Monday, 4 August 2014

My Ancestors : Centenary of the Great War

August 4 marks the 100th year since Great Britain declared war on Germany. The 1914-1918 campaign would become known as The Great War. This blog post commemorates all of my ancestors who fought for "King and Country".

My great-grandfathers Arthur, Percy and Albert all fought in the Great War. Arthur was married with two young sons, the eldest of whom was my grandfather Herbert who was four years old when war broke out. Percy was married with one son, my grandfather Percy junior who was barely a year old. Albert was also married and had three children, a daughter and two sons.

If Albert had not have survived the war, he would not have gone on to have seven more children with my great-grandmother, Elizabeth. My grandmother Lilian, born in 1920, would not have existed which meant she would not have married Percy junior and had my mother, Denise. In the words of my friend Brett, that is a sobering thought.

This blog post is to say "Thank You" to my great-grandfathers who fought in the war, who left their wives and their homes, their children, their jobs, their regular life. They went to the mud, the filth, the front lines, the rats and the lice, the uncertainty of their future.

"Thank You" also to my two cousins and my great grand-uncle; James, William and Sidney, who never came home. William and Sidney left behind their families and their widows. William had three children when he died of wounds in 1917. Sidney had been married just shy of two years.
Such, such is Death: no triumph: no defeat:  
Only an empty pail, a slate rubbed clean,
A merciful putting away of what has been.

And this we know: Death is not Life, effete,
Life crushed, the broken pail. We who have seen
So marvellous things know well the end not yet.

Victor and vanquished are a-one in death:
Coward and brave: friend, foe. Ghosts do not say,
"Come, what was your record when you drew breath?"
But a big blot has hid each yesterday
So poor, so manifestly incomplete.
And your bright Promise, withered long and sped,
Is touched, stirs, rises, opens and grows sweet
And blossoms and is you, when you are dead.

Charles Hamilton Sorley  (1895-1915)

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Hilda Bowes : An unexpected surprise

I must have dreamt that I wrote up and published this blog post because I certainly planned it awhile back, but it doesn't appear to be here. A chance search on ebay, in December last year, led me to a quaint Edwardian picture postcard which had been written to my cousin four times removed, Hilda Bowes. It was from a person by the name of Fred and it was stamped 13 August 1912.

The postcard was addressed to:
Miss H Bowes
Broad Street
Bungay Suffolk

I knew that my three times great-grand uncle, George Bowes, lived in Broad Street so I put in a bid for the postcard. When I won it, I never expected it would lead to a second surprise.

Broad Street, Bungay c. 1923

Hilda Matilda Bowes was born in 1892 in Bungay. She was the daughter of George Bowes and his second wife, Mary Ann Margaret (nee Whurr). Mary Ann was the daughter of John Whurr and Eliza, nee Phillips. The Whurr family lived in Broad Street, Bungay all their lives, and when Mary Ann married widowed George Bowes in 1891, she continued to live in the same street. The census returns show that before she married George, who was a baker by trade, she was a Dressmaker. Mary Ann's life would have taken quite a different direction from dressmaking with her mother to baking with her husband. When she married George Bowes she was 40 years old.

When George Bowes died in March 1911, Hilda ran the family baker business in Broad Street with her mother. However, in 1920, Hilda married Allen Green. Allen was the son of Henry Green and Kate, nee Burgess. The Green family lived in Wingfield Street, Bungay. Allen was a printer compositor by trade, possibly at Clay & Sons Ltd of Bungay. The 1925 Kelly's Directory shows Hilda's mother, Mary Ann, was still trading as a baker at 48 Broad Street.

It is not yet known if Hilda and Allen ever had any children. What is known is that Allen died only a few months after Hilda, in 1972. When Mary Ann died in April 1941, she left a sum of money to her only daughter Hilda in a will.

Recently I went to the Ancestry website to search for information regarding Hilda Bowes's ancestry, and to my surprise I found a photograph of her. I was so excited to finally see what she looked like. I was also quite surprised to find that she bore a striking resemblance to my great-grandmother Eva Waters, nee Bowes and Eva's sister Winnie Bowes. Eva and Winnie were Hilda's first cousins, once removed. Judge for yourselves. Personally, I think it's the nose. And the curve of the lips...and the eyes.

Hilda Bowes (1892-1972)

Eva Bowes (1887-1966)

Winnie Bowes (1892-1948)

For more information about my Bowes ancestry, see here
A blog post about Fred Bowes (brother of Eva and Winnie) here
Photograph of Hilda Bowes: courtesy of Robert Alexander (Wangford, England). There is also a photograph of her husband Allen Green on the site also belonging to Robert Alexander
Photograph of Eva and Winnie Bowes: My personal photo collection

Thursday, 29 May 2014

Five Minutes With An Ancestor

If I had five minutes with an ancestor, who would it be and what would we talk about?

This is kind of unfair because there are so many. The list truly is endless.

Just five minutes with my grandmother's Freda and Lilian - just because I want to hug them, tell them how much I love them and miss them every single day, and to say I am sorry.

From a purely family history perspective:

  • My great-grandmother Elizabeth Dare - to dispel some awkward family rumours and to confirm how many children she actually gave birth to.
  • My g/g-grandfather William Preston - to ask him the truth about why he was estranged from his father and his two brothers.
  • My great-grandmother Barbara Hargreaves - to ask her about her life as a Domestic Servant to a London physician and to ask her who Arthur Ward was.
  • My 4 x great-grandmother Mary Ward - to ask her why she never married and yet she gave birth to six illegitimate children, three of whom died in infancy.
  • My 4 x great-grandfather Joseph Powell - to ask him all about his life as a Thames Waterman.
  • My 4 x great-grandparents John Humphries and Ann Rogers - to ask them why they never married and to confirm where they were both born before they lived together in Hammersmith and raised a family.
But, most of all, I would definitely ask my 3 x great-grandfather Richard Humphries:

Where the heck did you disappear to after 1871? What really happened to your first wife Mary Ann and why did she die alone in a workhouse? Why did you "shack up" with Sarah Spencer, not marry her and yet have a family with her? She gave birth to a daughter in 1872, and then just four years later, she marries another man. Meanwhile, you've completely disappeared from the face of the earth. What happened to you Richard?

Friday, 9 May 2014

The Sampson Family of Suffolk

Following the interest and enthusiasm which my last two blog posts (Alden and Gilding families) brought to my step-family, I've since been asked to write up a family history. I am more than happy to do this for them as they have been a crucial part of my life for more than forty years.

While I am very tempted to write up the recently promised blog post on the Sampson family, I have now decided to postpone it for the time being. I don't want to give everything away, there will be nothing left to surprise my relatives with. Sorry :-)

If there is anybody out there, reading this, who is related to the Sampson, Alden or Gilding families of Suffolk, please know that I would love to hear from you. Just leave a comment below with an email address and I will get back to you. If anybody knows anything and feels willing to share stories or photographs of the aforementioned families, I would be really pleased to hear from you.

My step-grandfather was Alfred James Sampson, who was born in Mettingham in Suffolk. You can read more about my memories of him in my 2011 blog post here. Alfred was known to everyone as 'Buster' so if you don't recognise the name Alf or Alfred, you would have possibly have known him better by this nickname.

The Sampson family lived in Mettingham, and previously the Sampson lineage came from Redisham, Stoven, St James, St Elmham all in Suffolk.

Alice and James Sampson c.1970

Alf 'Buster' Sampson with his son and daughter-in-law

Grave site in Mettingham, Suffolk
of James & Alice Sampson

Thank you in advance. I look forward to hearing from you.

Saturday, 29 March 2014

The Gilding Family

Last time I wrote about my step-grandfather's first wife, Jean Alden and her family. Jean's mother was Mollie Joan Alden, daughter of Robert Alden and Emily Gilding. This blog post is dedicated to the Gilding family.

Emily Gilding was born in Bungay in 1871. She was one of eight* children. The census returns for that year were taken on the night of 2 April and Emily is listed as being two months old. Her parents, Jacob Gilding and Sarah Ann (nee Rogers) were then residing in Beccles Road, in Bungay.

Emily's father Jacob Gilding was a Wherryman/Waterman by trade, in the counties of Norfolk and North Suffolk - this being stated in the 1851, 1861 & 1871 census returns. By 1881, however, Jacob was a Railway Labourer, as part of the General Eastern Railway (G.E.R). Jacob and his wife and children were by that time residing in Beccles.

Jacob Gilding was born on 6 June 1838 in Smallburgh, county Norfolk. He was the son of Benjamin Langley Gilding and Mary, nee Cork. On 2 July 1838 Jacob was baptised at St Peter's Church, Smallburgh. In 1851 the Gilding family lived at Broad Fen in Dilham. Benjamin, Jacob's father was a Waterman by trade. I like to imagine him rowing his way through the Norfolk Broads on an early Spring day, chewing on a piece of reed.

Picking Water Lillies

Jacob left the county of Norfolk some time before 1860 and took up residence in Bungay, county Suffolk. Jacob married Sarah Ann Rogers, daughter of William Rogers, at Bungay Holy Trinity Church on 3 April 1860. Both signed the marriage register with an "X". The Rogers family were from Loddon, county Norfolk. William Rogers' first wife Mary Ann (nee Harris), Sarah Ann's biological mother, died in 1845 and William later married Amy Harris in 1849. Any relation?

Jacob and Sarah Ann's first child, George, was born in August 1860 but he did not thrive, and died on 3 September 1860. His burial service was held at Bungay Holy Trinity Church. Jacob and Sarah had only been married for five months. They went on to have eight more children:

Frederick George Gilding
George Rogers Gilding
Benjamin Gilding
Harry Gilding
Emily Gilding
Ernest William Gilding
Ellen Mary Gilding
Anne Gilding

They remained in Bungay until some time before 1881 when they moved with their children to Beccles: Emily, aged 10. Ernest William, aged 8. Ellen Mary, aged 6 and Anne, aged 5. What I find especially intriguing about the 1881 census return for the Gilding family is two-fold: 1) Jacob and Sarah Ann's sons George, then aged 16 and Benjamin, then aged 14, were "Inmates" (Students) at a Boys Reformatory School in Thorndon All Saints (near Eye); and 2) Jacob and Sarah Ann have an extra adopted child: Jeremiah Sturman, aged 1.

Upon further investigation, Jeremiah Sturman was born in Skelton in North Riding, county Yorkshire. He was the illegitimate son of Rebekah Sturman, a Domestic Servant. What I found to be even more intriguing was that the 1891 census return puts Jeremiah back with his mother Rebekah (along with a half-brother Harry and another Jeremiah Sturman aged 87) but this time they are all Inmates of the Loddon and Clavering Union Workhouse, in county Norfolk. This begs the question: What happened to the Sturman family and why did the Gilding family have temporary care of Jeremiah?

The 1901 census return has Jacob and Sarah Ann Gilding living at Knights Yard, Ravensmere with a grandson, Walter Belward Gilding. Walter was then aged 12, born to one of Jacob and Sarah Ann's children but which one? (Walter was living with the family in 1891 as well, when they resided at Northgate Street). He remained with his grandparents even in 1911, when he was aged 22. I don't believe he ever married. Another grandson appears on the 1911 census with Jacob and Sarah Ann: Ernest Alden, aged 18 (He was Mollie Joan Alden's eldest brother). What is interesting to note is that the 1911 census states Jacob and Sarah Ann had eight children, seven living and one who had died. But I know that they had at least nine children because I found George Gilding who was baptised and died in 1860, in Bungay. Why did they claim they had eight children instead of nine?

Jacob Alden, 1911 census return
(click on image to enlarge)

Jacob Gilding died in 1914, aged 75. Sarah Ann Gilding died in 1930, aged 94.

My next blog post will concentrate on my step-grandfather's SAMPSON family heritage.

The British Newspaper Archive brings up several previously unknown articles in regards to Jacob Gilding who was frequently brought up before the Beccles Petty Sessions in the 1880s because he repeatedly refused to pay the ordered one shilling per week in payment of his son at Thorndon Reformatory School. For example: The Ipswich Journal of Tuesday 25 January 1881 reported that Jacob Richard Gilding was "causing much trouble" from neglecting to make payments for his sons and was "22 weeks in arrears". Jacob's wages as a Railway Labourer at that time was stated in the paper as being 18 shillings 6 pence per week and that he had "five other children to provide for".
(In July 1879 The Ipswich Journal reported that brothers George Gilding and Benjamin were caught stealing fruit from a garden in Ravensmere, the property of Edward Masters. This was the reason they were sent to Reformatory School. They had previous convictions of stealing at Gillingham.)
In January 1885 Jacob Gilding was fined five shillings for neglecting to send his daughter Ellen Gilding, regularly to school

Sunday, 16 March 2014

The Alden Family

As much as it shames me to confess this, I really haven't given much conscious thought to my step-family's ancestry. My grandmother Lilian married Alfred James Sampson (who I knew as my Grandad Buster when I was a child). I knew that Lilian was a widow when she married Alfred and I also knew that Alfred was a widower.

When Lil and Alf married my relations increased from three aunts and uncles to eight aunts and uncles. Until much more recently I hadn't paid attention to the fact that my Grandad Buster's first wife Jean - the mother of my step-family - had her very own family story too. Better late than never, I am now working hard to rectify my oversight.

Jean Sampson (nee Alden) with her niece & nephews
in Beccles, around 1950

Jean Nora Alden was born in 1929, the illegitimate daughter of Mollie Alden. In 1948 Jean married Alfred Sampson and they had five children (my step-aunts and uncles). The family were dealt a cruel blow when Jean died of cancer in 1964. She was only 34 years old.

Mollie Joan Alden, Jean's mother, was born in Beccles in 1910. She was the second youngest of fourteen children born to Robert Alden and Emily, nee Gilding. Robert and Emily were married at Saint Michael's Church, Beccles on 28 April 1892.

The 1911 census states that Robert Alden was a Brick Layer by trade, which caught my attention as my Grandad Buster (Alf Sampson) was also a Brick Layer. The 1891 and 1901 census returns show Robert as a Maltsters Labourer. Interestingly, Robert and Emily's childrens names were written on the 1911 census form rather haphazardly which made double-checking them against the GRO Birth Index challenging. They were as follows:

Ernest Leonard Alden
Annie Norah Alden (known as Norah/Nora)
Ellen Catherine Alden (known as Nellie)
Emily Hilda Alden (known as Hilda)
Robert Benjamin Alden
Harry Edward Alden (known as Edward)
Frederick George Alden
Agnes Mercy Alden (known as Mercy)
Florrence Alden
Nancy Alden
Ivy Elizabeth Alden
Mollie Joan Alden
Frank Stanley Alden (was born in 1912)
There was also a 'Female' Alden born (possibly stillborn) and died in 1894

Robert English Alden was born in 1872, some records state Beccles as his birthplace and others say Bungay. He was the son of James Alden and Mary Ann, nee English. James Alden was previously married to Elizabeth Aldred (m. 1845) who died in 1859. James and Mary Ann English were married at Saint Michael's Church, Beccles on 6 August 1871. Both signed their names with an "X".

Robert Alden (right)

James Alden was born in 1818 in Ringsfield. He was an Agricultural Labourer by trade and lived for most of his life in Ingate Road, Beccles. He also lived in Puddingmoor and Hungate Lane, both in Beccles. James died in 1897, aged 79. After his death James's wife Mary Ann made her living as a Charwoman and in 1901 was living in Ingate Road with two of her daughters. In 1911 the census returns show her working as a Housekeeper for the Ashley family of Newgate Street, Beccles. It is believed that she died in 1914 in the county of Essex.

My next blog will concentrate on Emily Gilding and her ancestry (the mother of Mollie Joan Alden). Mollie Alden's father Robert died in 1950, aged 78 and her mother Emily died in 1929, aged 57. Mollie married in 1941 to Samuel Barley, known as Toby. She died in 1987.

I must acknowledge and thank S. Howlett for sharing the photographs you see on this blog post, via the Ancestry website.

Sunday, 19 January 2014

It's All in the Numbers Geneameme

Not wanting to miss out on a genealogy-based blog challenge I decided to make my first blog post of 2014 about Alona Tester's geneameme.

I have many significant numbers in my family history but here are just ten to stir my memory and genealogy juices and share what these special numbers mean to me.

One - I am an only child (born of my mother and father before their divorce). My cousin is also an only child of her mother and father. Both my cousin and myself have only had one daughter. Whilst my cousin and I have what you would call "step-siblings" (though we loathe the term), her daughter and mine are definitely the only child.

Me with my babysitter & family
friend, outside our cottage
in Beccles, Suffolk
Three - The number of the cottage I lived in with my mother during the 1970s, in Beccles Suffolk. This cottage was so very significant in my childhood, it inspired me to include it in my novella Symphony of War.

Four - The number of sons my paternal grandparents had, including my dearest Dad. The eldest has since passed away ten years ago but the other three are still going strong. Four is also my lucky number. My 2xg/grandfather William and I were born on the same day (4th February), he in 1847 and me over one hundred years later!

Ten - This is the number of generations I have gone back to in my Preston ancestry. I am yet to confirm the eleventh ancestor but work is still underway. I have written two family history editions of Preston Origins, the second edition copies are currently held in both the Norfolk and Suffolk (Lowestoft) Record Offices.

Thirteen - The number of children in my 3xg/grandparents Josiah and Susan's family, including my 2xg/grandfather William who was the last born child. His eldest sister Maria was at least twenty years older than him. Thirteen is also a lucky number for my father.

Nineteen - This number recurs in my family tree, especially this very date in particular: January 19th. My 2xg/grandfather William was born on this day in 1853. My first cousin twice removed William was born on this day in 1890. My 3xg/grandparents Josiah and Susan married on this day in 1829. My 3xg/grandfather William died on this day in 1887. My 2xg/grandmother Jane died on this day in 1893.

Twenty Seven - This number recurs with my great-grandfather Albert who was married on the 27th and died on the 27th. Also my uncle (Albert's grandson) was born on the 27th. My 2xg/grand uncle was born on the 27th. Two of my 3xg/grand-uncles died and were buried on the 27th, both as a result of Cholera. I was baptised on the 27th.

Fulham, High Street. My ancestors lived at no.42.

Forty Two - This was the number of the Fulham High Street house which my 4xg/grandparents Joseph and Elizabeth lived in for many years during the early 1800s until my 3xg/grandparents William and Louisa continued to live there after Louisa's parents deaths. My 2xg/grandparents Richard and Louisa are also listed on the 1871 census as residing there with three of their children. Forty Two was also the number of the house I lived in with my current husband and where we lived when our daughter was conceived.

Fifty Eight - This number is special because this is the number of the boarding house which my great-grandmother Nellie ran in Bungay, Suffolk during the 1940s & 1950s. It holds very many happy memories for my mother who was born in the house and lived there from around the age of twelve until she left school to work full-time.

Ninety Four - This number is the age of my oldest surviving ancestor's age at death. Two others come very close at 92 and 93 but my 4xg/grandfather Zachariah was the winner! He was baptised in January 1777 and died in April 1871, in Beccles.

A belated "Happy New Year" to all my followers and thanks to Alona for the blog post idea.