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Friday, 28 September 2012

U is for Umquihile, Unfortunate, and Unflagging

I am enjoying participating in this series from Aona at ttpw.gouldgeneogy.com/2012/05/take-the-family-history-through-the-alphabet-challenge

U is for:

Umquihile  - this word was new to me until I began researching Scottish records. in more  depth   You may come across this in old documents, wills etc. and it  is an archaic Scots word meaning "the late" or "the deceased."  I lay claim  for this being  most unusual U word| 

We come across in family history research many Unfortunate souls, particularly when browsing through  Poor Law Records.  Some cases unearthed from Scottish Borders archives:

  • Robert Leck, once a well known clockmaker of Jedburgh, admitted to the poorhouse aged 67, with a pattern of admissions and discharges until the time came when he was "wholly disabled, nearly blind and wholly destitute". Interestingly when I did a Google search, I found an illustration of a Robert Leck grandfather clock about to be auctioned in London.
  • The story of Janet Scott had a more positive outcome. Her admission record in 1877 gives us a glimpse of the desperate situation in which many applicants for poor relief found themselves. A single mother with two children and a baby, working as an agricultural labourer, she was "wholly disabled by a cart falling on her". She was on parish relief for three years. However she also demonstrated her resilience, as in the 1881 census she was back earning a living, as an Ag. Lab, along with her two eldest daughters.

Janet Scott's entry in the Jedburgh Union Poorhouse Register, 1877.

  • 15 year old James Robertson is described as "delicate and deformed by spine curvature and will never be able to do much. He needs a suit of clothes, 2 pairs of stockings and 2 handkerchiefs. Allowed.
  • Mary Burns, also in need of clothing, was granted " 1 frock, 2 yards flannel, 2 yards drugget, 2 pinafores and a pair of boots.
  • At Melrose, Rosburghshire, a mother and young children were "footsore and weary" and given help as they made their way from Newcastle to Glasgow to rejoin family - a distance of 114 miles.
  • Mary Phllips was admitted to the Poorhouse as "this woman's husband deserted her, having absconded to America. She has 2 children and is about to be confined. Her parents very poor."

Unlucky - sometime researching family history is a matter of luck.  I have recently been reserching my father's childhood in Shropshire.  I was delighted to find that the Brosely Historical Society website includes extracts from newspapers  with fascinating titbits of life in the local church and school.  But guess what?  The crucial years I wanted of 1925 and 1926 were missing!  

You may also be unlucky when trying to trace  World War One service records for an ancestor, as so many were destroyed in a 1940's bombing raid on the National Archives in London.  My five Danson great uncles served, but I have only managed to trace the records for one of them - George.

Tom and George Danson

 Whether  it is military, school or work, photographs of our ancestors in Uniform  put them in the context of their wider lives.  Below  is my Great Aunt Jenie Danson  (second left)  with colleagues who worked in the local post office in Poulton-le-Fylde, Lancashire.

We are always looking for that Undisputed record on  our ancestor

My four times great grandfather John Danson had a daughter Ellen Danson, baptised at St. Chad's Church in 1763 (Poulton Parish Register) In searching for a marriage I came across an Ellen Danson marrying a Ralph Dewhurst - and made the basic fatal error of assuming this was "my " record - until I disoscvered that there were two other young Ellen Danson's in Poulton around the same time.  Given that the marriage entry does not name her father, I remain Unsure that I do have the right record. 

And finally I remain Unflagging in my family history activities and in following this A-Z challenge - soon to come to its end. 

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Pigeon Post told of the Win- Sepia Saturday

Sepia Saturday encourages bloggers to record their family history through photographs.

When I saw this prompt of three young men carrying  football boots, there was only one photograph I had to feature and  it only came into my possession  a few weeks ago.

Thanks to a local historical society,  I now have the earliest photograph of my father, aged 14 in 1926  as a member of a winning football team.

My father is on the right of the middle row, identified as Perce Weston.

My  father John Percy Weston (1912-2003) had written down for me the memories of his  early life in Brosely, near Ironbridge, Shropshire.

"I was mad keen on soccer, so much so that I had a trial at Birmingham with the English schoolboys. My teacher took me in his car to that and to a second trial at Shrewsbury.

One Saturday when I was working as an errand boy, two directors from Birmingham Football Club came to see Dad and Mum to sign me on for the junior team  - they refused, saying I was too young to be away from home. I was not told about this until later and sulked for a month!

But a bit of glory followed, when my school team entered a cup competition. I was vice-captain and we got to the final - and won the cup, the first ever for Brosely.

One of the supporters took a carrier pigeon along with us and set it loose at the end to let Brosely know the result and to prepare a welcome, as we were bringing home the cup! "

The pigeon was obviously  an ancestor of Twitter!

Apparently a photograph was taken of the team's success, but no pictures of my father's early life passed down the family. I have only one photograph (below)  of him prior to his meeting my mother in 1936. Family memorabilia (including Dad's church choir and football team photographs) were thrown out by a widowed relative.  How sad!

Unfortunately I only had a broad indication of the year for the event, which made tracing it in local newspapers difficult. In an effort to find out more, I contacted Brosely Historical Society who put my enquiry on their online newsletter.   I am delighted to say I have heard from three members of the society with more personal memories - and even better have a photograph of the winning football team, with my father on the middle row right, identified as Perce Weston. I always thought he hated his middle name Percy, but he seemed to be known by that as a child.

This is the earliest photograph I have of my father and I am so grateful to the Society for filing this gap in my family history.  

My father retained his love of football all his life.   He was a great follower of Wolves and Aston Villa and was an avid watcher of matches on television, right up to his death at the age of 91.

And an important lesson from this - don't forget the value that can be gained from contacting local societies.

My father in the 1930's proudly showing off his car with his younger brother Charles, 

Based on a recent posting under the banner of Geneabloggers Thankful Thursday

Click here to find how other bloggers' stories on this week's theme.

Saturday, 22 September 2012

T is for Tributes, Treasures, Telegrams, Timelines, and Thanks



I am enjoying participating in this series from Aona at ttpw.gouldgeneogy.com/2012/05/take-the-family-history-through-the-alphabet-clle

T  is for:

I perhaps was slow to realise this, but I have discovered that blogging gives me a mavellous opportunity to pay Tribute to my ancestors through profiles of my great grandmother Maria Danson, nee Rawcliffe, to my great uncle George Danson who was killed in the First World War, a week after his 22nd birthday, to my grandfather William Danson who won the Military Medal at Givency on the Somme, to my feisty Great Aunt Jennie, to the war time experiences of my father John Weston, to my uncle Harry Danson (right)  who was evacuated at Dunkirk, to the talents of my mother and aunt - Kathleen and Edith Danson. I am proud to have done this.


Treasures of the Family
One of the many World War One postcards
sent back from Flanders
by my grandfather William Danson
to his family back home.

Do you, like me, gasp in amazement at the heirlooms that have survived down generations of ordinary families, as shown on TV's "Antique Roadshow" and "WDYTYA", or on blog postings. I marvel in particular at diaries, christening robes, and artist portraits. My heirlooms are much more mundane but still mean a great deal to me and can be summed up as stitching, paintings, and postcards, plus a copper kettle and teasets.

Telegrams. We perhaps associate telegrams from the past with dreadful news from war fronts. Here, however,  I was lucky to find, after my parents' deaths,  these happy momentoes from their wedding in 1938 and the time when they were separated through war in 1940.

Wedding telegram sent on the occasion of my parent's marriage in 1938

Sent by my father to my mother January 1940
when he was with the MInsitry of Defence in London

Travel is a sideline on family history whether we  go exploring in  the footseps of our ancestors or discover  how our ancestors got about. 

Winter transport in Earlston, Berwickshire
From the postcard collection of the Heritage Hub, Hawick
A charabanc outing  - from my Great Aunt Jenny's collection
Timelines  to me are an important feature of a  family history narrative. I am  a firm believer in setting our ancestors lives in a wider context of life around them - what was happening at a local, national and itnernational leve?  I usully present this in the form of a text box in each chapter.

In 1846

 when Robert Rawcliffe

 married Jane Carr
à     The Preston to Fleetwood Railway was extended from Poulton to Blackpool.

à     The sewing machine was invented

 à     The Irish Potato Famine reached its height with one million people dying by 1851.

I have so much to be Thankful for in my family history activities.
  • Tracking down fascinating sources
  • Tracing new ancestors
  • The Tips, support and online friendship from fellow bloggers.
  • The Touching stories that I have come across.
  • The Topics that It has led me to further study on the ancestral Trail such as Christian, surname and place names, the role and status of women, the social conditions that our ancestors experienced.





    So to summarise  - Family History is Terrific sometimes Tantilizing, sometimes Thrilling, often Theraapeutic, and  I have no intention of Terminating my interest.

    With apologies for the odd spacing in this post.  I am driven to distraction by the new blogger Interface.  Still learning it! 

    Wednesday, 19 September 2012

    In his Sunday Best Suit - Sepia Saturday

    Sepia Saturday gives bloggers an opportunity to share their family history through photographs.

    I don't  have a jailbird in the family, as far as I know.  So I decided to focus on the little boy- standing up straight, looking smart in his jacket and knee breeches. 

    It is the females of the family who usually get featured for their costume, but here from my family collection are four boys in their  Sunday best.

    Frederick Henry Weston (my Uncle Fred),  born 1905. 
    This photograph has only just come into my possession via a distant relative and is one of the very few early photographs I have of my father's Weston family. 
    The story was that photographs were thrown out  following a death.
    What a crime!    

    Harry Rawcliffe Danson, (my Uncle Harry), born 1912
    Harry's middle name came from  his grandmother Maria Danson, nee Rawcliffe.
    This is a section of a larger photograph (below)  showing Harry with his mother Alice, sisters Edith and Kathleen (my mother) and baby brother Billy, taken in 1916 - the year when his father William Danson went off to war in Flanders. 

    24 years later Harry survived the Battle of Dunkirk.  He retained his good dark looks all his life.

    Below are two photographs from the large collection left by my Great Aunt Jennie (Danson), who grew up in Poulton-le-Fylde, Lancashire. She had written names on the back, but otherwise little is known about them.   I suspect they are the children of friends, but I was unable to make any headway in further identification through a search of the 1911 census.
    Jackie Threlfall

    Jesse and Bernard Pennington

    To read contributions from other bloggers on this theme, click here

    Sunday, 16 September 2012

    Shopping Pleasures - Sepia Saturday

    Sepia Saturday gives bloggers an opportunity to share their family history through photographs. 

    When  I saw this  week's photo prompt, it conjured up a number of memories in my head:

    1. Shopping with my mother in the 1950's in the Home and Colonial Store in Blackpool, Lancashire; also a dark  haberdashery store which intrigued me - all the walls were  lined  with drawers and cupboards, and the staff seemed to know where everything was;  another fascination was the Co-op with the money travelling back and forth along wires  in the little canisters above the counters.  
    The old fashioned shops in Beamish Open Air Museum in County Durham.

    A  course I had to do at work on the dreaded ""Health and Safety".  How many contraventions of current legislation and practices can you spot in the photo prompt?  The assistant  perched precariously on the ladder for a start.

    My father  account,  written down in his   "Early Life"  -   "Leaving school in 1926, I went to work in a grocer's shop  where I had been the Saturday errand boy.  I graduated to delivering bags of corn 80lbs plus,  with the pony and trap - a Welsh cob called Tommy who was inclined to be lazy.  At night I rode him bareback to a field."   I cannot imagine my father on this job, as he never gave the slightest indication  of any affinity or interest  in  horses.  Perhaps this experience was enough!


    Unfortunately I have no photographs in my family history collection which reflect this theme, so am featuring instead recent happy holiday memories of  shopping in Austria and Bavaria  - with perhaps some ideas for brightening up our beleagured High Streets!  




    Copyright © 2012 · Susan Donaldson.  All Rights Reserved

    To see how  other bloggers  have looked at this theme, click here


    A-Z Challenge - S for Scotlands People & Places, Statistical Acocunts, Sadness & Sisters Records

    A-Z of Family History Sources & Stories 
    Join me on this A-Z journey to explore the fascinating records 
    that can  enhance your family history research and writing.

    SCOTLANDS' PEOPLEis the definitive site for anyone researching Scottish ancestry, and the only one to date which offers digital, downloadable records.  

    The website at  www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk features old parish records (pre-1855), census returns, statutory BMD - wills,  catholic registers, and a more recent feature valuation rolls of property + much more e.g. research tools and background information. 

    A pay-as-you-view site where you buy 30 credits for £7.  Search results only cost 1 credit (23p), but to view the actual record costs 5 credits (£1.16), which is where you can soon go through your purchase.  if you click to view on a wrong record.

    A tip - as I have a subscription to Ancestry, I search initially on this to establish which record is "my" family, before paying to view and download the right record from ScotlandsPeople.

    SCOTLANDS' PLACES is a much lesser known site at www.scotlandsplaces.gov.uk.   The website  allows  you   to search across different national databases using geographic locations. It features historical buildings and monuments,  gazetteers, name books  & maps and of particular  interest largely unknown tax records from the 17th and 18th centuries.  e.g. window tax, hearth tax,  carriage tax, male and female servant tax rolls, horse tax, cart tax, clock & watch tax, non-working dog tax, and farm horse tax.  Well worth looking at for their curiosity value!      A subscription site.                                                                                        

    STATISTICAL ACCOUNTS - Written by each parish minister  they give a contemporary  account of life at the time, with the first edition published 1791-99 and the "New Statistical Account" 1834-45.    They tell you how many paupers, cattle, sheep, horses,  etc. were in the parish,  give details on the land,  trades and occupations, the school, and the church, with frank comments on "miserable hovels", "the church roof leaks rain  on the congregation"  and "there is a want of fuel in winter".

    if you have Scottish ancestors  these are "a  must see" rich  source of background information.  Take a look at http://stat-acc-scot.edina.ac.uk/sas/sas.asp?action=public

    SADNESS, SOLEMNITY & SISTERS  are all sources of family history stories,  illustrated in this photograph of the MacFarlane family of nine sisters (Bridget, Kate, Mary, Ellen, Sarah, Annie, Jane, Maggie and Jemima)  and one brother  (Patrick), with their mother Annie.  The dark clothes and solemn expressions, with their mother holding a bible or prayer book suggest this was on the occasion of a funeral.   The style of dress and the estimated age of the youngest daughter indicated c.1910 and I believe this was taken after the death of their father James in 1912. 

    SURNAMES always fascinate me. Whenever I come across an unusual name in the news etc., my immediate reaction is - "I would love to research that". Two examples come to mind - in my own Scottish Borders the surname Govanlock and in my home county of Lancashire Sturzacker.  What is the background to such distinctive names?  One of the many challenges from my "to do" list I  would like to explore further. 

    SIGNATURES - how great to have something actually penned by an ancestor, even if it is a   photocopy - such as the wills found in the Lancashire Archives. signed by my g.g.g.g.grandfather  (dated 1813) and g.g.g. grandfather (dated 1833).  In this age of electronic communication  when handwriting is becoming a dead art, will our descendants have this experience?.  

    And finally  
    • School Records  have a look here  at an earlier post for further information
    • Sasines - Scottish property records.

    Onto T for Tributes & Taxation 

    Copyright © 2015 · Susan Donaldson.  All Rights Reserved  


    Wednesday, 12 September 2012

    Remembering 9-11: Memories from Scotland.

     Thomas MacEntee at Geneabloggers has asked us to record our memories of 9/11. 

    11th September 2001 - I was working at Library Headquarters that day in the Local Studies Room when my daughter phoned to tell me that a plane had crashed into the twin towers in New York. I had visited the city many many years ago, long before the twin towers were built and I was a bit hazy about them, but my first reaction was "what an appalling accident".

    I told colleagues and we logged onto the BBC website and saw the dreadful news of the second strike. There was an American visitor in the Study Room and we broke the news to him - he immediately went outside to phone friends and family. We then dashed to the Training Room where there was a television. Two work colleages had daughters holidaying  in New York and had the agonizing wait of days, with communications down,  to hear that they were safe.

    Words cannot describe the horror. What struck in my mind most was the experience of those on the planes who had left Boston,  to discover they were flying to their death - yet whose thoughts were to phone family expressing their love.

    Celtic Cross on Iona
    looking over to the Isle of Mull
     A week later we were on holiday on the west coast of Scotland and took the ferry from Oban to sail to the Isle of Mull and then onto the Isle of Iona. It was the most perfect September day you could have asked for - sunny blue skies, a calm deep blue sea, a panorama of hills and the seals bobbing around the ferry.    The atmosphere was strangely quiet and subdued. There were many American tourists on the boat, and   people were going up to them to shake their hands and extend their sympathy.


    Everyone talks abut the magical nature of Iona - the seat of Scottish Christianity where St. Columba founded his Abbey in 563AD. It is amazing that even though the boat seemed busy, visitors spread out on the small island and it seems as if you have the place to yourself.

     It was so peaceful - a beautiful haven in what suddenly seemed a very evil world. 


    Adapted from from a posting on the 10th anniversary.
    Island Photographs - Copyright Susan Donaldson, 2011

    Sunday, 9 September 2012

    A Very Special Ancestral Photo - 52 Weeks of Abundant Genealogy

    ANCESTOR'S PHOTOS    is the latest topic from Amy at http://wetree.blogspot.com/ in conjunction with Geneabloggers, in the series of weekly blogging prompts on the theme of 52 Weeks of Abundant Genealogy.

    For which ancestral photograph are you most grateful? Who is in the photo and how did you acquire it? Why does it  hold a special place in your heart?

    There was little question which photograph I would choose to feature here - one which has been key to the enjoyment I have had from my family history.   

    Maria Danson, nee Rawcliffe with her granddaughter Annie Maria.

    The fun I have had from Family History began at a young age. In a cupboard by the fireplace in my grandfather's house in Poulton-le-Fylde, near Blackpool was an old shoebox full of family photographs. It was a great treat if I was allowed to look through them, particularly the First World War embroidered cards sent back by my grandfather to his family. My grandfather William Danson was one of eight surviving brothers, five of whom served in the army and formed part of this photographic collection. 
    But the one picture that attracted my best attention was this  striking one of my great grandmother Maria Rawcliffe, and I soon wanted to find out more about her.

    In my imagination, her name was an evocative mixture of down-to-earth Lancashire grit (Rawcliffe) with echoes of a more flamboyant Latin nature (Maria).  She looked a formidable lady from this photograph  To give additional colour there was a, no doubt, apocryphal story that “granny’s dark looks” came from Spanish descent, after an Armada ship had been wrecked off the Fylde coast of Lancashire.

    The findings in the actual research were much more prosaic. Maria was born in Hambleton, near Poulton-le-Fylde in 1859, the sixth of seven daughters to Robert Rawcliffe (an agricultural labourer and carter) and Jane Carr. By comparison, her sisters had much more ordinary names - Anne, Jane, Margaret, Jennet, Alice and Martha. Their mother died when Maria was only 6 years old and Robert later remarried a woman with three illegitimate children and they had four children of their own - so Maria had a large exteNDed family of half siblings and step siblings.     

    At 18 years old, Maria married James Danson at Singleton and went on to have ten sons, before the birth of her only daughter Jennie in 1897.  Nine years later her husband James died, leaving her a widow with a young family. Two sons died in the First World War.  All these basic facts of an eventful life made me determined to do more research. 

    Maria with her only daughter Jennie and her granddaughter Annie
    c. 1909.  A photograph found in Jennie's photograph collection.
    As for the Spanish Armada story, a published local history of Hambleton told of an incident in 1643 at the time of the English Civil War. A Spanish frigate, the Santa Anna ran aground in the River Wyre estuary. The crew were taken off the ship, which was set alight to prevent it falling into the hands of the Roundheads. No efforts were made to get the crew home and several married local farmer’s daughters. The dark Spanish features showed up in their children.   So maybe I do have some Spanish blood in me after all!


    Maria's  life is at the heart  of my family history and it was the first I turned into a family history narrative.  She was my inspiration for my ancestral trail - and I have never stopped!  All thanks to the original photograph above.

    Copyright © 2012 · Susan Donaldson.  All Rights Reserved

    Thursday, 6 September 2012

    R is for Regret, Receipts, Reconnecting, Railways & Regional Names: A-Z Challenge .

     I am enjoying participating in this series from Aona at http://www.gouldgenealogy.com/2012/05/take-the-family-history-through-the-alphabet-

    R is for:

    Research, Records,
    Resources, References and Registrars  - at the heart of our family history activities.

    Regret in not asking the right questions of the right people at the right time. 

    Reconnecting with Relatives  - family history has given me the push  to get in touch with relatives e.g. my mother's cousins, who  I knew about from my childhood,  but had had no contact  particularly when  they had moved to another part of the country. I prevaricated about this for ages,  but what  a resource I had been missing out on!  I have had a marvellous reception from them  to hearing  a family voice from the past - "I remember a little girl with pig tails".  We have exchanged memories and paid visits.

    The daughter of my Great Aunt Jennie had a box of memorabilia in her loft, which she  wondered what to do with - and I was the benefactor of photographs, used heavily in my blog, including the only photograph of my great grandfather James Danson and two unknown photographs of my great grandmother Maria Rawcliffe - plus much much more.   I was also able to see and photograph Maria's teaset and jewellery (below).  I was touching personal possessions used by Maria who lived 1859-1919. 

    A brooch and necklace brought back from Malta by Maria's son Frank,
     after he was in hospital on the island  during the First World War.

    Receipts  - those bits of paper which tend to get thrown out. Yet they are a  piece of ephemera  that can be so full of interest for family historians. 


    This receipt was paid by my grandmother Alice English on February 26th 1907 for: two yards of bodice lining, hooks, silk sundries and bodice making. Two months later Alice married William Danson.  Was this her wedding outfit? It surely must have had sentimental value for it to be kept.

    Regional Names  -  my main areas of interest are my mother's Danson and Rawcliffe families - both prominent names in Lancashire.  My father John Weston came from the English Midlands, where that surname is prevalent.

    I live now in the Scottish Borders, which has many distinctive surnames associated with the region. If  you are researching the surname of Scott, Turnbull, Elliot, or Armstrong you have a challenge ahead of you to ensure you are looking at the right branch - there are so many. 

    I recently helped a friend trace her Spowart miner ancestors  in Fife, Scotland.  The surname to me was unusual, but look at Fife records, and Spowarts abound.

    Railways - I find railway history fascinating and I think we tend to forget what an outstanding development railways were. You have only to read old newspaper accounts on the coming of a railway to a community to realise the impact it had and what a difference it could make to the lives of ordinary people now able to travel other than on foot or by horse and cart.

    Peebles Station in the Scottish Borders - since demolished and now a car park. .
    From the postcard collection of the Heritage Hub, Hawick
     Rich and Rewarding Research