.jump-link{ display:none }

Monday, 5 March 2018

52 Ancestors: Wk. 10 - My Feisty Great Aunt Jennie Danson

“A Strong Female” is the theme of this week’s prompt from Amy Johnson Crow’s series “52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks” and  my choice for this accolade falls on my Great Aunt Jennie Danson (1897-1986).

I have vague memories as a child of Jennie visiting her brother's house (my grandfather),  but she moved south to the English Midlands and we moved north from Lancashire,  we never met regularly.    But I am in touch with her daughter, and  she has given me family stories, photographs and memorabilia  that convey a lovely, lively picture of Jennie  -  and by all accounts she was a feisty character - note that determined look on her face in this, the oldest photograph I have of her, taken c.1909. 

Jennie  was born on Christmas Eve 1897, the last of eleven children (two not surviving infancy), the only daughter of James Danson and Maria Rawcliffe of Poulton-le-Fylde Lancashire -  a large family living  in a small terraced house and joined later by young, orphaned granddaughter  Annie. 

A Strong,  Supportive  Daughter
Jennie was only eight years old when her father James died, an,  as the only daughter,  was particularly close to her mother Maria (left) .A year later,  her eldest brother  Harry died at the age of 30 .  Jennie must  have been 16 years old when the First World War broke out, which saw five Danson brothers serving.   In  September 1916, George, the brother nearest to Jennie in age, was killed on the Somme a few weeks after his 22nd birthday.  Eight months later, second  eldest brother John tragically killed himself whilst in army training, leaving his motherless daughter an orphan - two events which devastated her mother and contributed to her death in 1919. 

A Fiery, Loving Sister
Jennie was born  to a family of eight older brothers - George then aged 3, Frank 5, Albert 7, Tom 9, William 12 (my grandfather), Robert 16, John 18 and Harry 20.  Jennie soon learned to hold her own in the predominately male household, with her favourite brother -  George (right).  Following their mother’s death in 1919,  Jennie  took over the  reins of the household, looking after her four brothers still unmarried and living at home, plus her young niece Annie who had been orphaned.

A Good Friend
On 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, Jennie was allowed to run home with it.  Fortunately it was good news to say that 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.

All these names also feature in a wonderful  collection I inherited of around 50 postcards/photographs  of Jennie's friends.    Was it the custom to exchange such photographs?  Perhaps faced with  a household  of all those brothers, Jennie  was especially grateful for the company of her female friends and their families. 

One of the many photographs in Jennie's friendship  collection - labelled Grannie Jolly
An Independent-Minded Person  
Jennie was determined to lead her own life.  She shocked her mother by cutting off he long haired plait  and adopting the 1920's fashionable short cut.



According to her daughter, Jennie by her late twenties decided she had had enough of fulfilling a domestic role for her four brothers,  who showed no inclination to marry and set up their own home.  So  1929 saw her marry Beadnell (Bill)  Stemp at St. Chad's Church,  Poulton.  This move prompted her brothers all to get married in the following few years!

Marriage and Family

 The local newspaper reported on the wedding in effusive  journalistic  style that makes entertaining reading.
"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 [Annie], 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 o ribbon in shades of orange, reseda and fawn." 

Ten years on in 1938,  and with the Blackpool area in a state of economic depression, Bill took the big decision to seek for work in the English Midlands.  Jennie duly joined him with their young daughter Joan and daughter Pam was born shortly afterwards. But the move was difficult for Jennie.  She had left her large extended family behind and found  the housing and the industrial environment uncongenial,  after the coast and country air in the Fylde. But the family  made various moves to better housing and life continued on  as  she enjoyed a close relationship with her daughters.  

The older Jennie  - but the determined look is the same! 

Jennie died in 1986 at the age of 89, leaving to her 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 (with names inscribed on the back) and other family memorabilia, much relating to her two youngest brothers Frank and George.  

Jennie was truly a strong woman  who, like her mother Maria,  demonstrated resilience, determination and commitment to her family throughout her life.  

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks



  1. Thank you, what an interesting accounting of her life. She was indeed quite the lady.

    1. It is always good to receive comments from readers, and thank you for taking the time to write.

  2. What a wonderful tribute to a strong woman, and so enjoyable to read. (I don't understand some of the fashion terminology in the descriptions of the wedding, but I got the gist of it!) I was surprised to again find a post link that doesn't work, something about an unknown memorial to George Danson? But I'm glad to see this post!

    1. I am pleased you liked my post, Barbara, and thank you for your comment. I am afraid there is nothing on the page about George Danson apart from the title. It is an idea for a future post and in my draft folder, but I went and pressed by mistake Publish instead of Save. My apologies for confusing you again.

  3. The wedding dress and the dresses of the attendants were superb. I enjoyed reading about Jennie.


Thank you for your comment which will appear on screen after moderation.