Monday, 30 July 2012

Cousins Uncovered - 52 Weeks of Abundant Genealogy

Couins is the latest topic from Amy at in conjunction with Geneabloggers, in the series of prompts on the theme of 52 Weeks of Abundant Genealogy.

One of the best experiences in family history is meeting with new cousins found through your research. Tell us -  How did you discover each other? Where did you meet? What type of information was exchanged and how did it benefit your research?

My great grandfather James Danson was one of 9 children (6 daughters and 3 sons) and my great grandmother Maria Rawcliffe was one of 5 surviving daughters - so there must be a lot of my distant cousins out there.

Three Sisters (and their Descendants) Traced
My first success came as  a member of the Lancshsire Family History and Heraldry Society.  Many years ago, in the listing of member's interests, three separate entries for Cardwell, Cookson and Gaulter caught my eye - all were the married names of Danson sisters - Jane, Grace and Mary.  I wrote and amazingly all proved to be connections. We exchanged information and family trees which was a great help in writing my narrative genealogy of the Danson family - and that was it!   This was in the pre-internet/pre digital photography age, and I cannot believe now that I never thought to ask about old photographs which now mean so much to me in bringing family history alive,  especially used in  blog postings.  In hindsight this seemed little more than an academic exercise in information gathering.

A Danson Bible Found 
The website revealed a query from Janet on her great great grandfather John Danson who been born at Trap Farm, Carleton (near Poulton-le-Fylde, Lancashire), which was my great grandfather's birthplace. I had encountered so many fruitless results on this website from so called "Hot Matches" which frustratingly matched on name and date, but not importantly on place. So this contact was wonderfu

Trap Farm, Carleton
It was the exchange of archive material and family memorabilia that meant the most to me. John was the eldest son of Henry Danson and grandson of another Henry. and had inherited the family bible (previously unknown to me). It featured a beautifully written page relating to John Danson and family, including the days of the week when their children were born.

Of much more quirky interest, though, was the fact the two front blank pages had been used for what looked like writing practice by the family of John's grandfather - as described in Scibbles in the Danson Bible.

One page featured signatures scrawled all ways - ones that can be deciphered are Henry Danson, Trap, Elizabeth Danson, Ellen Danson, Carleton, Peter Danson, Ellie Simpson, Carleton, Trap, Servant, 1830.

Trap Farm was where John Danson's parents were living in the 1841 and 1851 censuses, so this record first brought to  light that  the family were there in 1830.      The fact that servant Ellie Simpson was also included in the activity and signed her name, somehow casts a lovely light on the informal nature of the household - though the fact they used a bible for this activity raises other issues!

Contact from a Nearby Third Cousin  
Sarah Alice Oldham and George Butler,
My blog was responsible for my next success in finding a new third cousin - even better Stuart lived only 50 miles away so we met and spent an afternoon looking through old photographs and memorabilia. Stuart was descended from my great grandfather's eldest sister Elizabeth, through her youngest daughter Mary Ellen who married John Prince Oldham.

Stuart's contributions to my family history has given my blogging activity a huge boost, as he had so many photographs and associated stories of his mother, a hairdresser in the 1920's, of his poet ancestor John Critchley Prince,  his grandfather, a carter and coalman and in particular a wonderful collection of wedding photographs which has provided many an attractive posting of Magnificent Hats.

My American Links Uncovered 
My most recent "lost cousin" was discovered a few months ago,  again through my blog,   after a search of over 10 years, with little success through websites and message board queries. My great grandmother's sister Alice, with husband John Mason and large family, emigrated to Brooklyn, New York in 1886-7. My family history had had no overseas connections and I was longing to extend my interest to another country - and again thanks to the internet, I have "met"  with Alice's great granddaughter Bonnie in New Jersey who has identified my Mystery Photograph and  been a great source of photographs which I am looking forward to featuring in future postings.

Florence Mason - youngest daughter of John Mason (pictured) and Alice Rawcliffe, my great great aunt.
I look forward to finding more cousins.

A Poet Prince -Talented Tuesday

How many people can claim to have a published poet amongst their ancestors?

That is the case of my third cousin Stuart whose great great uncle was John Critchley Prince (1808-1866), well known in his time as a writer of poetry in the Lancashire dialect.

John was born in Wigan, Lancashire, son of Joseph Prince and his wife Nancy. He received some little formal education at a Baptist Sunday School and at nine years of age began work with his father as a 'reed-maker' - a 'reed' being a tool used by hand-loom weavers to separate threads.

Employment prospects being bleak, John sought work in France.  After suffering much hardship during his return journey, he arrived home to find his family in the Wigan Poorhouse. In later years, John moved around Lancashire, mainly in Blackburn, Ashton and Hyde, searching for casual work. He supplemented his income by contributing poems to local periodicals and accepting help from acquaintances. 
At eighteen, John married Ann Orme, a resident of Hyde near Manchester. A family soon followed and by 1830 the couple had a son and two daughters.

John published his first poetry collection, "Hours with the Muses" in 1841. It sold well, running to five editions and attracting attention in London. Other collections followed, some published and sold privately by the author.

Considering John's dismal situation — he borrowed from Shakespeare "my mean estate" to describe his lot — his verse is, for the most part, surprisingly optimistic. A notable exception is "Death of a Factory Child", in which he addressed the social conditions of the time, with these stark lines to end the poem. :

Hard had he labour'd since the morning hour,—
But now his little hands relax'd their pow'r—
Yet, urg'd by curses or severer blows,
Without one moment's brief, but sweet, repose,
From frame to frame the exhausted sufferer crept,
Piec'd the frail threads, and, uncomplaining, wept.

John's first wife died in 1858, and he married Ann Taylor in 1862. This apart, his final years were marred by declining health and the financial hardship tresulting from the near collapse of the Lancashire cotton industry during the American Civil War, a time known locally as the "Cotton Famine".

John Critchley Prince died at Hyde, in 1866, almost blind and partially paralysed by a stroke suffered shortly after his second marriage. He is buried there in St George's churchyard,with a memorial to him in the local church.

Fellow poets penned tributes to him including the following:

FAREWELL, thou gifted singer! Thy sweet songs
Have charmed the ears of thousands in our land:
(Samuel Laycock)

Amongst the workmen-poets our land
He stands—a Prince by nature, as by name;
(George Hull)

John's great great nephew Stuart has built up a collection of his ancestor's poetry, including a first edition of he "Hours of the Muses" and also has some manuscripts written by him and some letters.

John's sister Sarah Prince was Stuart's great, great grandmother. She married William Oldham, with their son christened Joseph Prince (photograph below) after his maternal grandfather.

More information on poet John Critchely Prince can be found at

Spanning the generations
John Critchley Prince's nephew - Joseph Prince Oldham
with his granddaughter Elsie, Stuart's mother

Talented Tuesday is one of many daily blog prompts from to encourage writers to record their family history.

Thursday, 26 July 2012

L is for Lament, Lessons, Lure, Luck and Likeness - A-Z Challenge

Having just finished a quick sprint through one A-Z challenge from Ros at, I could not resist participating in a
further series from Aona at

My focus here is on what we experience on our family history journey.
L is for

How many of us Lament not asking the right questions at the right time:  Where was my grandmother born?   What was her mother called?   Did she have any brothers and sisters?

I wish also I had asked my Aunt Edith  to write down her memories and experiences.  She played a key role in my life and was a teacher, traveller and great talker. She was fond of regaling me with stories and full of entertaining anecdotes on her younger brothers and sisters, the young men she danced with, and her time as a teacher in the 1930s-1950s in a poor part of town.  She had a keen memory for past pupils (particularly black sheep) and of humorous incidents such as excuse notes, written for absences.  In later life she became a traveller, visiting Russia in the days of the Iron Curtain, and married for the first time at the age of 73.  If only I had taken more note of what she was recounting, but sadly much of the detail now escapes me.

Lessons I have Learnt - many and varied amongst them: 

  • Always record your searches with specific source references.  I have committed the fault of being so eager to find some key facts in a limited time, that I rush to scribble down my sources and findings, get home and when I come to my notes later, have difficulty deciphering them.  What a waste of precious time!   More haste less speed.
  • Don't assume  - it may be the right name in the right place, with a date that sounds right, but is it really your ancestor or another of the same name?   A call for corroboration!
Our family history journey often comes from Love of our family and a Longing to find out more about our background.  Once we start on the  trail,  its Lure is strong and I can echo many other bloggers who talk of being "addicted" or "obsessed" by their hobby. 

Could I be called Lazy? Perhaps when it comes to certain tasks, but family history and blogging wins hands down over housework! 

Let's not  forget that a vital stroke of Luck, such as making contact with distant cousins, can make all the difference - and for me has been a great boost to my blogging activity.    Below is an advertising blotter of hairdresser "Elise", aka Elsie Oldham - the mother of my third cousin Stuart who discovered my blog and has been a great source of additional stories and p[photographs.

Do you spot a LIkeness amongst your old family photographs?  Do the eyes have it in these photographs of my great grandmother Maria Rawcliffe, mother Kathleen Danson and myself - or it my fanciful wishful thinking?   I leave you to judge!

Copyright © 2012 · Susan Donaldson.  All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

1930's - Enjoying a Swim: Sepia Saturday

Summer Sports is the theme of this week's Sepia Saturday postings at

My ancestors were not a particular sporty lot as far as I far as I am aware, and these are the nearest images in my collection to reflect this week's  summer sports theme.

Here my mother Kathleen Danson, her youngest sister Peggy and her great friend that I knew as Auntie Phyllis were enjoying the outdoor South Shore Swimming Pool at Blackpool in the 1930's. 

Two decades later in the 1950's,  I remember Mum taking my brother and I there for a swim.  In that era it was also a popular venue for beauty contests   It was later demolished and I think the site is now a car park - a sad end to an iconic 1930's playground.


Copyright © 2012 · Susan Donaldson.  All Rights Reserved

Monday, 23 July 2012

Four Weston Weddings, 1930-1946: Wedding Wednesday

My father John Percy Weston  (he hated the Percy) was the middle son of Albert Ernest Weston and Mary Barbara Matthews, with his eldest brother Frederick Henry, younger brother Charles and sister Madge.

Fred Weston married Frances Green in 1930 in Leicester. This photograph only recently came to my attention through a distance relative of my cousin.

My father is the rather stern looking man on the far left, carrying the trilby (or panama?) hat, with,  I think,  his brother Charles behind him.  My grandmother is in the cloche hat next to the bridegroom and unfortunately I have been unable  to identify my grandfather - he could be the man hidden at the back. Fred's sister could well be one of the bridesmaids and I have no idea who the young boy is.  I presume the older couple on the left of the photograph are the bride's parents.

Sister Madge married Wilf Adams in 1937 in Leicester.  In the 1911 census her name is recorded as (the attractive sounding) Madelaine.

My own parents wedding took place in 1938 when John Weston married Kathleen Danson at Poulton-le-Fylde, Lancashire. Witnesses on the right were Charles Weston and Edith Danson. Dad's mother is between my maternal grandparents on the left of the picture - but yet again Dad's father is missing from the photograph - is it his arm that is cut off on the left?

Below is the only photograph I have of my paternal grandfather - taken in the garden of my mother's home,  after the wedding, with Mum's  parents on the left and my father's parents on the right - unfortunately again not a particularly good image with grandfather Weston in the sun. 

Youngest brother Charles married Vera  in December 1946 and I am the shivering little bridesmaid. The dresses were apparently a dusky pink colour and my mother used to relate what a difficult time she had hunting for matching shoes in post- war austerity Britain.

My mother is the elegant lady standing behind me and in between my father and Grandmother Weston.  My grandfather Weston was by this time too ill to attend and died in 1947 aged 70. 

For my uncle (right) it was a happy day, as only a year earlier he had returned from time as a Japanese prisoner of war, labouring on the infamous Bridge over the River Kwai.

Another child was born to Albert Weston and Mary Barbara Matthews - Ethel, who sadly did not survive infancy.

Copyright © 2012 · Susan Donaldson.  All Rights Reserved

Saturday, 21 July 2012

Family Crafts Continued - Talented Tuesday

Bryna at    raised the question about family folk art and traditions passed down the generations. 

I have my mother  to thank for introducing me to a wonderful world of colour in crafts.
Below is one of her creations. 

Traycloth embroidered by my mother
Mum (Kathleen Weston, nee Danson)  was a creator in patchwork, crochet, collage, felt work,  knitting, embroidery, smocking, dolls and dresses, with dabbles into millinery, lampshade making and china painting. and was still sewing  when in her 80's.  For her going into a fabric shop was like going into a jewellery shop. If she sat down, she was rarely without a needle in her hand- epitomised in my posting  "Happiness in Stitching" which could be her motto and epitaph. 

I shared her interest and enjoyment, but I cannot say her talent.  I have memories of sitting on the draining board in our old fashioned kitchen and being taught how to knit  a dishcloth from string.    I then graduated to a pixie hood and scarf.   In my teens I was knitting for myself  jumpers for school and weekend wear, and in the early glow of being engaged,  knitted my husband several jumpers to brighten up his rather drab wardrobe.  Here is a Brownie doll I knitted for my daughter - I should have made sure her hair was tidy before taking the photo!.

Mum encouraged me, as a child.   to make simple glove puppets out of felt, decorated with ric rac, ribbons, buttons, lace and my brother and I created little plays performed, crouched behind the settee which became the stage. 

Victorian collage
made by my mother
Mum and I shared an  interest in costume and I recall us making   a collage picture of Queen Elizabeth 1st in all her glory - plenty of scope for using lots of fancy trimmings.  Years later when my daughter was little (and money was tight) I made felt collage pictures for her bedroom, mounted on cake boards - ducks, teddies, a colourful wigwam etc. 

It was my mother who taught me how to sew patchwork - by hand in the English traditional Grandmother's floral garden pattern using hexagons, beginning with pincushions and eventually reaching the heights of a single bedcover.  I am still patchworking.  A project,  which had been on the go a considerable length of time, was eventually downgraded from a bedspread to a throw and completed last year  when I retired.   I am still surrounded by bits of material with plans to make one for my granddaughter - you never know it might get finished for Christmas!

My patchwork throw - completed after many years
having been downgraded from a planned bedspread

Unlkie my mother , I was hopeless at embroidery and gave up on my tortuous efforts to sew lazy daisy stitch, satin stitch, stem stitch and French knots on increasingly crumpled material - a reminder on what it must have been like for young girls to persevere at stitching their samplers centuries ago.

Then I discovered  crossstitch which had much greater appeal - it was simple, yet so effective in the way  the designs used colour.  I was an avid subscriber to magazines, and sewed away at cards, bookmarks, Christmas decorations and bigger projects, until  I ran out of people to send cards to, or wallspace for framed pictures. Fashions in cards changed and crossstitch items  did not have the same appeal in charity shops. I then turned to doing small card size projects which I pasted into a scrapbook, using coloured mounts to frame each one. After my mother died, I found she had kept all the cards I had made for her at birthdays, Christmas etc, so I have included them as well. It does make a lovely memento to look back on.

Holidays in Bavaria and Paris captured in crossstitch

Crochet is my current activity - again taught me by my mother,  but whereas she did fine cotton work, I learnt on and have stuck to wool - much easier.  In the  1970's era of "the Good Life", self sufficiency and financial constraints, it was a way of  making rugs and blankets for my daughter's bedroom.   Now it is blankets for charity shops.

My daughter's creative interest has turned to baking rather than crafts.  As for my little granddaughter,  she likes playing with the crochet squares I am currently assembling into a  blanket  especially those in her favourite colour - purple.

And it is using colour that characterises my pleasure in following in a small way the crafts passed on by my mother.    

Copyright © 2012 · Susan Donaldson.  All Rights Reserved

Talented Tuesday  is a daily prompt from, used by many bloggers to help them record stories of their ancestors.

Thursday, 19 July 2012

K is for Kith & Kin, Kindness Kudos & Keeper of the Family Archives - plus Kathleen:

Having just finished a quick sprint through one A-Z challenge from Ros at, I could not resist participating in a further series from Aona at

My focus here is on what we experience on our family history journey.

K is for:

Kith and Kin plus Knowledge the foundation of our family history activities.  

The wedding of my Uncle Fred (Weston)  in 1929, surrounded by family members

Keeper of the Family Archives - I am sure, that like other bloggers, we see ourselves in this role - discovering the past, preserving the present, recording for the future  and keeping contact with relatives.

A letter written by my father to my mother  during the war - found after their deaths.

A telegram sent by my father to my mother.  The  frank on the reverse showed it was sent on December 31st 1941.     Dad was then serving in the Codes and Cipher Branch of the Ministry of Defence in Whitehall, London and had witnessed the Battle of Britain over London earlier in the autumn of 1941.
A small painting by my aunt - Edith Danson
I have "met" online so many Kindred enthusiasts   and experienced Kindness shown by  the people who read my blog, give comments, provide blogging tips, suggestions on sources, and occasionally turn out to be distant relations,  giving me information and photographs to further enhance my postings.    Such Kudos is much appreciated.  I know that some postings are written for my own pleasure  and may not evoke wider interest, but recognition in the  form of readers means a lot. 

Crossstitch card sewn
for my mother's brthday
I could not let K pass by, without paying tribute to my mother   - Kathleen Weston, nee Danson (1908-1999)She  was the second daughter of William Danson and Alice English of Poulton-le-Fylde, Lancashire and the subject of many a blog posting.

 "Happiness in Stitching" could be my mother's motto. For her going into a fabric shop was like going into a jewellery shop. If she sat down, she was rarely without a needle in her hand. She was a creator in patchwork, crochet, collage, felt work, smocking, knitting, embroidery, smocking, dolls and dresses, with dabbles into millinery, lampshade making and china painting.

Mum was also  a "Joiner". Because of my father's work, we moved around a lot, and Mum joined whatever women's group was there - Mother's Union, Townswoman's Guild, Church Work Group, Parent-Teachers Association, Women's Rural Institute (WRI) . 

Whenever there was a coffee morning, bring & buy sale, spring fete, summer fete, autumn fete,  Christmas fete, Mum was part of the activity, with her contributions for the sales tables - aprons, cushion covers, doll's clothes, soft toys and of course cake and candy. 

She entered WRI competitions, taking part in a catwalk show to model an outfit she made and below is an Alice in Wonderland collage (made for my daughter), that won a prize in a category "Tomorrow's Heirlooms.

All the moves meant I was at three secondary schools. Later in life, Mum's example left me an important message on how to make friends and become involved in a new community. An inspiration!

Copyright © 2012 · Susan Donaldson. All Rights Reserved


Wednesday, 18 July 2012

A Vintage Sampler with a Matching Name.

I alighted on the posting  thanks to a Geneabloggers listing which caught my interest. 

I have always be interested in samplers, but there was an additional reason why this lovely piece of stitching  was so special - for it was "wrought by Susan Weston aged 12 years"  - and Susan Weston was my maiden name. 

The early 19th century sampler is in the care of Wisconsin Historical Society.  My Weston family come from the English Midlands and I have no knowledge of any American connections.  But it was still a fascinating coincidence to come across.

Away with the Fairies - Sepia Saturday

"Away with the Fairies" is the theme of this week's Sepia Saturday photos at

It immediately brought to mind the time (more years ago than I care to remember)  when I was a fairy on stage.


I am one of these "Dainty little fairies, tripping hither, tripping thither" in the opening chorus of the Gilbert & Sullivan operetta "Iolanthe".

I was a member of the Edinburgh University Savoy Opera Group and the annual G & S performancew were the highlight of my years there - I loved taking part in them. 

Although the men's costumes were hired, the girls made their own - here in shades of blue and green chiffon with silver trim at the waist, and of course wings, plus  a cloche hat covered in petals, and heavy eyeshadow.  We thought we were great!

Copyright © 2012 · Susan Donaldson.All Rights Reserved

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Wedding Belles - Sharing Memories

Lorine McGinnis Schulze at has begun a new series of Sharing Memories . Here the theme is WEdding Belles.

The omens were not good on my wedding day on 24th July 1971. It poured down and we have no photographs taken outside;    my husband Neil looks a bit shell shocked in this picture; and with the Tudor monarchs all the rage on film and TV at the time, I chose to wear an Ann Boleyn style headdress - she suffered the fate of being  beheaded by Henry VIII.

Still love conquered all, as we  celebrated last year  our Ruby (40th) wedding anniversary, with a holiday in Austria, looking older, heavier and greyer, but on a much sunnier day.

Post-war austerity Britain was the setting for my only time as a bridesmaid  - at three years old  at my uncle's wedding in December 1946. The dresses were apparently a dusky pink colour and my mother used to relate what a difficult time she had hunting for matching shoes. More on this occasion at A Shivering Bridesmaid

Weddings are one of the most popular topics in my blog page views,  ranging from the magnificent hats of the 1910's  - see an Array of Hats,  to the over-the-top detailed descriptions in the local press  of 1920  fashions  recounted in   "Gowned in Delphimium Blue Georgette"  and   Jennie Danson's Wedding - Fashion 1929
Wedding of Jennie Danson, 1929.
Fast forward to April 18th 1938 and my parents' wedding at St. Chad's Church, Poulton-le-Fylde, Lancashire - John Weston and Kathleen Danson on the left in this photograph with Edith Danson and Charles Weston their witnesses.

Copyright © 2011 · Susan Donaldson. All Rights Reserved

Adapted from an earlier posting in August 2011.