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Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Sepia Saturday -Three's Company

Sepia Saturday give bloggers an opportunity to share their family history and memories through photographs.
My theme this week is very straightforward - Threesomes.

 My great grandmother Maria Danson, nee Rawcliffe (1859-1919)
with her daughter Jennie (my great aunt)  and little granddaughter Annie. c. 1909. 

Jennie was the only daughter and last child of James and Maria Danson, born on Christmas Eve, December 24th 1897, with her eight (surviving)  brothers George then aged 3, Frank 5, Albert 7, Tom 9, William 12, Robert 16, John 18 and Harry 20 – quite a household in what looked like  a cramped terraced house.  Their father James died in 1906. 

Jennie's photograph collection forms the basis of much of my family history and even better she had identified the names on the back of the photos.   

Little Annie,  the daughter of second son John Danson and Sarah Haydon Lounds, was born 1905, but sadly Sarah died a year later and the infant Annie made her home with her grandmother, her many uncles and  her aunt Jennie, who was only eight years her senior. Further tragedy struck when Annie's  father John died in army camp in 1917. leaving Annie an orphan.


Tom, Janie and Jack Riley, the grandchildren of Maria's sister Jane Riley, nee Rawcliffe, c.1913  


Jack Riley is identified in the centre  of this group,  wearing sailor’s uniform  and a cap HMS Chester.
Jack was 5 months old in the 1901 census, but so far I have been unable to find him ten years on.  

I did a search for HMS Chester and was surprised to find it was the ship on which a young sailor John
 Travers Cornwell fought at the Battle of Jutland in 1916 and  was warded the Victoria  Cross for a conspicuous act of bravery.  The citation reads  "Mortally wounded early in the action, Boy, First Class, John Travers Cornwell remained standing alone at a most exposed post, continuing to service his gun, until the end of the action, with the gun's crew dead and wounded all round him. His age was under sixteen".

Was jack Riley another young sailor  on board HMS Chester at this time?  I have  a postcard sent by his mother to my great grandmother to say " Jack went out to sea today.  He went in good spirits".  The postmark is difficult to make out but could be 7.?? 16.  Here is something else to add to my "Research To Do" list.

John Cornwell was a keen scout in his home town and in his honour the Boy Scout Association instituted  the Cornwell Scout Badge, awarded for outstanding acts of  courage and endurance in the face of adversity.

There is an additional  personal dimension to this story, for my husband received the Cornwell badge in 1948 following three years serious illness  in hospital.

It is amazing the direction family history can take you!



Another photograph from Jennie's collection, identified as Amy,  Edna and Lavinia Dodd, Todmorden.
Jennie's youngest brother George had enlisted  January 1916 at Todmorden, West Yorkshire.  His service record gave his   address at the time as  17 Harker Street, Harley Bank,  Todmorden, with occupation station bookstall manager. 
I turned to the 1911 census online  and found the Dodd family at  17 Harker Street, Harley Bank,  Todmorden, with head of household Elizabeth Dodd (occupation choring) and three daughters Amy aged 15 (a cotton weaver) , Edna 12 (a fustian sewer)  and Lavinia  aged 9. 
 My brother Chris and I,  with our father on a busy promenade in Bournemouth . c.1952  

Dad, Chris and I

Click HERE to meet Threesomes from other Sepia Saturday bloggers.  
Copyright © 2013 · Susan Donaldson.  All Rights Reserved


  1. Happy Blogiversary!

    Regards, Grant


  2. Nice groups of threes with information.

  3. Those of are some giant bows on the two girls.

    I love seeing the progression in your family photos. You're all still looking great.

  4. You found a lot of three's in your photos. Poor little orphan Annie. Good thing she had lots of uncles and aunts. Interesting that your husband would receive the Cornwell Certificate. Did you know that before you started this research? Enjoyed reading the whole post.

    1. Thanks, Helen, for your comment. I knew about my husband receiving the Cornwell Award and he has a photograph of the presentation. But it was only when I googled for this post "HMS Chester" that I realised my mother's second cousin, Jack Riley, may well have been on the ship around the same time as John Cornwell who was killed in action and later awarded the Victoria Cross. Another one of those fascinating family coincidences.

  5. I felt sorry for Annie, but, I'm sure she was treated with much love from such a large family. Brave young lad in your story.

  6. Your smile is just the same as it was when you were a little girl
    Poor Orphan Annie what a sad story

  7. It is indeed sad that Annie lost her parents so young, although it was quite common then. She was fortunate to have found a loving home with her grandmother who must have been a remarkable lady. An intereresting gallery of threesomes.

  8. Love the Family Trio photos of you and your brother with Dad.

  9. I struggled to find family trios; no chance that I could have come up with as many grand photos of yours. I know my father and at least one of his brothers served in WWI, but have failed to trace where they served.

  10. Wow, you've really outdone yourself with these. I snipped the postal stamp and doctored the shadows and light, but all I could come up with was a 7 and an 18. I think I can make out a "BLE". I love puzzles.

    Poor Annie had quite a lot of tragedy in her life, didn't she? She does look sweet in that top photo though.

    I love the past-present ones of you, your dad and your brother. Great stuff!

    1. Thanks, Kat, for trying to date the postcard for me. You could be right that it is 1918. It is a bit difficult to tell from the photograph Jack's likely age, but 16 did seem a bit young, if the date was 1916. The puzzle remains!

  11. Oh, that wonderful shot of you and your brother and father -- that grin on your face is spectacular -- you were happy and excited! And nice to see that same grin all those many years later...wonderful family shot.

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  13. lovely photographs, and great stories behind them! You are so lucky to have had your Jennie thoughtfully writing people's names on the backs - if only someone had done that for my old album containing a large number unidentified photos :-)
    ps. Sorry about the previous comment removal, but somehow I seem to have trouble sending comments through my Ipad, and can't change or correct anything I've written - I'm not sure why, but I guess the moral is, best to just use my laptop for comments.

  14. One of my ancestors went to sea when he was 9 years old! It's hard to imagine the life on board for such young children.

  15. I love when a bit of research on one post points us towards another area to research - it really is never-ending isn't it?

  16. Thank you to everyone for some lovely comments. it has been interesting to see what aspect of the post struck a chord.

  17. The first photo really caught the two girls at their best and it makes a very beautiful trio. The three sailors are interesting as I've rarely seen a black British sailor from this era. Out of curiosity I looked up young John Cornwell to see what kind of information is available for the British navy from 1914-18. The biggest challenge is sorting through all the identical names. The military never throws anything away, but finding the correct records needs great patience. Learning more of Jack Riley's experience on the HMS Chester would make a terrific story. Good luck.

  18. Such a wonderful 'Threesome' post with so many special pictures and interesting histories. To have the handwritten post card and the certificate is amazing and a source of great interest historically. As a family genealogist, I so appreciate these rare documents that lead us on a quest for more knowledge both about family and the time in which they lived.

    Great post and photos. I enjoyed my first visit to your blog.
    Sue CollectInTexasGal~Today's Post~
    Older Sister Syndrome~Sepia SAT Sibling 3Some

  19. So sad about her loss, but wow, talk about threesomes! You did triple well!

  20. Great photos of three Sue! I especially like the before and after shots of you, your brother and Dad. Poor little Annie...makes you realise how tough times were doesn't it.

  21. Sue, straight forward threesome are a winning fare!!! So many great photos, I loved the rather haunting beauty of the three sisters, but all were great.

  22. My particular favorite in these photos si the three sisters who have their hair tied back with a very large bow at the nape of the neck. I like that fashion.

  23. Thank goodness for these aunts, uncles and other family members who were so conscientious about preserving family photo collections, documents, etc. It's quite a responsibility, though, having taken on that task, because you have to find someone else to hand it over to in due course. Maria was a very young 50, considering how many children she'd had.

    1. Oh, I noticed the black sailor in that third portait - pretty unusual for that time, I would have thought.

  24. All kinds of threesomes. I love it! That is an interesting story about the Cornwall Badge.


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