Thursday, 31 March 2011

Remembering in April

This is the first in a new series recording events by month in the lives of my Danson and Rawcliffe ancestors of the Fylde, Lancashire.

April 2nd 1819  
My great great grandmother  Jane Carr was born at Out Rawcliffe, Lancashire.  She married Robert Rawcliffe  (below) and was the mother of Maria Rawcliffe who is at the core of my family history - and subject of many a blog.       

April 4th 1885
My grandfather William Danson (left)  was born at Poulton-le-Fylde, Lancashire, - 5th son of James Danson and Maria Rawcliffe.    

April 5th 1887
Alice Mason, nee Rawcliffe, sister to my great grandmother Maria, arrived in New York aboard the "Auronia" from Liverpool, with six children aged 10 months to 11 years old - and two pieces of baggage.

April 6th 1831
My great great grandfather Henry Danson married  Elizabeth Calvert at St. Chad's Church, Poulton-le-Fylde, Lancashire (right)

April 6th 1928
Anne  Roskell, nee Rawcliffe, my great grandmother's eldest sister died, buried in St. Anne's Churchyard, Singleton,  near Poulton-le-Fylde, Lancashire .

April 7th 1907       
My grandparents William Danson and Alice English (left)  married at St. Chad's Church, Poulton-le-Fylde, Lancashire.

April 8th 1879
John Danson, third son of James Danson and Maria Rawlciffe was born at  Poulton-le-Fylde, Lancashire.


15 April 1912             
My father John Weston (right)  was born in Bilston , near Wolverhampton, Staffordshire though the family  moved soon afterwards  to Brosely, near Ironbridge, Shropshire, where Dad grew up.

April 18th 1938
My parents John Weston and Kathleen Danson (left)  married  at St. Chad's Church, Poulton-le-Fylde, Lancashire.

April 22, 1821 
My great great grandfather Robert Rawcliffe was born in Marton, Lancashire. He married Jane Carr and was the father of 8 daughters including my great grandmother Maria Rawcliffe. 

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Feisty Great Aunt Jennie: Fearless Females - 31

My great aunt Jennie Danson (1897- 1986) 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 - George then aged 3, Frank 5, Albert 7, Tom 9, William 12 (my grandfather), Robert 16, John 18 and Harry 20 - a large family in a small terraced house. Her father died when when was eight years old, and two brothers John and George died in the  First World War.

The oldest photograph c. 1909 of Jennie (left)  shows her to be around 12 years old, pictured with her mother and her niece Annie Maria, daughter of brother John.

  On leaving school, Jennie went to work in Poulton Post Office.  Her daughter Pam recalls a story that during the First World War, a telegram was received at the Post  Office for Mrs Maria Danson.  Fearing the worst, Jenny was allowed to run home with it.  Fortunately it was good news to say that Frank was in hospital in Malta but was doing well.   

Was this a group (left)  of Jennie's work colleagues, given they were all dressed in the  same skirts and blouses?   Names on the reverse -  Gerty Roskell, Jennie Danson, Annie Jolly, Margaret Porter, Madge O' Rourke, Edith Jackson.

I love this photo (right) of Jennie.  She  was determined to lead her own life,  much to the dismay of her five 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 - it makes for fascinating reading, not least for the fulsome journalistic style and descriptions of the dresses in a wedding 1920's style.

"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 horsehoe 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 eu-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 dropping brim of brown felt, while the crown was made o ribbon in shades of orange, reseda and fawm." 

Jennie died in 1986 at the age of 88, leaving to her daughters a legacy of memories of her mother Maria,  tangible family artifacts such as her mother’s tea set and jewellery,  a large collection of  photographs (with names inscribed on the back) and other family memorabilia, much relating to her two youngest brothers Frank and George.  

Jennie was  truly  a feisty fearless woman 


Fearless Females is a blog In honour of National Women's History Month in the USA.  Suggested by Lisa Alzo of The Accidental Genealogist,  it provides 31 Blogging Prompts for March.  March 31— Post a mini profile of one of your female ancestors.

Copyright © 2011 · Susan Donaldson.  All Rights Reserved

Sunday, 27 March 2011

Stop Press! A Woman's Age in the Census - 15th April 1891

Today is census day in Britain, so I had to share this article I came across at my local archive centre.  It is from "The Kelso Chronicle" of 15th April 1891.

"As a rule, men do not mind their real age being known and therefore they can scarcely appreciate what an awful ordeal the recent Census was for certain members of the softer sex. 

Girls in their teens and married women do not mind it much.  Young servant girls overrate their ages, with a tendency in the opposite direction once they pass five and twenty.

The women, however who are mostly averse to telling their ages are widows who hope to marry again, and maidens who have passed the first bloom of womenhood, who are, in fact, what is called in polite parlance "old young ladies". 

If their consciences are tough, when the Bogie Man,   that is the Census Man, comes round, they boldly lop off ten or fifteen years. 

 If their concsciences are tender - a rare occurence - they will quit the neighbourhood where they are known and hide themselves in some big town.  

The worst of all these precautions is thet they are of little use if the proverb be true that " a man is as old as the feels, but a womwn is as old as she looks". 

It must have been written by a man! 

If you share my liking for old newspapers, have a look at other stories in my "Stop Press series - it does seem to be developing a feminine theme.

Saturday, 26 March 2011

Thank you for One Lovely Blog Award

Recognition is a great motivator, so a big Thank You to:
Kathryn at  and
Yvonne at
for nominating me for this award.  

I am delighted to receive it as confirmation that people are finding and reading my blog.  

The  rules for accepting the award  are as follows:
1. Accept the award, post it on your blog together with the name of the person who granted the award and their blog link.
2. Pass the award on to 15 other blogs that you’ve newly discovered.
3. Remember to contact the bloggers to let them know they have been chosen for this award.

The criteria is  to pass on the award to "newly discovered" blogs - so here are ones I have turned to recently.

Rebecca at

Joan at

Lisa at

Jennifer at

Karen at

Annie at

And also to some of my other favourites.
Audrey Collins at The Family Recorder
Susan Petersen at Long Lost

Thank you All. 

Saturday, 19 March 2011

A Brick Wall at Alice English - Fearless Females: 20

Alice English - could this be a wedding photo,
given she is wearing a corsage?
How far back have you got?" is a standard question for family historians, and 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 (right) ) 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.

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.  The certificate of her death in 1945 confirms her year of birth 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 was an Alice English, born Bolton aged 17, so born c.1884   living-in domestic servants at  Stockport.  This could well be my grandmother, but does not help with any more information on her family.  

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  for parochial records on came up with a Harriet Alice English born Bolton in 1884 - my hopes rose, but her father turned out to be James, a weaver. So more frustration!

Does anyone have any ideas how to break through this brick wall?  I am unsure where to turn to next  - perhaps trying to trace a marriage for a Henry English?

Note:  if Alice had married and died in Scotland, there wouldn't be this problem.  Scottish certificates were introduced in 1855, later than England (1837) but they are much more informative, notably the fact that both marriage and death certificates give the names of both parents, including the maiden name of the mother - a huge advantage for Scottish researchers.
William and Alice

Alice with her children
Edith, Kathleen, Harry and baby Billy.  c.1916
Most likely taken before William went off to war.


This item is based on an earlier  posting of  November 2010 and repeated here  in honour of National Women's History Month in the USA.  Lisa Alzo of The Accidental Genealogist  blog presents Fearless Females: 31 Blogging Prompts for March:  March 20th - Is there a female ancestor who is your brick wall?

Friday, 18 March 2011

A Lancashire Lass in New York

Are these my American connections?
The research into my Rawcliffe ancestors had led me to assume that like all my mother's family, they were very firmly based in the Fylde area of  Lancashire, England.

So it was a huge surprise to find,  in a  very casual browsing for Rawcliffes on,  an entry for  Alice Mason, nee Rawcliffe, born Hambleton 1853 and that she had died in Jamesburg, New Jersey on 24th February 1930 - the first time I was aware of any American connection.  I was delighted at the discovery and keen to find out more.
Alice was the sister of my great grandmother Maria.   Born 1853 at Hambleton, near Poulton-le-Fylde, Lancashire,  she 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 Christian names.

The Family Search  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.
What had prompted the family to leave the fishing port of Fleetwood for America and the teeming tenements of New York?  I shall never know.

American census returns on  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. 

I found out through pasenger lists on the Internet that 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 appropriately 14th February), Harold Arthur Victor, Lillian Eveline, Bessie Irene and Florence Adelaide.  Arthur, Bessie and Lillian all died in infancy.

The photogaph above is a bit of a mystery.  It was in the collection  of my great aunt (Maria's daughter)  but not identified and nothing to indicate where it was taken.  It must surely be of one of of my great grandmother's sisters - Anne, Jane, Alice, or Jennet?  The composition of the family and ages of the children ruled out Anne, Jane or Jennet.  So 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. 


Saturday, 12 March 2011

A Beginner Blogger's Review

I have just passed my first 6 months as a blogger, so it seemed a good time to review how I have been getting on  - what has worked well and what not so well.

  • When I started, my main concern was "Is anyone finding this and more importantly actually reading it?" A few arms were twisted with friends and relations to sign up as my first followers.  I have had tremendous personal pleasure from blogging,  but after all it is all about sharing memories  - and recognition from others is a great motivator.

  • I began by trying to find other British family history bloggers.  Thank you to John of The Wandering Genealaogist for pointing me in the direction of   I haven't looked back, taking on the challenge of the stimulating blog prompts, eagerly checking the daily blog beats to see if my efforrts have been listed, hoping for comments and becoming part of a great social network.
  • I am allso one of those (sad?) people who actually like analysing statistics, so the number of page views has come under scrutiny.
  • Past experience on message boards etc.  means I am under no illusion that my family names (Danson, Rawcliffe, Weston & Donaldson) evoke much interest, so the blogs themselves have to do the job.
  • My most popular postings are due,  I am sure , to the appeal of the Geneablogger prompts.
    Black Sheep Sunday - Great Grandfather in the Stocks (Dec. 2010)
    Black Sheep Sunday - John Danson's "Said Bastard Child" (Jan 2011)
    Wedding Wednesday - Jennie Danson 1920's Style (Dec 2010)
    Wedding Wednesday - A Shivering Bridesmaid, Dec. 1946.  (Jan 2011)
  •  've tried to follow the online advice about catchy titles, and putting the focus on them,  with the prompt label second.  I thought I was being a bit too obscure with "Barque, Brig, Sloop. Smack and Snow" (Dec 2010) when writing about my Donaldson maritime connections.  It initially aroused little interest but has since moved to the 5th most popular post - or perhaps readers are just wondering what is  it all about!
  • The post that evoked the most comments was ironically one I rattled off quickly without too much thought - "From Book to Blog"  (Nov. 2010) - and that was without the benefit of a blog prompt label.
  • Some postings have been written as much for myself.  I was proud to write a tribute to my mother in "Happiness is Stitching - Talented Tuesday" (Dec 2010) .  It did not result in any comments but has again been slowly gaining more page views.
  • "Eye Witness" (Mar 2011) came about following Susan Petersen's Long Lost Relatives blog with her moving account  of the Challenger Disaster.    It made me think back to events that affected  me such as the Queen's Coronation, the Assassination of President Kennedy, and 9/11.  On a much lighter note "Nifty at Netball but Hopeless at Hockey" (Feb 2011) was composed in my head in bed one sleepless night.  Neither of these postings have resulted in any interest, but you never know they may appear recycled in an appropriate "52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy".  
  • I enjoy looking at old newspapers in my local archive centre and there are many quirky, fascinating reports which I was keen to share e.g. A Slow Stagecoach Journey,  A Female Navie, Female Fashions, A 1913 Society Wedding, among them.  So I began a series entitled "Stop Press" which I quite liked as a header, as opposed to the more prosaic "Newspaper Article".  Howver there has been a singular lack of reaction, so perhaps this again is a series for my own pleasure.  
So what do I like in a blog?
  • Photographs are a fascination,  whether of famiy, fashions, heirlooms, houses  or documents
  • Catchy titles that attract my interest in the long list of daily blogging beats.
  • Ideas and inspiration for future blog topics
  • The weekly bloggiong reviews that point me to other sites and articles
  • Practical tips, such as the recent blog on maximising  search engine impact.  
  • Attractive, artisitc front pages - beyond my current technical ability.
It has been a great 6 months.  My intial target was a posting per week.  I am so hooked, I managed 21 in the month of january!  I am relishing the blog experience of telling my family history stories to a wider audience, discovering a new style of writing, coming up with a title and content that appeals - and making new contacts with felllow enthusiasts.  

Thank you to all the support given by my fellow Geneabloggers.  Onto the next 6 months! 

Thursday, 10 March 2011

A Wartime Birthday Card, 1917: Fearless Females - 9

This is a card sent back to my mother (Kathleen Danson)  for her nineth birthday. It came  from her father  William Danson who  was serving in France in the First World War and   is one of a large collection he sent from the war front  to his family (below ). 

The postmark is September 2nd 1917, with Kathleen's birthday on September 8th.  Written in feint pencil, it is a bit difficult to decipher, but asks her to help  mother and baby.

My mother is the little girl on  the right of this photograph, with her sister Edith, brother Harry and baby brother Billy, named after his father. c.1916.


Fearless Females is a blog In honour of National Women's History Month in the USA.  Suggested by Lisa Alzo of The Accidental Genealogist,  it provides 31 Blogging Prompts for March.
March 9th  - Take a family document and write a brief narrative.

A Newly Married Love Letter: Fearless Females - 8

 Memories of my mother (Kathleen Danson)  have been enhanced by some beautiful love letters which I found only after she and my father (John Weston)  had died.  They were written not long after their wedding on 18th April 1938 and they cast a different light on my mother who I always thought as someone quite reserved. 

My father was what was known in those days as a commercial traveller  i.e. sales rep. and covered north west England.  He could be away a week at a time calling on businesses in Cumberland and Westmorland.

My Dear John,

What a long time it seems since you left here Monday morning.  I have missed you dear, the days seems so long and empty being all on my own. but I think of you every minute of the day.  Peggie came up to see me last night and Edith is coming for tonight and tomorrow [her sisters)]..............

I hope you enjoyed the sandwiches dear, though I meant to put in an apple, but forgot.    I have got the wireless on while I am writing,  I am so glad we got one, dear, as it keeps me company.............
Till Friday, dear.  God bless you and keep you, Your every loving wife, Kath XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

A blog In honour of National Women's History Month in the USA , Lisa Alzo of The Accidental Genealogist  blog presents "Fearless Females: 31 Blogging Prompts for March".  

March 8th  - Share an entry from a diary, journal or letter  from a female ancestor.

The 11 children of great grandfather James Danson - Surname Saturday

My great grandparents James Danson (left) and Maria Rawcliffe (right)  had between 1877 and 1897  ten sons and,  as the youngest child,  an only daughter Jennie - an irony given that Maria was one of eight sisters.  This story below has been compiled using old family photographs and recollections of their children.
Eldest son Harry,   perhaps named after his paternal grandfather Henry, was born  7th Septembert 1877. In  the 1901 census, he was described as a rural postman.  He died at the age of 30 9th December 1907,  a year after his father.  Unusually he was not listed,  in the local newspaper, amongst the sons attending his father's funeral.  Was he ill by this stage? 

Second son John (left)  was born 8th April 1879, perhaps named after his uncle John Danson, James eldest brother. His was a sad life - his wife Sarah Haydon Lounds died at the young age of 21, leaving behind  infant daughter Annie Maria, who made her home with her grandmother. Family recollections told how John later become engaged to Dorothy Chisholm  but before they were married John a gunner in the Royal Field Artillery died 17th May 1917, buried in Moorland Cemetery, Poulton.  Something of a mystery surrounded his death, with a story that "Granny had to fight to get his name on the Poulton War Memorial in the Square" and he was not listed  on the memorial in St. Chad's Church.    It was only through his niece that I learnt that John,  a prisoner of war,  had committed suicide, leaving Annie orphaned at the age of 12.  So far I have not been able to verify this.    John's fiancee Dorothy never married and the Danson family continued to maintain a close link with her.  Like many women of her generation she remained alone, living in a bedsitter and I had memories as a child  of visiting her with my mother and aunt.

Third son, Robert (Bob), born 3rd June 1881 was named after his maternal grandfather and like his eldest brother bcame a postman.  His daughter Irene recalled "He went a long way ont his bicycle from Poulton over Shard Bridge, where his grandfther had been  toll collector to deliverthe post of Over Wyre.  Later his round was North Promenade and the Cliffs at Blackpool - very windy, but the hotel people looked after him with cups of tea.  He lived to be 89 years old so it must have kept him fit, though he was told at the outbreak of the First World War when his brothers were joining up that he had a bad heart."

Fourth son Albert, born 21st July 1883 did not survive infancy.

 William (Billy), my grandfather, the fifth son,  was born 4th April 1885.  He married Alice English and they had six children, including my mother Kathleen.  His  war time expertences  where he won the Military Medal at Passchendaele   and the postcards  he sent home form the basis of many of my earlier postings.   [See the posts November 2010]

Baby Danson was sillborn, buried 29th June 1887.


Thomas (right)  the seventh son was born in 1888.  I know little else on Tom apart from the fact he became a clerk at Poulton Station.  A photograph in a book on old Poulton  identifed him in 1911 as a member of the local  football team.

Albert (left) was the eighth son born c. 1890 and named after his older silbing who had died in 1884.  He worked on the ferry between Fleetwood and the Isle of Man.

Frank (right), the nineth son was born c.1892.  During the First World War, he was in hospital in Malta as a result of a war wound and later  became a painter.
George (left) was the tenth and youngest son, born c. 1894.  He was the favourite uncle of my mother and aunt, perhaps because he was nearest to them in age and took on the role of the big brother.  He worked on W.H. Smith bookstalls at different railway stations, joined the Royal Army Medical Corps and was killed 16th September 1916 at  the Battle of the Somme.  [See Death on the Somme]


Youngest child and only daughter was Jennie, born 24th December 1897, with her eight surviving brothers, George aged 3, Frank 5, Albert 7, Tom 9, William 12, Robert 16, John 18 and Harry 20.   Goodness knows how the family managed to fit into a small terraced house!  Their father James died when Jennie  was only eight years old. At her wedding she was given away by her then oldest brother Robert. 

By all accounts of her two daughters, Joan and Pam,  Jennie was a feisty  girl, well able to stand up to all her brothers.  Read more about her in the posting "Wedding 1920's Style"

This is the fourth in a series of postings to  show how I traced back my direct Danson line.
See Also: