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Tuesday, 22 August 2017

My Mystery Photo Identified - Genealogy Blog Picnic Challenge

The Genealogy Blog Party invites us this month to a "pot luck" picnic  to feature  a family history issue and how we solved it.

        My topic - How I broke down  a brick wall and identified a mystery  photograph. 



For over 10 years I puzzled over  "Who is this striking family group?"   The photograph mounted on heavy dark card,  came to me in 2001 in the large collection of my great aunt Jennie, only daughter of my great grandparents James Danson and Maria Danson nee Rawcliffe. of Poulton-le-Fylde, Lancashire.    Unlike many of Jennie's photographs, she had not written anything on the back - perhaps because of the dark mount. There was also  no photographer's details  to indicate where it had been taken. 

So how did I go about solving the mystery? 
  • I quickly established  that it was not a connection with  Jennie's father's side of the family.
  • But Jennie's mother Maria had four sisters - Anne, Jane, Alice,  and Jennet.  Surely  it must be one of them? 
     
  • I set out to research the sisters' background, using Family Search and Ancestry.   Anne, Jane and Jennet were all traced relatively easily through to the 1901 census,  all living in the Poulton area. But the composition of the family and ages of the children  in my photograph  ruled  them out.   But what about Alice? 
  • I traced Alice's birth on 26th December 1853.  She was christened Alice Margaret - with her middle name perhaps in remembrance of the baby sister who had died a year earlier.   In the 1871 cesnus, she was a domestic servant  and two years later she married James Mason, a gardener. 
  • The 1881 cesnus saw the family living in Fleetwood, Lancashire, with four children - Robert William, aged 7, Jane Elizabeth 5, John Thomas 3 and baby James Richard,  9 months - their names all reflecting those of extended family members.  
     
  • And there the  trail ran cold.  I could not trace the family  in either the 1891 or 1901 censuses.
     
  • The research into my Rawcliffe ancestors had led me to assume that they were very firmly based in the Fylde area of Lancashire around the small towns of Poulton and Fleetwood.
     
  • So it was a huge surprise to find, in a very casual browsing for Rawcliffes on Family Search , an entry for Alice Mason, nee Rawcliffe, born Hambleton 1853,  but that she had died in Jamesburg, New Jersey on 24th February 1930 - the first time I was aware of any American connection.
     
  • These were the days when Family Search gave contact details of the submitter of the information, so I wrote away.  Frustratingly my letter was returned "Not known at this address". 
  • I put an enquiry on various message boards with little success.  I did get one positive response of a connection, but my request for more information was ignored.  - more frustration! 
     
  • In the meantime I traced the  New York Passenger Lists on Ancestry  to find that James had emigrated from Liverpool in 1886, joined a year later by Alice, aged 34  and now with six  children aged from  13 to 1 year (and two pieces of baggage).   How on earth did she cope on the voyage?  This was the first revelation of another son George Rawcliffe Mason, born in 1885.  


  • I turned to  Ancestry.com and established that the family took out American citizenship in 1895. The 1900 census found that within  twelve years of landing in America,  James and Alice had a further five children - Arthur Valentine, born appropriately on 14th February 1888, Harold Arthur Victor,  Lilian Eveline, Bessie Irene and Florence Adelaide - their names in sharp contrast to the family names of their siblings, born in England. 
  • Further research established that Arthur, Lilian and Bessie sadly died in infancy.
     
  • At some point the family moved across the river to New Jersey, for in the 1900 census, they were living in Jamesburg, Middlesex County,
  • So was my mystery photograph Alice and John Mason?   Eldest daughter Jane Elizabeth was still unmarried as late as the 1920 census, so she could be the woman on the back left, and is that her younger sister and brother - possibly Florence and Harold?  

  •  I then set up my blog, with an early post in 2011  telling Alice's story as a "Lancashire Lass in New York".  
     
  • SUCCESS!  came a year later, when Bonny, the granddaughter of Florence Mason was pointed to my blog by another relative.  She got in touch and she had the very same photograph as mine,  but mounted with the name of a photographer in Brooklyn, New York.


My newly found third cousin, Bonny is the granddaughter of Florence, the young girl in the middle  of the photograph and we have exchanged e-mails, photographs and information of our ancestors down the generations and still keep in touch with one another.

It was special to receive a much later  photograph of the Mason family (below)  with all eight surviving children. 



Top - Robert, Jenny (Jane Elizabeth), Mother Alice, Father John, Harold
Bottom - Thomas (John Thomas), Alice (Margaret Alice), Florence, George and James
Alice died in 1930 and James 7 years later, both buried in Fernwood Cemetery, Jamesburg, New Jersey.


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So it is all thanks to the power of the Internet and of blogging, that my mystery photograph was eventually identified.  Patience paid off!   And it is worth celebrating in this Genealogy Blog Picnic Challenge.

If only I could discover why the family  took this step of adventure from a small Lancashire coastal community to the teeming streets of New York.     That will be my next challenge!


The 2nd Annual Genealogy Blog Potluck Picnic: How I Did It


Adapted from posts first published in 2011-2013.  

Saturday, 19 August 2017

Men and Machines: Sepia Saturday

Men messing about with machines is  the topic of this week's prompt photograph - so find out more below, with photographs  ranging from mill workers at the turn of the 20th century to 21st century machines of a much bigger kind. 

 

 Mill workers at the Simpson and Fairbairn Mill at Earlston in the Scottish Borders, c.1900.  The mill closed in 1969 marking two centuries of textile production in the village. 

David Hogg, c.1941, was the last hand loom weaver in Earlston. He began work in the mill as a pattern weaver,  then started hand loom weaving on his own account,  selling his tweeds, scarves and rugs all over Great Britain and exhibiting at many trade fairs. When he died in 1941,  his loom and other artefacts were given to the Scottish College of Textile  in nearby Galashiels.

With acknowledgement to the Auld Earlston Group for these images from its collection. 

Moving Forward in Time: 

 My cousin's father Arthur Smith,  tinkering with his car 


Bigger machines to mess about with here.    
My action-man brother, who in the 1980's part-owned and piloted  a light aircraft.



 Experiencing something much bigger.

Wearing a fetching beanie hat, for his job on an oil rig


 Back down to to earth with a car and a bike.

 
 My husband at the handle bars of the bike  in the back garden, 
with his older brother, c.1940


Husband has graduated to a motor bike, behind his father, c.1950.
No concern for heatlh and safety then,   in terms of leathers and crash helmets.  

Getting in Practice for a Life  Ahead with Machines 

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

 
Click HERE to see what other bloggers have spotted in this week's prompt. 

Thursday, 10 August 2017

Portrait Poses and Props - Sepia Saturday

This  week's prompt photograph from Sepia Saturday shows a portrait of an earnest young man, finger on chin, sitting on a chair, but facing backwards.

I knew immediately  which image I would choose from my  family collection.  

My Great Uncle George (the youngest of my grandfather's seven brothers), is looking very studious, here, hand on chin, seated sideways  on a large solid oak chair - so a good match in many ways to the prompt.

George, born 1894,  son of James Danson and Maria Rawclliffe of Poulton-le-Fylde, Lancashire,  worked on W. H. Smith bookstalls at local railway stations.  He was killed  whilst serving as a stretcher bearer on the Somme  in 1916, a week after his 22nd birthday.  I have written bout him a number of times on my blog - take a look at  A Stretch Bearer's Tale  

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An ornate scrolled back to this chair for  a portrait of my husband's uncle  - 
Matthew Iley White, looking determined   in his uniform of the Durham Light Infantry.  
Photograph taken by T. W. H. Liddle, Photographer, South Shields.  
 
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A heavily scrolled chair with an ornate back for seated Joseph Prince Oldham  (1855-1917) with his granddaughter Elsie Oldham  (1906-1989)  and grandson Joseph Butler who was born 1918.  

Elsie Oldham and my mother, Kathleen Danson, were second cousins, and I am grateful for Elsie's son, Stuart for the use of the photographs of his extended family. 

Joseph Price Oldham  became a carter and coal merchant in Blackpool, Lancashire, in a house with stables, opposite the North Station. His son John William Oldham carried on the business, until it fell to Elsie. 

In the 1920's, Elsie also  ran a hairdresser's from the family home,  giving her name a French twist as "Elise". 

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  A charming photograph of Joseph Prince Oldham (the grandfather above) 
born 1855,  as a small boy.  

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A large medieval style chair for Elsie Oldham here  - it makes another appearance below. 

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Sitting on a regal looking chair, an older Elsie Oldham with her cousin 
Joseph Butler standing behind her - presumably in clean boots!   

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 Is this the same chair?  A serious looking Sarah Alice Butler, nee Oldham  with her son  Joseph Butler, - the little boy above, born 1918 and named 
after his grandfather Joseph Prince Oldham.   

An ornate backed sofa is the setting for this portrait of Ellen Florence Coombs,.
nee Hooker, with baby Hilda Florence, born 1906.  
Take a closer look at the beautiful detail on Ellen's blouse.

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Sitting on a throne-like seat, is   Annie Jolly, a friend of  my Great Aunt Jennie Danson.  The Jolly and Danson families were at one time neighbours in Poulton-le-Fylde, Lancashire and there were distant family connections too  through marriage. 

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This was also in  the large collection of photographs of my Great Aunt Jennie.  It seemed to be the fashion to stand young children on chairs to get their portraits taken.

Written on the back was "From Mary, Charlie & Nannie Hardisty, Villa Farm, Bispham, Blackpool.  The photograph was taken at W .J. Gregson & Co, W, P. Beck, proprietor, Photographers, 92 Talbot Road, Blackpool.  

I did some quick detective work and found the family in the 1911 census, with Mary,  26 years old, husband Charles Alfred 24 and Nannie Ada 1 year old.  She does not look too happy here  in her best knitted coat and bonnet, plus little boots.   c. 1912.  


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I could not let this prompt pass by,  without showing this photograph which has appeared before on my blog and is crucial to my family history. 

"Who was that stern, rather Spanish looking woman sitting in the  imposing medieval style chair?"  This was the question  that started me on the family history trail when I found this photograph in a shoebox collection at my grandfather's house.   The answer -  my great grandmother Maria Danson, nee Rawcliffe.   There was an apocryphal  story that her dark looks had come from sailors, who after the Armada were shipwrecked on the Fylde coast of Lancashire.

By her side, is her granddaughter Annie Maria (my mother's cousin)  who made her home with Maria after the early death of her own mother.  Annie was born 1905 and she looks to be around 11-12 years old in the picture, so I estimate it was was taken  c.1917.  Annie's father John Danson, died in 1917 in tragic circumstances at military camp,  a few months after the death of his brother George Danson in the first photogrpah. No wonder that their mother Maria looks  forbidding here.    

And Finally:
Not a studio portrait, but here I am on my own little chair - a bit big for me  as   my feet don't touch  the ground.   The chair was passed down, with fresh covers,   to my daughter and granddaughter - but I never thought at the time to take a photograph of them in it. 
A pity! 

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epia Saturday gives bloggers an opportunity to share 
their family history and memories through photographs.


Click HERE  to see what other bloggers have spotted in this week's prompt. 

Wednesday, 2 August 2017

Horns on Show : Sepia Saturday

"Horns on Show" is my response to this week's prompt photograph,  showing a  guardsman  sitting on the grass beside a horned goat - the regimental mascot.

I have no images  of goats, but I have fond memories of holidays in the west of Scotland and seeing that icon of Scottish tourism  (along with tartan,  heather, bagpipes. and whisky)  -  "The "Hielan' Coo"   -  aka the Highland Cow.  So take a look at these photogenic friendly natives, with their long horns and flowing coats, designed to withstand the worst of the Scottish weather.

"I'm Trying to be Friendly"

My husband meets Hamish and Dougal  - 
the "pets" at the hotel where we were staying near Oban.


"I'm Showing off my  Horns!"
 




"I'm Hungry" 
We were staying in a cottage at Fionnphort on the far west  of the Isle of Mull, just across from Iona, and the highland cattle roamed free around the small village - one shop, one pub, one seafood cabin and the ferry office.  Here one hungry  cow decided to take a nibble from the garden of our self catering cottage.


"I've walked far enough, I'm taking a rest"



"I'm little and lonely"
This young cow  stood motionless at the side of the road, very happy to pose for the visitors walking down to the ferry across to Iona.  



If you don;t come across the  real thing, look out for a shop sign. 




 

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And finally:  

Not a highland cow, but this image fits my theme so well, I had to show it.  Here we are down in the South of Scotland with the Ram Statue  on the High Street of  Moffat in Dumfries and Galloway.   It was presented to the town in 1875  by local businessman  William Colvin,  as a symbol of  the town's links with  sheep farming. 

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





Click HERE to see what other bloggers have spotted in this week's prompt.



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Friday, 28 July 2017

My Personal Prompt: Focus Friday - With Updates

How do you remain focused  when researching and writing your family history?

I  have to confess - I am a flitter, jumping from one aspect of my family history to another, easily distracted by another blog, or Facebook feed, or news of an interesting website, plus  reading, replying and deleting e-mails, and other aspects of life getting in the way.

The result, I have three major topics on my "to do" list and they have been there far longer than I care to admit.

But as a former boss was fond of  pronouncing  - "It is not a question of 'no time' but how you manage your time".  

So I am setting myself a personal blog prompt - 
Friday will henceforth be Focus Friday,
when I will set out to work only on my three main targets.


  • Finish the final part of my Danson narrative about my mother's family from Poulton-le-Fylde, Lancashire. I have written up to the end of the First World War, so surely it doesn't take much to write some chapters on my mother's siblings, especially as I have written profiles of them already on my blog?    So this is top of my list.

    My mother Kathleen Danson (right) with her sister Edith, c.1916

  • Finish the final part of my husband's family history narrative - this section is on Donaldson Sidelines with the surnames Hawkyard,  Iley White, Hibbert and Moffet. They were mainly mariners or miners from South Shieds on Tyneside in the north east of England .  Again I have already drafted most of this on the computer, but need to focus on the final family name.

     
  • Research in more depth and write up my father's Weston and Matthews family narrative. This is my " far more shadowy" ancestry, as I am finding it  difficult to get beyond the basic names and dates information to discover some interesting stories.  For reasons of geography,  I had far less to do with   this side of my family, have only a cousin as a contact and very few photographs to help me gain a picture of them. 

So there we have it in black and white!     Hopefully this will help me come to grips with my self imposed "brick wall" on action.  

Watch this space!  

UPDATE  Friday 28th July:  A good start to my new Focus Friday resolution. I looked back at my Danson narrative and I had more work to do on it  than I thought.  I updated the chapter on the search for my grandmother's background, recording the  detailed information received  after  i posted  queries on two  websites.   The brick wall however, remains standing!  

UPDATE:   Friday 4th August 2017:   Slower progress this week, largely because I failed to check through my draft on what I had actually done months ago and repeated some sections - a lesson here!  I  copied  and developed from my blog the post on my grandfather's house  purchased in 1926, and then did likewise for  the blog post on my Feisty Aunt Edith.  However despite the stumbles, I feel I am making progress. 

UPDATE:  Friday August 11th:   Spent a long time o.n a section on Aunt Edith's life in teaching, copying tributes to her form the school Facebook page (once I found it).  Seqrched Lancashire Archives for informative but do not appear to hold school records for Burn Naze School, Thornton nor Sheaf Street School. Poulton.  Posted a query on Genealogy Addicts re pupil-teacher training.

Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Bridges over Rivers and Centuries

A  multi-arched bridge is this week's photographic prompt from Sepia Saturday, so here I am taking you on  a journey over  bridges that span two centuries and cross  rivers and moorland.  Hear about the Marriage House at Coldstream used by runaway couples from England, the riots at Kelso Tollhouse, the heavy loss of life in building bridges,  and the place where poet Robert Burns first set eyes on England. I  finish by looking at  bridges with links to my family history.

What  struck me in writing this post  is the length of time - i.e. 200 years - that many of these old bridges served their  community, before replacement structures were built  - progress sometimes seems very slow! 


The Three Leaderfoot Bridges, near Melrose in the Scottish Borders 
Built 1776, 1865, and 1974


 
 A charming tinted postcard c.1900  of the rail viaduct.


An unusual view of the lower old Dryburgh road bridge built 1776-80.  It replaced a ferry crossing over the River Tweed,  on the route that is now the main A68 north to Edinburgh.  Its narrow structure, more used to horses and carts, remained in use for 200 years (conroleld by traffic lights) until  a new road bridge spanned the river in 1974. 

In the background is the famous Leaderfoot Viaduct built in 1865 and the major engineering feat of the Berwickshire Railway Line from the east.   The statistics are impressive -  the viaduct stands 126 feet (38 m) from the floor of the river valley, and  its 19 arches, each has a 43 feet span.  It was named after the meeting of the Leader Water with the River Tweed, though Interestingly it was referred to in a newspaper article of December 1864 as the Drygrange Viaduct. 

A local paper of 3rd September 1863 gives a graphic account of an accident to a work on the viaduct.  



The Berwickshire Railway was badly affected by severe flooding in 1948 and services to the east of the county were particularly affected.   The last train ran over the viaduct in 1965.  It  is  now  under the care of Historic Environment Scotland.  

 
A steam train crossing the Leaderfoot Viaduct, c. 1959
 
One of the last trains to  travel over the Leaderfoot viaduct in 1965. 
Copyright ©  Bruce McCartney All  Rights Reserved.     
at http://www.geoffspages.co.uk/monorail/bmcc01.htm  


The Viaduct  remains a  popular spot for  photographers today  - here a view taken from the old road bridge which is now only open to walkers and cyclists.  



A view of the three bridges, spanning two hundred years of history. 


Craigsford Bridge, Earlston, built  c. 1737.


 
Craigsford Bridge over the Leader Water at Earlston   was built around 1737.  Until the building of the new toll road (the later A68) at the end of the century, it was the main route to Edinburgh.  It was sometimes referred to as the Mill Brig,   being close to the Simpson & Fairbairn Mill that produced textiles until its closure in 1969.

A modern view taken from my daughter's cottage. 

The Leader road bridge at Earlston  carrying traffic on the main A68 route to Edinburgh.  You can make out in the background the arches of the old Craigsford Bridge,  and the tall chimney of Simpson & Fairbairn Mill.


Carolside Bridge,  late 18th century. 


  
The graceful late 18th century bridge spanning the Leader Water  links the neighbouring estates of Carolside and Leadervale.

"The Statistical Account of Scotland" of 1834  gives us a beautiful description of Carolside  
"Poised on a green plateau beside the River Leader and sheltered by surrounding slopes of its own extensive woodlands, as a sweet and secure asylum from the toils and troubles of the world'."
Two views of the bridge in more recent times:


A view of the Leader valley, looking down on the little Carolside Bridge. 




With thanks to the Auld Earlston Group for the use of photographs in their collection 

Coldstream Bridge, built 1767
Coldstream Bridge02 2000-01-03.jpg
The bridge over the River Tweed  marks the boundary between Scotland and England  and opened in 1767, built at a cost of £6000  - £725,000 in current values. (www.measuringworth.com).  It was paid for  by a government grant, local subscriptions and loans from Edinburgh Banks, to be paid back from the bridge tolls.  
 

But Coldstream Bridge Tollhouse at the north end of the bridge,  was more than just the location for collecting taxes.  For it was akin to Gretna Green towards the west as  the location for a Scottish  "Irregular Marriage".  This was in the form of a verbal declaration by the couple  giving their consent  before witnesses and did not require a clergyman, but anyone who took on the role for a fee.  No notice, such as banns,  was required, no parental consent  and no residency requirement.  Such marriages were valid in Scotland but were increasingly frowned upon and became less  and less acceptable. 

In the meantime, however, many English couples in particular,   eloped to places just across the Border,  to escape the stricter English marriage laws and obtain a quick, easy  and cheaper marriage.     

 It was on the bridge that Scottish bard  Robert Burns had his first glimpse of England, as marked  by a plaque.  (Wikipedia)   


                                    



The Rennie Bridge at Kelso - 1803
 

Another crossing of the River Tweed with the Rennie Bridge at Kelso. It was built in 1800-3 to replace one washed away in floods of 1797. Designed by John Rennie, it was an earlier and smaller scale version of the Waterloo Bridge, which he designed for London. 

The Toll House, where the payment had to be made, was the scene of a riot in 1854, when  local people   objected to continuing to pay the tolls when the building costs had been long cleared. It still took three years for tolls to be withdrawn. For nearly 200 years, this narrow bridge  remained the only bridge across the Tweed at Kelso until the building of a new one in 1998 to the east of the town.  


Ribblehead Viaduct, North Yorkshire,  built 1870-1874. 


Image from Picabay

A striking view of the Ribblehead Viaduct in North Yorkshire on the  scenic Carlisle to Settle railway line.  It took over a thousand  navvies over four years (1870-1874) to build it.  On the wild windswept moors of the Ribble valley,   they established shanty towns for themselves and their families. Around 100 men were killed during the construction, and illnesses were rife in the harsh living conditions.  The graveyard at nearby Chapel-le-Dale has around 200 burials of men, women and children who died  during the time of the viaduct's construction. 


Bridges with Family History Links


 
 My parents, John Weston and Kathleen Danson - taken in 1937  at Kirby Lonsdale, where they got engaged.  This remained one of their favourite spots to visit.

Kirby Lonsdale in Cumbria on the edge of the Lake District is a fascinating small town  with   a mix of  18th-century buildings and stone cottages huddled around quaint cobbled courtyards and narrow alleyways with names such as Salt Pie Lane and Jingling Lane.  The town is noted for the its three span Devil's Bridge, first built across the River Lune c.1370. You catch a glimpse of it here.

 


These photographs comes from my father's album.    During the war, Dad  served in the RAF Codes & Ciphers Branch and was seconded to General Bradley’s US 12th Army Group HQ.  He was stationed in Luxembourg in winter 1944 prior to  the Battle of the Bulge. Dad  had fond memories of the city and the people he met there. The Bridge, built between 1900 and 1903,  became an unofficial national symbol, representing Luxembourg's independence  and  was named after Grand Duke Adolphe who reigned Luxembourg from 1890 until 1905.   


My  brother standing in front of the cast iron arched Ironbridge over the River Severn   in Shropshire,  where our father spent his childhood.  It was the first ironbridge built In 1781  and often described as "the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution".  It is now a World Heritage  Site.  

Although Dad was born in Bilston, Wolverhampton, he moved to Broseley, across the river from  Ironbridge, when he was five years old  and he regarded it as his happy chidlhood home.  He went to school there, sang in the choir from the age of seven and began his working life at a grocer's shop, delivering goods by pony and cart.  Dad's father had a 35 minutes walk across the bridge  each way every day to get to his work at the Coalbrookdale Power House in the Severn valley.

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


Click HERE  to see what  bridges other bloggers have come across. 

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