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Friday, 28 February 2014

52 Ancestors: 8 - Feisty Great Aunt Jennie (1897-1986)

52ancestors Amy at No Story Too Small has come up with a new challenge for 2014 - to write a post  each week on a specific ancestor. 

 My great aunt Jennie Danson (1897-1986) was,  by all accounts,  quite a feisty character.  She was the only daughter and last child of James Danson and Maria Rawcliffe of Poulton-le-Fylde, Lancashire, born on 24th December 1897, after eight surviving brothers - George then aged 3, Frank 5, Albert 7, Tom 9, William 12 (my grandfather), Robert 16, John 18 and Harry 20 - a large family in a small terraced house. Her father died when when was eight years old, and two brothers John and George died in the  First World War.

The oldest photograph c. 1909 of Jennie (left)  shows her to be around 12 years old, pictured with her mother and her niece Annie Maria, daughter of brother John.


In leaving school, Jennie went to work in Poulton Post Office.  Her daughter Pam recalls a story that during the First World War, a telegram was received at the Post  Office for Mrs Maria Danson.  Fearing the worst, Jenny was allowed to run home with it.  Fortunately it was good news to say that brother Frank was in hospital in Malta but was doing well.   

Was this a group (below)  of Jennie's work colleagues, given they were all dressed in the  same skirts and blouses?   Names on the reverse -  Gerty Roskell, Jennie Danson, Annie Jolly, Margaret Porter, Madge O' Rourke, Edith Jackson.

I love this photo (left) of Jennie, with the iconic 1920s hairstyle.  She  was determined to lead her own life,  much to the dismay of her five unmarried  brothers who were used to her running the home after the death of their mother (Maria) in 1919.  Jennie married Beadnell (Bill) Stemp in 1929. 

Do look at the report below from the local paper - it makes for fascinating reading, not least for the fulsome journalistic style and descriptions of the dresses in a wedding 1920's style.

"A wedding of much local interest took place in the Poulton Parish Church on Saturday afternoon the bride being Miss Jennie Danson daughter of the late Mr and Mrs James Danson, Bull Street and the bridegroom Mr Beadnell Stemp, son of Mr and Mrs B. Stemp, Jubilee Lane, Marton.

The bride who was given away by her brother Mr R. Danson was stylishly gowned in French grey georgette, veiling silk to tone.  The bodice which was shaped to the figure was quite plain, with a spray of orange blossoms at the shoulder, while the skirt, which was ankle length, was composed entirely of five picot edged scalloped circular frills, and the long tight sleeves had circular picot edged frilled cuffs in harmony.  Her hat was of georgette to tone with uneven pointed dropping brim, having an eye veil of silver lace and floral mount.  She carried a bouquet of pink carnations with silver ribbon and horsehoe attached,

Mrs H. Ditchfield (niece of the bride), wore a gown of delphinium blue georgette, the corsage being in silver lace as also the edge of the handkerchief pointed flare skirt.  Her hat was in georgette to tone, in picture style and she carried a bouquet of blue irises in harmonise.

The little bridesmaids, Miss Peggy Danson (niece of the bride) and Miss Nellie Stemp (niece of the bridegroom) were daintily attired in primrose and eu-de-nil georgette, the picot edged circular skirts made to correspond to the dress of the bride, and they wore Dutch hats in harmony, and both carried posy bouquets, with long streamers of ribbon to tone with their dresses. 

The reception was held at the home of the bride’s brother after which the newly married couple went to Chester where the honeymoon is being spent.

The bride travelled in a dress of picky beige double georgette, the skirt which was circular scalloped, with coat of faced cloth to tone, with collar and cuffs in brown skunk fur.  Her hat had a dropping brim of brown felt, while the crown was made of ribbon in shades of orange, reseda and fawm." 

Jennie died in 1986 at the age of 88, leaving to her two daughters a legacy of memories of her own  mother Maria,  tangible family artifacts such as her mother’s tea set and jewellery,  a large collection of  photographs (mostly with names inscribed on the back) and other family memorabilia, much relating to her two youngest brothers Frank and George.  

Jennie was  truly  a feisty fearless woman 

Adapted from a post written in 2011 as part of the Fearless Females series 
to mark National Women's History Month in the USA.  

Copyright © 2014 · Susan Donaldson.  All Rights Reserved

Sepia Saturday - Five Generations in the Back Yard

Each week Sepia Saturday, provides an opportunity for genealogy bloggers to share their family history through photographs. 
A stark image of fences, sheds and back yards is this week's prompt. and here are five generations of my family taken in their varied back yards. 

There is an anecdote  here connected with "back yard". Many years ago I spent a year working in the USA and was invited to visit a work colleague, who commented that we would sit in the "back yard".  I wasn't too sure about that prospect!   For to me (born in the north of England),  it conjured up  a "Coronation Street" picture of back-to-back terraced houses with a small paved or cobbled   back yard for storing the dustbins and bikes - very utilitarian.  I was wrong,  of course,  with my interpretation, for Instead I found that this American "back yard"  was a large garden with a beautiful lawn and flower beds - so much for transatlantic misunderstandings!   

My first photograph was taken in a typical English back yard where my grandparents William Danson and Alice English posed for a photograph before he set off for war in  1916.   They lived in a terraced house on Bull Street, just off the Square, in Poulton-le-Fylde, Lancashire,  The houses were demolished in the 1960's and replaced by a shopping centre. 

William Danson  and Alice English - my grandparents , 1916.

Bull Street, Poulton-le-Fylde, where my Danson grandparents lived until 1926.

Playing in the back garden - 
my aunt  Edith (seated) & mother Kathleen Danson, c.1914

My mother in the back garden of her first married home, c.1938

My first photo with my Dad  in the back garden of home. 1944 

The same back garden - this time with my mother and pet kitten, c.1946

The other side of England at  South Shields, County Durham  - 
my husband with his grandparents Matthew Iley White & Alice Armitage, c.1939.

Another back garden in South Shields, 
My husband this time on the shoulder of his Uncle Matty 
with his father Jim alongside  in a very natty pullover, c.1940

Onto 1965  and  the back garden of our home in Edinburgh .  
 Posing for a family photograph  before I headed off for my year in the USA.  
My aunt Edith with Mum on the grass (50 years from the earlier  photograph above), with  Dad -  plus my brother oblivious to it all!
Me - enjoying the sun in Nantucket, Massachusetts, 1966. 

Onto 1981 and the back garden of our home in Hawick in the Scottish Borders.  It is summer and this is my first attempt (and virtually the last)  at cooking on a barbecue, but my efforts fell foul of the weather - hence the umbrella. Did I really need that watering can there as a health & safty measure?   I hunted all over  for  this photograph for a recent prompt but found it last week in the loft, so am pleased to put it to good use here! 

1998  - a lovely family group of three generations, taken after my brother's (second) wedding - and yes he did wear that red shirt for the occasion. 
Dad in the middle, with my niece and daughter seated.

my little granddaughter enjoying her back garden.

Happy family photographs that make me smile!

Click HERE to see more blogger tales of fences, sheds and back yards

Copyright © 2014 · Susan Donaldson.  All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Sepia Saturday - Rocky Memories

Each week Sepia Saturday, provides an opportunity for genealogy bloggers to share their family history through photographs.  

Take a journey into rocky memories visiting India, the  Scottish Borders, the Lake District,  Brimham Rocks in Yorkshire, Staffa off Scotland's west coast and Marsden Rock at South Shields, County Durham.


My husband's uncle Matty (Matthew Iley White) of South Shields, County Durham is among this group of soldiers perched on a rock in India.   Matty  served in the  Durham Light Infantry in India 1933-1937, as listed in his service book below. 

Little  daughter  on a little rock surveying the land above  Hawick in the  Scottish Borders, c.1976.  It must have been a good summer as the land looks unusually  dry.   


A windy day as daughter, now a lot older, but still perching on a rock! 

A large rock in the Lake District - near Keswick (I think) c.1988  I don't know how I was adventurous  enough to climb to the top - I could not do it now. 

To North Yorkshire  - and the Brimham Rocks, hugh balancing rock formations  with spectacular views over the Niddersdale Moors. With a labyrinth of paths and plenty of hiding places, be warned,  this is a great place to lose children who can hunt for rocks with weird names such as  Dancing Bear, The Eagle and The Gorilla, The Smartie Tube and balance on the Rocking Stones.  In the care of the National Trust. 

We now head north to the west coast of Scotland - and Staffa which  lies 9 miles off the Isles of Mull and Iona.  Its most famous feature is Fingal's Cave,  a large sea cave located near the southern tip of the island some 60 feet high.   The sight  of the rocks and the sound of the sea inspired composer Felix Mendellsohn to capture his visit  in 1829 in "The Hebrides Overture". Other famous visitors followed - John Keats, Sir walter Scott, Joseph Turner and Robert Louis Stevenson.  Queen Victoria and Prince Albert were rowed into the cave on the royal barge in 1847. 

Approaching Fingal's Cave on the Island of Staffa.
A view from the top - quite a climb on steps cut into the rocks, 
with a rope to hold on to  as a safely aid!

A journey  to South Shields at  the  mouth of the River Tyne - home of my husband's Donaldson ancestors. 

Marsden Rock is a 100 foot sea stack which lies 100 yards off the cliff face.  Believed to be once  a smugglers' haunt,  it is now the home of seabird colonies.   In 1803 a flight of steps was constructed up the side of the rock. In 1903 several choirs climbed onto the rock to perform a choral service.   My husband spent his childhood here, with the beach a favourite playground.

In a way this is an historic photograph, as in 1996 the arch collapsed, splitting the rock into two stacks. The smaller stack was decreed unsafe and demolished.  

Among the cliff face rocks at Marsden  c. 1983 

 Daughter (left) with her cousin and dog Cindy - with matching hairstyles! 

Copyright © 2014 · Susan Donaldson.  All Rights Reserved

Click HERE to discover other bloggers' rocky photographs

Monday, 24 February 2014

Book of Me - Technocrat or Technophobe?

This  post was prompted by Julie at Anglers Rest  and  her  series " Book of Me - Written by You", where she asks us  to record,   for future descendants,   memories and insights about own lives. 

Technophobe or technocrat?  That is the question. 
Central heating, automatic washing machine, instant communication and entertainment, cars, trains and planes - what would my life be like  without these elements of technology?   I like my home comforts.

I suppose the radio must have been my first encounter with technology, followed in 1953 by television. 20 years on colour television came along and then the mysteries of videos and DVDs - and yes - I am the stereotype woman,  as I haven't a clue how to programme them.   For me they brought my favourite art of  ballet directly into my home, something that before I could only experience in the theatre  itself.   As far as the TV goes, things such as high definition and the red button I ignore.

  Soundwise it was a big event around 1959 when our family Christmas present was a gramophone/record player, though we could only afford a few records for it and I remember spending my pocket money in Woolworths buying 78's of Oklahoma, Carousel and Gilbert & Sullivan.  Technology moved on to those cumbersome decks for recording on tape,  to be replaced quickly by what seemed miniscule tape cassettes and then CDs, though I still have some of my favourite long playing records up in the loft.  A Walkman proved a godsend for me when I was in hospital for a major operation.  What a pleasure and change from reading, crosswords and sudoku  to be able to tune into my favourite radio progammes  - though there were regular anxious pleas to family "Bring in some batteries"!  Pop culture passed me by and I Pods and MP3's are other new mysteries I don't know anything about  - and don't see much need to know.

I remember the early days of getting a telephone, although it was on a shared line.  Today my mobile is for quick contact with family and not much else.  I stick with my basic model and again don't see the need for  all those fancy functions.   To me a Blackberry remains a delicious fruit - not a bit of up-market technology.

I enjoy browsing the  the library shelves for books and I love curling up in bed or on the  sofa or even in the bath with a good book.   I can't see that an electronic book has nearly the same appeal.   However I have moved on this a wee bit, and am quite taken with the latest Amazon TV advert for a Kindle.

At work I progressed from manual typewriter, to an electric one,   to word processor and to computer. How on earth did I manage in the "olden days" without spell check?   I achieved the status of becoming  a home silver surfer around 1999 when getting linked online was my Christmas present - and I haven't looked back since.  After all where would my blog - and my life -  be without this wonderful piece of technology which has  brought me so much pleasure.  

Camera wise, I was equally slow coming to grips with a digital model, but now I would not be without it for the enjoyment  it has given me in enhancing  my blog.  

As for social network sites, I am not a fan of Facebook, and have no inclination to ever tweet.  But I have found the Geneabloggers network site for family historians  a wonderful support and have recently joined Google+.   

And where am I now?  I admit, particularly since I retired and lost the support of work colleagues,  I am getting behind with IT developments.   I am regularly impressed   when I read about the skills of  other bloggers.   

So what is high on my next birthday or Christmas list? An I-Pad.  My daughter has convinced me I should not be without one!  

So yes, perhaps I am a bit of a stick in the mud when it comes to technology - in no way a technophobe, but not exactly a technocrat.   

[Adapted from a post written in 2011 in the series 52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy]

Copyright © 2014 · Susan Donaldson.  All Rights Reserved