Monday, 28 November 2011

Toasts to Emigration: Travel Tuesday

We are used to seeing sorrowful pictures of emgirants leaving their homeland for abroad.  A slightly different,   more joyous image is portayed in this article from a local paper, though I am sure the events were still tinged with sadness.

“EMIGRATIoN. – The number of emigrants who have left this town, and are about to leave it for Australia and America, is very great. As a proof we may state that upwards of 60 chests of drawers belonging to families about to emigrate have been sold by public roup [auction] during the course of the present spring, and there are yet a good many safes to come before Whitsunday. Many of those who have gone have left their families behind them, so eager are people to get away from the mother country. Nearly 50 have departed this week, all of them in good spirits. These are chiefly for Australia. Their departure has given occasion to numerous marks of respect. There have been emigrants’ balls, emigrants’ suppers, and not a few testimonials of a more solid description have been given.”

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Ten Steps on a Blogger's Journey - Thankful Thursday

I have recently dispatched  my 200th post, so thought I would look back on the last 15 months since I started blogging and review my journey.

I am no more than average in IT matters, and admit that much of the information on the  helpline is too technical for me, so the help of fellow bloggers has been invaluable in giving  advice in terms I could understand and follow.   I have learnt so much from it, and here is what I have done as a result of all this help over the course of the past year.  
  1. Spring Cleaned i.e. freshened up the look of my site e.g. by adopting a seasonal colours theme, plus  moved around "the furniture" so to speak, and decluttered, notably putting  the Blog awards I was proud to get on a "Page";  editing the About Me section in the sidebar and creating a fuller single Page;  and moving the sidebar from the left to the right - to put the screen emphasis on the individual  posting, rather than the list of categories.
  2. Set up Pages - I liked the labelled tabs  at the top of the screen on other blogs, but did not realise that these related to "Pages".  Now I have them and they are being read - apart from my latest title "Places" but I am trying to think of an alternative title for this.  I also plan to add "Looks Ups Offered".
  3. Renamed the Labels listing in the sidebar - "Labels" did not seem a right description to me.  I toyed with "Topics" and "Subjects" but settled on "Categories" - not over convinced by this, so may still change it again.
  4. Showed links to other postings. I must admit publicly here - I had never investigated what that "Link" icon meant.   I had referred to previous postings, but just typed in the title and date.  So I spent one long afternoon, setting up links (or so I thought), only to get messages they were not working.  Eventually light dawned - I was giving the link to my editing draft on and not to my actual posted blog page.  Another mammoth session to revise all previous links, and add many more - this is a lengthy process and  still very  much work in progress, with priority going to my more popular posts.
  5. Created more effective titles and opening  paragraphs  for search engine optimization - and this has worked!  
  6. Revised the way I write titles for to maximise impact and readership.
  7. Varied postings between heavy text ones and ones with a strong visual interest;  also between lengthy and short contributions to encourage readers and stave off boredom with the site.  
  8. Made effective use of formatting - as here (hopefully) with numbered lists and bold sub-headings.
  9. Set up a series of posts  linking to previous posts,  as in my recent "Lest We Forget - War Memorials"  series for November.
  10. Listened to the specific advice and sharing of ideas from fellow bloggers,  listed  below -with apologies for anyone I might have overlooked. Amy at
    Greta at
    Joan at
    Judy at
    Nancy at
  11. Shelley at
    Susan at
    Tonia at

    Plus being motivated by the comments I have received from so many fellow bloggers - too numerous to mention individually here.


Tuesday, 22 November 2011

An Array of Wedding Hats - 1910: Wedding Wednesday

 I love this wedding photograph, especially the bonnets of the children.

The photograph was passed onto me by my cousin Stuart and shows the wedding of his wife's relations - Wilfred Hyde and Annie Coombes in 1910.

Wedding Wednesday is one of many prompts provided by www.geneabloggers to help writers record their family history

Thursday, 17 November 2011

A Fatherly Influence on Politics: 52 Wks of Personal Genealogy & History

Politics  is the topic for Week 46 in Amy Coffin’s and Geneablogger’s 52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy and History series.  What are your childhood memories of politics? Were your parents active in politics? What political events and elections do you remember from your youth?

52 Weeks Personal Genealogy and HistoryPolitically informed but no activist - that sums up my attitude. My father had a strong interest in current affairs and politics and this rubbed off on me from a relatively early age.  He also involved himself in community affairs wherever he lived.

We were a family who always listened to the news (radio in the  morning and  TV in the evening), and watched major events ranging from the Queen's Coronation, Royal Weddings, and Sir Winston Churchill's funeral,  to the building of the Berlin Wall, Cuban crisis, space missions returning to earth and  the shooting of President Kennedy - this had a particularly strong impact on me.  During Kennedy's election campaign I was still at school and JFK was someone we admired and we poured over the photographs of Jackie's fashions.  We saw on TV his powerful inauguration speech, his meeting with Kruschev, his speech at the Berlin Wall and my father got up during the night to hear his statement on the Cuban crisis.  We felt part of a new era.   Young and energetic-looking for a world leader, he made such a contrast with our own Prime Minister Harold Macmillan who seemed to epitomise the Edwardian period  of 50 years past.   I had never lost anyone close to me, yet President Kennedy's death hit me hard.  I stayed off university lectures to watch the funeral on TV and wept at the sight of Jackie and her two young children. 

Dad had left school  at 14 years old and since then was a  self-taught man.  He was unashamedly Conservative, reader of "The Daily Telegraph", admired the Queen, Winston Churchhill and Margaret Thatcher and was a member of the local constituency party helping at fund raising events, delivering election leaflets etc.  He often wrote letters to the local newspaper on political issues - much to the concern of my mother who did not like the verbal brickbats that he could receive.

I have recollections of the Suez Crisis of 1956.   Through one of those quirks of fate,  an international event had an impact on the family,  as  my father was transferred work-wise from Lancashire (my mother's home all her life)  to York to replace  his predecessor who was in the  territorial army and called up to serve. 

At school I was hopeless at creative imaginative writing and in exams etc. I always opted for the report style topic. The General Election of 1959 gave me inspiration for an essay at school where I won a prize - so it stuck in my mind.  I began with "Here is the six o' clock new - A General Election has been called for..........the rest I can't remember at all,  but I ended with   "Here is the 6 o'clock news - all election results are in and the Conservatives have been returned with a majority"  - at the time I thought this linking of the start and the finish was a neat essay writing technique!  In both French and German exams,  one essay choice was to  write on a famous person - and  I chose Sir Winston Churchill. 

With Dad,  I followed the course of General Election campaigns and results and remember one year marking up with coloured pencils an election map in  red and blue (Labour & Conservative) with occasional  yellow for Liberals.

At university I studied Modern History and Politics at a time of both a British general election  and American presidential election, when we were given a very informative little booklet  by the American Consulate in Edinburgh explaining the procedures of primaries etc. 

Dad and I also shared an interest in journalism and I always fancied working as a newspaper librarian, or as a BBC researcher,  though jobs are few and far between.  However my second professional post was to set up a modern studies information unit at Edinburgh's College of Education.  This was long before the internet, and  it involved project files of ephemera - mainly press cuttings, so I got to look though all the quality daily papers - a great job.   

Frustratingly I had to wait quite a time to exercise my own vote - I was 21 just after one election and had to go another 4-5 years before having the next opportunity.   I did attend some hustings in the days when candidates actually tried to meet the  public and once went late at night to hear the results announced from the Town Hall balcony - and that sums up my poliical activities.    Wearing a duffel coat was the  closest I came to student rebellion! 

The suffragette cause is one I have always followed,  and I have always advocated that women should exercise their right to vote, when the battle to achieve it was so hard.  I must have passed this view  onto my daughter,  as she was shocked  to hear me say that I might not vote in the last  election for members of the European Parliament, as the whole process seemed so  meaningless.     I did end up voting!

I was secretary of my local community council for three years.  I was asked to stand as a councillor, but I knew it was not for me - I am no good at thinking on my feet and in no way could I cope with the hurly burly cut and thrust of modern day politics, even at a local level.  
But the  influence of my father (below) in being concerned about his community  remains with me,  and,  like him, I am an avid reader of newspapers.  IBut I do not quite follow the same political line!

Sunday, 13 November 2011

"Lest We Forget" - Polish Memorials: Military Monday

For this month of November when we remember our ancestors who died in war, I thought I would post a series of images of war memorials, both in Britain and abroad - previous weeks England,  and  Scotland.

This week features the  powerful yet moving memorials of World War Two,  seen on a visit to Poland


Monument to the Heroes of Warsaw

Jewish Memorial, Warsaw

Above & below - Memorial to the Warsaw Uprising of 1944
Copyright © 2011 · Susan Donaldson.  All Rights Reserved

Saturday, 12 November 2011

Remembrance - A Further Family Tribute

WW1 - Great Uncle Tom Danson
Few families in the land could have escaped the impact of two World Wars, and my own was no exception.  This post complements the recent  Armistice Day posting,   with more photographs here of three generations of the Danson and extended Oldham/Smith families  who served. 

WW1 - Great Uncle Frank Danson
For further stories on the family during war, look under the tag (right of the screen) War and Remembrance.

WW1 - Edward Stewart Smith

WW1 - George Butler - husband of Sarah Oldham

WW1 - Harry Fernahough,  husband of Edith Oldham

WW2 - Arthur Smith, husband of Elsie Oldham

WW2  - Aunt Peggy Danson
WW2 - Uncle Billy Danson
1956 - My Third Cousin - Stuart Smith

Friday, 11 November 2011

Military Monday - A Family in War Remembered

Few families could have escaped the tragedies of the First World War. - and mine was no exception.
My Mother's Uncles

John Danson (1879-1917)  was the second of eight surviving  sons of James Danson (1852-1906) and Maria Rawcliffe (1859-1919) of Poulton-le-Fylde, Lancashire.   

Something of a mystery surrounds John's  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 war memorial in St. Chad's Church  below the name of his youngest brother George Danson. 

I have a distinct memory of my mother's cousin, (John's niece) telling me  about 12 years ago that John had committed suicide as a prisoner of war.

This was a puzzle, as John was buried in Poulton Cemetery which did not seem possible if he died in Germany.  Nor could I trace any records for World War One prisoners of war. 
John's death was recorded on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website  but no details given as to circumstances,  and other World War One sites on casualties and service records failed to provide any information.
A local historian researching the names on Poulton War Memorial found that John had died at Tidworth Hospital.  whilst training at army camp without having served  abroad.   

The local paper  "The Gazette News" of 25th May 1917 reported:
"Gunner John Danson, RFA, who has died in Tidworth Hospital, Hanpshire, was interred in the Poulton Cemetery on Tuesday afternoon.  The deceased soldier who lived at 2 Bull Street, Poulton has been in H.M. forces  nine months.  He was formerly a postman and steward at the Poulton Institute.  Three of his brothers are still serving with the forces, two in France and one in Malta, and another the youngest was killed eight months ago".
Because John had not served abroad, he was not entitled to any medals.

So the "prisoner of war story" proved incorrect.  Had I assumed the POW context from hearing the word "camp" - I will never know.   So far I have not gone down the route of obtaining a death certificate which wpuld clarify the cause of death.

George Danson, the youngest of the eight brother was in the Royal Army Medical Corps,  a stretcher bearer in the field and died at the Battle of the Somme, a week after his 22nd  birthday.  I have written about him in some detail previously on my blog. 


For more stories of my family in war, see the postings
under the tag (to the right of the screen) on War and Remembrance

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

More Magnificent Hats - Wordless Wednesday.

What magnificent hats were worn (above)  by Mary Jane Oldham, nee Bailey and her sister-in-law Sarah Butler, nee Oldham?   Mary Jane Bailey  and my grandfather William Danson were cousins.   Below is another creation worn by Sarah's sister Edith.

And in case you missed an earlier posting, have a look at   Sarah's Wedding Hat

With thanks to my third cousin Stuart for the use of these marvellous photographs of another age.  

Wordless Wednesday is one of many daily prompts from to encourage writers to record their family history - here the emphasis is on photographs.

Monday, 7 November 2011

Risking a Stagecoach Jounrey, 1837: Travel Tuesday

Regular readers of my blog know that I enjoy looking through old newspapers in my local archive centre in the Scottish Borders. The papers are full of titbits of information that throw  a fascinating picture on life at the time. 

Here is an account of a stagecoach accident, reported in "The Kelso Chronicle"
 of 16th June 1837.  It gives a graphic picture of the perils facing our ancestors in travelling by stagecoach.
"ACCIDENT. – On Tuesday evening when the coach from Kelso had passed Ord, the reins broke, and the driver left his seat, and went along the pole to recover them. His foot slipped, and he fell between the pole and the horses to the ground. Fortunately, the wheels passed on both sides of him, and he escaped with no other injury than a slight blow to the head.
The horses set off at rapid pace, and ran through Tweedmouth. The passengers kept their seats, and the horses while running furiously along the bridge, were stopped by a young man named Robert Robertson, who, with great personal risk, seized the horses’ head.
Had they not been stopped, in all probability, from the speed with which they were proceeding, the coach would have been upset at the turn of Bridge Street.  The conduct of the young man deserves great praise.”

Travel Tuesday is a blogging prompt from to encourage writers to record their local and family history.

Saturday, 5 November 2011

"Lest We Forget"- Scottish Memorials: Military Monday

For this month of November when we remember our ancestors who died in war, I thought I would post a series of images of war memorials, both in Britain and abroad - last week England, this week in Scotland.

 - This is the imposing war memorial in the town of Hawick, where I live in the Scottish Borders.  The setting is Wilton Lodge Park, a former 107 acre estate of the Pringle family, whose  home is now the town museum displaying illuminated rolls of honour of the war dead.   This photograph was taken last winter.  

Right - The war memorial in the small village of Taynuilt, Argyll in the west of Scotland.

Below - The war memorial at Oban in Argyll on the west coast of Scotland.

Right - War Memorial in Aberfeldy, Perthshire

Military Monday is a blogging prompt from
to encourage writers to record their family and local history

Copyright © 2011 · Susan Donaldson.  All Rights Reserved

Beyond the Internet - Some Late Thoughts

I missed  the  discussion on Beyond the Internet – the responses from Family History Across the Seas, but here are some late thoughts from my perspective in the Scottish Borders. 

My local archive centre at the Heritage Hub, Hawick  promotes itself primarily  on the value of its unique archive sources that are not available anywhere else.  These help family historians go beyond the standard resources of census returns, old parish records, monumental inscriptions etc.many of which can be accessed  online.

The key to searching these records is often a census entry giving a clue as to occupation or status.    One of the most popular sets of records consulted relate to the  Poor Law.  The Victorians  were great bureaucrats and the Heritage Hub holds a large collection of Poor Law Registers, Poor Relief Applications and Parochial Board Minute Books, many of which can give a mini-biography of an ancestor, in often tragic circumstances.

Police Records for the three Border counties of Berwickshire, Roxburghshire and Selkirkshire go back to the 1850's, so if your ancestor was a constable or even  on the other side  of the law,  these are the source to look at  and include mug shot photos of criminals, lists of prisoners, plus constable registers with personal details including descriptions.

Being a Councillor might seem rather dull,  but the Burgh Minute Books, which go back to the mid 17th century give a full description of burgh affairs and discussions and can reveal interesting sidelines such as the councillor in the 1880's who was petitioning in support of woman's suffrage, long before it was close to becoming a reality.

If your  ancestor was a teacher, then the School Records are the place to look - with Log Books recording daily  school life, and School Board Minute Books and Education Committee Minute Books recording appointments - and dismissals!  If you are lucky you may get a glowing testimony from an Inspector's Report.

Was your Borders male ancestor aged around 20-30 in the period of the Napoleanic Wars (1790's-1815)?  Then he might well appear on the Militia Lists, whereby each parish was charged with setting up a volunteer force in the  event of a French invasion.  The lists may give little more than a name, address and occupation but, as with all archives,  there is a fascination in seeing actual handwriting relating to an ancestor, written during his or her lifetime.  They are also particularly noteworthy in pre-dating  the first published census of 1841, so may be  the only record of an ordinary man.

These are just some of the records available at the Hub  and complement the large collecting of maps from the early 19th century, old postcards of the region and 23 titles of local newspapers (many long since gone), with the oldest 1804.   Most of these records above are available to view in digitised format at the Hub, but are not available online.  

So I am pleased to promote  my local archive centre in this way to show there is genealogical life well beyond the Internet. It is records such as these which can contribute so much to us discovering the stories of our ancestors.  

The Heritage Hub, Hawick
With acknowledgement to the Heart of Hawick for permission to feature this photograph.

From "Rich" Imposter to a Poorhouse Death - Black Sheep Sunday

Old  newspapers in my local archive centre  have some fascinating and colourful  titbits of information which often catch my attention, such as this  report in "The Kelso Chronicle" of 9th May 1879 which announced:

"The notorious imposter Robert Aitkin, alias Hi-I-Obby, has just died in Hawick Poorhosue in his 78th year.  The most remarkable episode in his chequered career occurred at Dunse 20 years ago, when he succeeded in making the people believe that he was heir to a large estate and great wealth by the death of an uncle in America.
 A number of gentlemen gave him a cash account in one of the banks for £1000, and he actually went so far as to purchase the valuable estate of Reston Mains, in Berwickshire. He bought hunters and jewellery, and dined and kept company with some of the most respected families in Dunse. He was ultimately apprehended, tried for fraud, and sent to Greenlaw Jail to expiate his crime. This portion of his career was dramatised and acted in a number of theatres on the Border.”

So crime in this instance clearly did not pay!  

Black Sheep Sunday is a daily blogging prompt from to inspire family hsitorians to write stories of their local and family history.