Tuesday, 27 September 2011

What exactly did you do, Daddy? Workaday Wednesday

What exactly did Daddy do?  

In the 1950's I have  memories at primary school of being asked every year to fill in a form with personal details, one of which was the occupation of my father.  

I knew the answer to this was   "commercial traveller" - not something I could come to terms with, as to me a traveller meant someone such as Marco Polo or Sir Walter Raleigh who undertook daring journeys across the world in centuries past.  Dad used to go away for days at a time, but usually from  Lancashire to Westmorland and Cumberland - not exactly exotic destinations for an explorer.   

I also remember relating at school that on Sundays he was policeman - something again  I could not quite understand.   I  saw him go out in his uniform, though he did not wear the traditional flowerpot helmet of the regular constables, but a peaked cap.   The reality was this was a voluntary role as a Special  Constable.  I remember feeling very proud seeing him on duty,   as I stood with the Brownies waving our flags, when the Queen came to Blackpool.   

On holiday with my Dad and brother

Workaday Wednesday is a blogging prompt from to encourage bloggers to write of their personal and family history.

Sunday, 25 September 2011

School Dinners - My Least Favourite Food - 52

52 Weeks Personal Genealogy and HistoryLeast Favoruite Foods  is the topic for Week 39 in Amy Coffin’s and Geneablogger’s 52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy and History series.

This was an easy topic to write about.  "My Least Favourite" had to be the offerings at school dinners.
Like most people I hated them, especially the fatty meat, liver, red cabbage, sprouts and anything with hot milk such as custard and the milk puddings - rice, tapioca (nicknamed frog spawn or fish eye pud!) 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),  Menus did not seem to change much over my 13 years of school life.

I must admit I was a fussy and unadventurous eater as a child and it took me a long time to try anything new such as pizza and Chinese food.  I am now into healthy eating, so will eat vegetables (even sprouts),  I would not touch as a child.

But  "No" - I have never come to like any of those awful school dinner dishes.

Friday, 23 September 2011

Childhood Hobbies - 52 Weeks of Personal Genealog and History .

Hobbies is the topic for Week 38 in Amy Coffin’s and Geneablogger’s 52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy and History series.
52 Weeks Personal Genealogy and History
Music, reading, stamp collecting, postcard collecting, dolls, scrapbooks and crafts were my childhood hobbies and many have continued to give me pleasure all my life. 

Music:   My mother was determined I was going to learn to play the piano.  As the middle daughter  she felt a bit hard done by  in  missing  out on the opportunity,  when both her older sister and much younger sister learnt.   I only got as far as grade 3 exams, before we moved across country and I did not resume lessons.  But the love of music has stayed with me and I am still involved with my local music society.  Likewise I have been a choir member since my school days until I recently decided to retire my "voice".  The highlight of singing was taking part in Gilbert & Sullivan Operas in my 20's and then more recently joining in a "Big Sing" of "The Messiah" at the Royal Albert Hall, London in a choir of over 1000,  accompanied by orchestra and organ to a packed audience of 4000 - a marvellous and uplifting experience.

Reading:  I have always been a book lover and took this one step further by becoming a librarian.  See my earlier posting in this series  A Book Lover.

Collecting:  I also have always been a "squirrel", collecting things throughout my life.  I was introduced to stamp collecting by my uncle  and remember my first album and stamps around the time of the  Queen's Coronation in 1953 when so many new stamps were bieng issued by Britain and the Commo.nwealth.  I later went onto concentrate on thematic collections e.g. on Music, Animals, Famous People.   I still have albums in the loft but this hobby has largely gone by the board. 

I loved dolls and had the best dressed dolls in the street thanks to my mother's skill as a dressmaker.  I later collected costume dolls - both historic e.g. the Tudor queens and in national dress, until I ran out of space in my bedroom and they did become dust gatherers. They were resurrected briefly for my daughter and I am sure will come out again for my little grandduaghter.

Nowadays my main collecting focuses on postcards - this is what I spend my money on on holiday.  I have some  postcard albums not only of places,  but also of cards bought in galleries & museums - art, costume, of wartime and of early advertisements.  A  great hobby - cheap to buy, easy to fit in a case, and lovely to look through.  

Scrapbooks - I was an avid scrapbook creator from an early age.  The first one I remember was again in 1953 of teh Queen's Corocnation and I still have  ones I compiled in my teens of ballet pictures and historic costumes. My mother also encouraged me to create holiday scrapbooks and I used to cut out pictures that appealed from  "Girl" and other magazines, ranging from cute & cuddly animals,  picturesque views, dancers, the Royal Family and then eventually film stars and singers.     My latest scrapbook efforts have featured Christmas cards - see my posting Creating Christmas Scrapbooks  - and of course using computers has  had a huge impact on the look of them.

Crafts - with my mother a stitcher, it was inevitable  I would be drawn into crafts. One of my earliest memories is stting on the kitchen drainer whilst she showed me how to knit - of all things  - a dishcloth out of string!  I did graudate later to pixie hoods and scarves.  I do not have my mother's talent, but she introduced me to felt work, basket weaving, collage pictures, embroidery where I could just about manage lazy daisy stitch, but was hopeless at satin stitch;  patchwork - currently working on a bed throw (downgraded from a more ambitious quilt! ),   crosstitch which I still enjoy (see right)  and wool crochet where working with different colours appeals to me so much.

So I am  looking forward to retiring and having more time to enjoy them all - there is still lots I want to do,  thanks to my mother's inspiration.   

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Setting Up an Editorial Calendar - 31 Weeks of Better Genealogy Blogging

 Tonia Kendrick at Tonia’s Roots is half way through her series 31 Weeks of Better Genealogy Blogging. This week's  topic is all about Setting Up An Editorial Calendar or Planning a Posting Schedule.  

Tonia used an impressive spreadsheet, which I must admit for me would involve too much work setting up, colour coding and maintaining it  for the resulting benefit.   I have a difficult  enough job combining part-time work,  and domestic and family life   with  time for writing, blogging and reading blogs + other activities.    

So what works for me?  
I work outside the home the first part of the week, so most of my writing is done the second half of the week when I try to build up a supply of posts for publishing over the next 7 days.  My initial target when I started blogging just over a year ago was one post  a week and I soon expected to run out of ideas and my own family history material.  How wrong I was!  Geneabloggers has proved  so stimulating I am way above this target and do need to keep track of what I am doing.  

My approach is to.........  
  1. Use the Drafts folder.
  2. Create a "New Post" for any idea or prompt or anniversary reminder that I think I will write about, putting in at least the subject or draft title in the Title Box, and perhaps some quick jottings on content, to develop  later whenever I have the time.
  3. Add also the appropriate Geneablogger prompt into the title  box as a reminder  when to publish it. e.g. Thankful Thursday.
  4. Limit the drafts to no more than a page of the screen, so it is easy to give a quick overview - too many drafts and some get forgotten about.
  5. Having a number of drafts on the go also allows me to vary the style of postings,  balancing the short item with a longer more in-depth piece, or a largely visual posting with one that is mainly text - following here an earlier piece of advice from "Better Blogging".
  6. Keeping an eye on my Published Files by Categories/Labels means I can quickly identify gaps in content of a particular theme.
  7. For priority in posting,  the weekly contributions such as for Better Blogging and also 52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy come first to keep up with these particular schedules, followed by date related material and the rest as and when.  
  8. Some weeks I have a   blitz with a number of posts ready to go, but I have learnt to be restrained and space them out.  Too many on one day I think runs the risk of posts getting overlooked by readers.
Not such a structured approach as Tonia's,  but for me, with my present scale of posting,  it does meet her criteria:  

  • Never again be stuck thinking, “What am I going to write about”
  • Frees up my  mind to do the actual writing
  • Helps me organize my time
  • Gives consistency to my blog
  • Allow me  to identify trends and lulls in your content.
How do you plan your posting schedule?  I would be interested in other views.

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Falling Short on The Tech Savvy Genealogists’ Meme

I thought I would add my contribution to  The Tech Savvy Genealogists’ Meme from Geniaus.   (I must admit I don't know what a Meme is and first read this as Memo).

 As you will see from my responses below,  I am in no way a technocrat, but on the other hand I wouldn't be here on the computer blogging if I was a total technophobe!

In bold - Things I  have already done or found
In italics - Things I would like to do or find
In plain type -Things I  haven’t done or found and don’t care to
  1. Own an Android or Windows tablet or an iPad
  2. Use a tablet or iPad for genealogy related purposes
  3. Have used Skype for genealogy purposes
  4. Have used a camera to capture images in a library/archives/ancestor’s home
  5. Use a genealogy software program on your computer to manage your family tree.  (Legacy)  
  6. Have a Twitter account  (I associate Twitter with Triviality. Perhaps this is an unfair judgement, given  I have never even looked at a Twitter page, but I just cannot see the point in writing  in spurts of 140 characters  and everything I have read about it puts me off finding out more.)
  7. Tweet daily
  8. Have a genealogy blog
  9. Have more than one genealogy blog
  10. Have lectured/presented to a genealogy group on a technology topic (Presented a workshop on using
  11. Currently an active member of Genealogy Wise
  12. Have a Facebook Account (I set it up purely to access photographs of my granddaughter, but like my view of Twitter I am not a convert.  I dislike the site and if I am contacting friends prefer e-mail or the telephone.
  13. Have connected with genealogists via Facebook (put something on it initially but never got a response and now rely on Geneabloggers)  
  14. Maintain a genealogy related Facebook Page
  15. Maintain a blog or website for a genealogy society (contribute to a work-based local history blog)
  16. Have submitted text corrections online to Ancestry, Trove or a similar site
  17. Have registered a domain name ( - not yet functional )
  18. Post regularly to Google+
  19. Have a blog listed on Geneabloggers
  20. Have transcribed/indexed records for FamilySearch or a similar project (for local history society and local archive centre)
  21. Own a Flip-Pal or hand-held scanner
  22. Can code a webpage in .html
  23. Own a smartphone (happy with my basic model for phoning and texting - I don't need anything else)
  24.  Have a personal subscription to one or more paid genealogy databases
  25. Use a digital voice recorder to record genealogy lectures
  26. Have contributed to a genealogy blog carnival  (Sounds interesting but something I don't know about)
  27. Use Chrome as a Browser
  28. Have participated in a genealogy webinar
  29. Have taken a DNA test for genealogy purposes
  30. Have a personal genealogy website (my daughter is setting one up for me as her final assessment in a website design course - so watch this space!)
  31. Have found mention of an ancestor in an online newspaper archive (would love to!)  
  32. Have tweeted during a genealogy lecture
  33. Have scanned your hardcopy genealogy files
  34. Use an RSS Reader to follow genealogy news and blogs
  35. Have uploaded a gedcom file to a site like Geni, MyHeritage or Ancestry
  36. Own a netbook
  37. Use a computer/tablet/smartphone to take genealogy lecture notes
  38. Have a profile on LinkedIn that mentions your genealogy habit
  39. Have developed a genealogy software program, app or widge
  40. Have listened to a genealogy podcast online
  41. Have downloaded genealogy podcasts for later listening
  42. Backup your files to a portable hard drive (Backed up on an external G drive &  memoy stick)
  43. Have a copy of your genealogy files stored offsite
  44. Know about Rootstech [very vaguely from the interest shown by other bloggers)
  45. Have listened to a Blogtalk radio session about genealogy.
  46. Use Dropbox, SugarSync or other service to save documents in the cloud
  47. Schedule regular email backups
  48. Have contributed to the Familysearch Wiki
  49. Have scanned and tagged your genealogy photographs
  50. Have published a genealogy book in an online/digital format
And so the score - 17 out of 50 - a lowly 34%. So yes, perhaps I am a bit of a stick in the mud when it comes to technology  Backing up is probably the area I most need to address. 

I work part-time and have a difficult enough time keeping up with e-mails, research, and blogging/reading blogs, so in no way am I I going to take on Facebook and Twitter.    I enjoy what I do and the level I am  at with my family history activities and Geneabloggers is giving me huge pleasure - even when  I fall short here!

Monday, 19 September 2011

Remembrance in Austria - Tombstone Tuesday

We recently had an holiday in Austria and could not help be struck, as on previous visits, with the beautiful churchyards.  Instead of sombre tombstones, the custom is for wrought iron monuments, surrounded by flowers and  small red lantern lights.  The way they were tended was impressive and moving. 

These photographs are typical -
taken in the churchyard at Strobl on the banks of Wolfgangsee, near Salzburg.

Tombstone Tuesday is a blogging prompt from to inspire bloggers to record their family history and personal memories.

Copyright © 2011 · Susan Donaldson.  All Rights Reserved

Saturday, 17 September 2011

And Dolly Came Too - Sepia Saturday

Sepia Saturday  is a weekly theme which encourages bloggers to publish and share old images and photographs

Joseph Prince Oldham (1855-1917) and his granddaughter Elsie (1906-1989) - plus Dolly  

Elsie Oldham and my mother, Kathleen Danson,  were second cousins, and I am  grateful for Elsie's son, Stuart for the use of this lovely photograph.

Joseph became a carter and coal merchant in Blackpool, Lancashire, in a house with stables,  opposite the North Station.  His son John William Oldham carried on the business. 

In the 1920's, Elsie became the  hairdresser "Elise", working from the family home. 

Friday, 16 September 2011

Stop Press! Railway Excursion ending in a Rabble - 12th September 1851

Catching my attention was this colourful account of a day trip in the "Kelso Chronicle"  of 12th September 1851.

"A train, consisting of thirty carriages, containing between eight and nine hundred persons, on a pleasure excursion from Newcastle to Kelso arrived at the station  on Saturday forenoon. They consisted, for the most part, of the workmen and others employed on the extensive steam engine works of Messrs. Stevenson & Co. They were accompanied by a brass band, headed by which, and carrying banners, they proceeded through the town and visited the grounds and castle of Floors by permission of the Duke of Roxburghe’s Chamberlain.

On their return to the town they proceed to regate themselves in the various inns, whence a great many of them were not long in emerging in a condition which did less credit to themselves than to the potency of Scotch whisky.

In fact, the streets were soon in a complete uproar; brawling and fighting were going on in al directions; some were staggering about without hats, some without coats, and some minus both. Many were covered with blood and dirt, the effects of pugilistic encounters. There were not a few who appeared to be severely cut about the face, besides having their clothes torn. Altogether such a disreputable exhibition has not been witnessed in Kelso for a long time.

The band started for the railway station at 5 o’clock in the afternoon; followed by a reeling and noisy crowd. The departure of the above pleasure trip was a most revolting and disgusting scene.

The railway station was almost taken possession of by the drunken rabble, and it is little else than a miracle, that lives have not been lost on the occasion. Many of the strangers became furious, which soon led to a complete riot, during which one person was taken into custody, and lodged in the station-house; this led to an attack upon the house itself, and much praise is due to Mr. Tait, the station-master, and Mr. Brown, one of the Berwick railway guards, as well as the few police present, for the manner in which they resisted the assailants of the station-house.  In short, the whole scene was a most disgraceful one.

It was a different experience for the party of fifty gentlemen, consisting of the managers of the engine works ship-owners on the Tyne, and friends of Mr. Stevenson.  They   partook of a sumptuous dinner in the afternoon in the Cross Keys Hotel. The dinner was in a  most elegant style; and the wines first-rate, and in abundance. Some excellent speeches were made in giving toasts appropriate to the occasion; and the time of the party was spent most agreeably until the hour for the departure of the train.”

Friday, 9 September 2011

Are We Nearly There? 52 Weeks of Personal History & Genealogy - Road Trips

52 Weeks Personal Genealogy and HistoryThe topic for Week 36 in Amy Coffin’s and Geneablogger’s 52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy and History series is "Road Trips".

We lived outside Blackpool, the famous north west England  resort, but for our summer holiday we travelled to Bournemouuth on the south coast, where a close friend of my mother (known as Auntie Phyllis)  had moved to open a hotel. 

It was a long journey, before the days of motorways, though industrial Lancashire.  My brother and I hated crossing the swing bridges over the Manchester Ship Canal at Wigan and Warrington with visions of them swinging around whilst we were on them.  We would crouch down behind my parent's' seats and hide our eyes. 

Another journey was crossing the Pennines through the Peak District to visit my aunt and uncle in Sheffield, passing over the Snake Pass or in the Lake District going over the  Kirkston Pass - we must have seemed such wimps, but we hated the twisty roads and sudden drops below us, so it seemed safer not to look out.  until we reached  safer ground.

This was long before the days of electronic games , Walkman and I Pods - I don't think we even had a car radio. To pass the time, we did the usual car games of I Spy, I went to the seaside or the market , and bought A ...B..C ...etc.. and making up silly sentences from the registration numbers of cars and also making up silly songs.  My father was a commercial traveller (sales rep) for the Beecham Pharmaceutical Group and one ditty we came up with was:
There was a hermit in the hills
Living off his Beecham Pills
He ate two in the morning
And two at night
To make him feel so merry and bright.

We usually stopped somewehre for a picnic, prepared by my mother.  One notable time, she excelled herslf by making chicken pieces instead of the usual sandwiches and a fruit tart - and left them all behind in the pantry!   We had to stop somewhere and find a cafe for lunch.  My father got the blame here, as he was always chivvering us get a move on and get away. We returned home a week later to discover them covered in fur.

Like all children, the excitement of going away quickly turned to boredom and the perennial question was voiced   "Are we nearly there?"

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Labor Day - The Jobs of our Ancestors: Workaday Wednesday

A prompt from to help us look back at the occupations of our ancestors, commeorated on Labor Day, Monday, September 5, 2011,  in the United States

Trap Farm overgrown , c.1998

My Danson family came from a rural part of Lancahsire in north west England, so occupations on the land were the norm - whether it be Ag. Lab, husbandman, carter, or cowman, with two generations reaching the status heights of being described as yeoman farmers. It was all change in the 1860's when my great great grandfather Henry Danson of Trap Farm, Carleton  left farming  and became a toll collector at the newly built Shard Bridge over the River Wyre, near Fleetwood.

Great Uncle George at his station bookstall
This was an age of great social change, from rural to urban life.  The period saw the rise of the seaside resort of Blackpool and fishing town of Fleetwood with a  predominant theme the impact of the railway. 

New occupations appeared in the census entries for the family - pointsman, railway telegraph clerk, railway porter, railway coach examiner, and railway labourer, with a related trade that of my great uncle George who worked at W. H Smith's newsagent stall on station platforms. 


Trades in the family  included coal merchant, rope dealer, and even tripe dealer, with Danson daughters marrying  a shoemaker, joiner, innkeeper, and watchmaker. 

The women were undertaking roles as laundress, and much more appealing - a confectioner's shop woman, and keeper of a sweet shop. 

Elsie Oldham in the 1920's opened her own home-based business  as a hairdresser, styling herself as "Elise". See the posting "Bobbing, Shingling and Marcel Waves"
In the early 20th century, three of my great grandparents large family, Harry, Robert and Jennie all worked for the post office. 

Jennie Danson, 2nd left, with her colleagues from the Post Office.

Copyright © 2011 · Susan Donaldson.  All Rights Reserved

Friday, 2 September 2011

New Season - New Look Blog

Here in Scotland it is very clear from the weather that we have moved into Autumn, and I thought it time to freshen up my blog with a change of colours.  

So the pink "summer flowers" look has evolved  into "autumn tints" to reflect the new season. 

Autumn is my favourite season and I love the colours of, brown, bronze, burgundy, green and gold.  Is this anything to do with the fact I was a "September" baby - as were my grandmother, mother, aunt, two uncles and husband?   [See the posting  Birthdays and Battlefields]. 

As a brunette these colours were staples in my wardrobe, and also feature  in our home decoration. 

I hope other bloggers find the new look appealing.