  - seeing Margot Fonteyn, Svetlana Beriosova, Nadia Nerina, Nicholai Faderechev (the names just roll off my tongue!)   

American programmes came into vogue:
Doctor Kildare
Phil Silvers

Dick van Dyke Show
Jack Benny Show
George Burns and Gracie Allan
I love Lucy
Perry Como Show

The BBC was the natural channel for current affairs and we always had the news on and special coverage to see Yuri Gargarin, the first man in space, the Amercan space launches, and ocean splash downs;  major events such as royal weddings, funeral of Sir Winston Churchill,  Aberfan disaster, assassination of John F. Kennedy. Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King. By the time of the first man in the  moon, we set the alarm to get up during the middle of the night to see the "first step", and then dashed into the garden to look up at the moon in the sky.

Two programmes my father absolutely refused to have on were the new satirical comedy show  "That was the Week that Was" and irreverent comedy Till Death Us Part  - the previews were enough for him to ban them.  He always had to watch Panorama - until they were showing a programme on maternity care  when he suddenly decided this was not family viewing.  

Pop Culture passed me by and I was never into it,  though I remember 6.5 special and Top of the Pops. Of course everything I saw was in black and white, and  I did not see colour TV until 1970 which I think was when it reached Scotland.

But I was enough of a TV teenage child to compile a scrapbook, with cuttings from the "Radio Times "of cast lists and photographs of my favourite actors and performers to pour over and admire!  

Friday, 4 February 2011

Danson Discoveries

So far in this blog,  I have tended to focus on individual stories illustrated by my large collection of photographs. I thought it was time I wrote something about my  family history research to redress the balance, beginning here with my mother's family and concentrating on the direct ancestral line of the Dansons going back over 200 years.

My mother Kathleen Danson (1908-1999) ( right) second daughter of William Danson and Alice English, was born at Poulton-le-Fylde, Lancashire, a small historic town, almost dwarfed by its neighbour the popular seaside town of Blackpool.  Danson is a distinctive local name.  I loved history from an early age and it was a treat to be allowed to look at the photographs and memorabilia kept in a shoebox in my grandfather's house.  I still have the sketch family tree I drew up at the age of 12.

My grandfather William Danson (1885-1963) (left)  was the fifth, out of ten,  sons of James Danson and Maria Rawcliffe.  I have early memories of visiting the great uncles and my only great aunt Jennie. Having their photographs brought them alive to me and they have formed the basis of many earlier postings on this blog.

My starting point for information on my great grandfather James Danson  (1852-1906) was the family bible which recorded his marriage  and the birth of his first four sons - entries petered out after that.  James died before my mother and aunt were born so they were unable to help me with earlier family history. The only photograph I have of James (below)  shows him larking around in the stocks in Poulton Market Square.

Eventually I started on the ancestral trail to look for the Danson family in the later census returns held at Blackpool Library and discovered a new fact  - that James was born around 1852, not in Poulton, but  in Carleton, a small village but separate parish.  

Trap Farm c.1998
Getting James' birth certificate was the next step to discover that his parents were Henry Danson (1806-1881), a yeoman farmer and Elizabeth Calvert of Trap Farm, Carleton. The family were easily found in the census returns and to my surprise James was one of a large family - the third son and eighth child of Henry & Elizabeth. In 1851 there were 13 people including 2 servants living in the farm (right)    The 1871 census showed that Henry had had  a change of occupation from farmer to toll keeper at Shard Bridge over the River Wyre near Fleetwood.

Research in the online Lancashire Parochial Records  for St. Chad's Church, Poulton revealed my great great grandparents to be Henry Danson (1767-1839) and Elizabeth Brown and my great great great grandparents to be John Danson (1736-1821) and Margaret Fayle of Normoss Farm.  A book "Traditional Houses of the Fylde" by Richard C. Watson, traced in Poulton Library gave a description and plan of this Danson home.  John was son of Peter, a husbandman - and  there the Danson trail came to an end with the provebial brick wall reached.

However there were more discoveries to come.  Lancashire Record Office held wills of both John Danson and his son Henry, which brought to light knowledge of other family members.  Henry Danson's Marriage Bond of 1786  was also found.  There is something poignant at seeing the actual handwriting of my early ancestors.  Through  the National Archives website,  I  also traced Death Duty Records for both John and Henry Danson.   

At the centre of the Danson story is  St. Chad's Church, Poulton-le-Fylde (below)  where Dansons were baptised, married and christened down the generations over two centuries from John Danson in 1736 to myself in 1944.  

So my Danson discoveries encompassed five generations, back to John Danson, with ample sidelines revealed  to pursue the research in other directions.   The dates are just the beginning, with the fun coming in stories connected with the family. The Danson Ancestral Trail has not yet come to a halt!
St. Chad's Church, Poulton-le-Fylde in Spring - photograph taken by my uncle Harry Danson.

Copyright © 2011 · Susan Donaldson.  All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

An Adopted Scottish Borders Bairn - Those Places Thursday

I  have no ancestral connection with the Scottish Borders, but have lived here nearly 40 years and my  daughter and family were born here. My working life also involved promoting the region, so all in all I regard myself as "an adopted Border Bairn" and thought I would tell you something about where I live.

Pipers at Floors Castle, Kelso

The Scottish Borders is the forgotten corner of Scotland, between Edinburgh to the north and the English border and Carlisle to the south - it is the bit visitors whizz through intent on getting to the capital and to the "real " Scotland of the Highland mountains and lochs.  They don't know what they are missing! 

 It is a land of rolling hills and sparkling rivers, forests and moorland, small bustling towns, pele towers, castles and gracious historic houses, and countryside pursuits of walking, golfing, cycling, fishing  and riding.   Pride and passion exist in abundance - in the history and heritage,  the annual Common Riding Festivals, the local rugby teams and its fame as the home of Scottish textiles.

Hermitage Castle, near Newcastleton

This was the Debatable Land fought over by English and Scots in the 15th and 16th centuries  - the land of  the Border Reivers, with raids and counter raids by  prominent families of Scott, Armstrong, Turnbull, Elliot, Kerr, Pringle and many other distinctive names associated with the area. 

Smailholm Tower, Near Kelso

I live in Hawick, the largest  town (pop. 15,000), famed for its knitwear and home of the  Heritage Hub,  the  Scottish Borders Archive, Local and Family History Service.  This is the place to contact if you have any ancestral connections with the region and the staff will be dlelghted to help you. To find out more, have a look at the website www.heartofhawick.co.uk/heritagehub.

Looking down on the mill town of Hawick, with the Town Hall tower prominent

Dusk over the Eildons

Photographs from our family collection. 
© 2011, Copyright Susan Donaldson