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Met your ancestors?

(26 Posts)
AlieOxon Tue 05-Nov-13 14:53:09

I find myself troubled by a comment on another thread, about where we fell is home, which dismissed ancestors as 'people we've never met'. I had said that my family was more of a home than any one place I have lived, even more so since I have been researching them. (Mind you, we moved around a lot when I was a kid.)

I feel I have now met many of my ancestors.

I know what my Scottish greatgreatgrandfather was like, from what I know about him now. A fairly strict Victorian parent, conventional and a bit straitlaced, who couldn't cope with his eldest son - to the point of writing 'Parent' as an addition in the 'occupation' box the 1871 Census.

I appreciate my Irish greatgrandfather who was a painter and contractor but much preferred going off and sailing his boat.....and his wife who made an impulse buy of a goat at an auction, subsequently leaving it to the children to look after!

Have you met yours?

Natsnan Tue 05-Nov-13 15:48:51

Great post. I too feel I now "know" my ancestors through all the family history research I have done over the last few years. I feel so sorry for my paternal gr,gr.grandmother who after having 6 babies in as many years sadly died from peritinitus (sp) after a botched abortion. Her husband then Remarried within 6 months and went on to have another 5 children. I have made a scrapbook with pictures where I have them, but dates and places etc for all my family, just so they are not forgotten.

janeainsworth Tue 05-Nov-13 16:01:24

Yes, I feel a bond with the ancestors I know something about.
I've always felt sorry for my paternal great-grandmother - I have a picture of her and I think I look a little like her.
She had four children - the youngest being my grandfather. She died when he was two, and a widowed aunt came to look after the family. I heard a great deal about this Great-Aunt Louie who looked and sounded quite fearsome.
I googled my Great-grandmother's name once and discovered that she had been married at St Chrysothom's Church in Rusholme, Manchester, exactly 99 years before the birth of my son. I must have gone past that church many many times in my student days and never had a clue.

Gagagran Tue 05-Nov-13 16:13:56

My great-grandfather was married three times and had his golden wedding with his third wife. I always think that was some achievement. He died aged 93 in 1938 having outlived all his wives. Wife no1 (my own great-grand mother) died of scarlet fever leaving four young children. He then married the woman next door, who died in childbirth a year later and the baby died too. He finally married wife no 3 having asked his church congregation if there was anyone who would take him on and mother his children. A good and kind woman did volunteer, married him and went on to have three more children. She was held in great affection by all the family.

He was a lucky man with a poor start to life, having gone to work in a cotton mill at the age of seven and learning to read and write at Sunday School. He ended up as Clerk to the Education Authority and one of his sons ended up as a lecturer at Imperial College. His own Mother was illiterate.

FlicketyB Tue 05-Nov-13 18:15:21

My mother was close to her grandmother and told me about her, what she was like, things she did. Since then I have filled in the practical background, parents, where she lived, the poverty etc. She was born in 1850, but I feel as if I know her. I will tell my children about my mother, but also my grandmother, whom I was close to and was a remarkable women. We have lots of photos of her taken in her late teens/early 20s.

FlicketyB Tue 05-Nov-13 18:15:26

My mother was close to her grandmother and told me about her, what she was like, things she did. Since then I have filled in the practical background, parents, where she lived, the poverty etc. She was born in 1850, but I feel as if I know her. I will tell my children about my mother, but also my grandmother, whom I was close to and was a remarkable women. We have lots of photos of her taken in her late teens/early 20s.

AlieOxon Tue 05-Nov-13 19:14:53

I even know a little about my Scottish ggggrandfather Thomas, the father of the one I wrote about just now. He's recorded as a labourer. (His father was a weaver, but the new machines were putting the old hand weavers out of work - so he didn't follow his dad.)

But he had ambitions for his kids, and he managed to get at least three of his sons apprenticed in what would be well-paid jobs once they qualified. There was a puzzle here - how did he get them apprenticed if he wasn't in the same line of business, glassmaking - a fairly closed shop?
So I thought he must be, and have only just had this confirmed, by the (third) marriage certificate of his son: Thomas, by then deceased, WAS a glass worker.

And, he married in one of the largest and richest churches in Glasgow.
It's possible the man who married him was a relative....but I haven't confirmed that yet.

Weavers as a class were said to be well educated and of radical views – ie readers and discussers of current happenings.
Following from this, was son Thomas one of those self-educated working men, articulate and well read….with well-connected relatives and friends?
'Labourer' may not always be what you assume!

JessM Tue 05-Nov-13 20:01:15

Hi allie I'm glad you are enjoying your ancestors. There was a huge working class self-improvement movement in the 19th and early 20th centuries. All over south Wales for instance there are "institutes" - large buildings, often with a stage, that were funded by the contributions of those who wanted to learn and better themselves. The WEA grew out of this. The children of those miners and metal workers often joined the professions. They used to say that the two main exports of South Wales were coal and teachers.
One of my GGFs was a miner in Aberdare. His wife was a determined woman who, despite having half a dozen children, "took in theatricals" and manage to save enough money to move the whole shebang to Porthcawl where she bought two houses, took in summer visitors and set up the sons in two butchers shops. Formidable. There was a similar woman on my maternal side who had a stall on Swansea market and set up her sons as butchers and bakers.

Granniepam Tue 05-Nov-13 21:02:18

DD and I have been researching our family and we are both impressed by the number of strong women we seem to have amongst our ancestors, just getting on and keeping things going for their families. You really do feel connected with the people who came before. Although we were a bit perturbed when we found out about one who put her father into the workhouse, left him to live there for many years and then no-one went to his eventual funeral - despite many close relations living very close by....

JessM Tue 05-Nov-13 21:30:28

My DH had a great aunt in Ireland, who he remembers from childhood. She lived in a kind of shed on the quayside and was crippled with terrible arthritis. Outside tap and the sea practically lapping at her door. Not sure how much help and support she had despite quite a few family members around...
Mind you an aunt, still living in the same village, with an able bodied son living not far away seemed to be disappearing a la sleeping beauty behind out of control hedges and 5 ft high Japanese anemones when we saw her a few years ago!
It's odd how you can have lots of info passed down from some grandparents and none from others isn't it. My father's father for instance - I think they came from the Swansea valley area and that's about it. Met one of his sisters once (as a child), she was deaf and dumb so not a great source if info. I once found a picture of old shops of Swansea and my (unusual) surname was on the front of one of them, so maybe a great great grandparent.

annodomini Tue 05-Nov-13 22:08:25

A letter from one of my female forebears - not GGM, but her sister. She was dancing a 'polker' with her little boy when she went into labour and delivered the baby with her boots on. Sounds like a quick labour.

Jendurham Tue 05-Nov-13 22:38:57

JessM, did you watch Timeshift on BBC4 last night, "When Coal was King"? It was about miners in both the Welsh Valleys and Yorkshire and the North East. It was more about what they did when out of the pits, in the choirs and the WEA, brass bands, etc.

I never knew any of my grandparents, let alone my great grandparents.
Even the people I knew as aunts and uncles were not, because my mother was an only child. They were cousins.
My father had lots of brothers and sisters, but they lived a long way away from Hull, and I never met any of them until I was grown up.

So any family I know of on my mother's side of the family is only what I have found out on Ancestry or Findmypast. Just last month I found out that one of my cousins in 1871 was in Driffield workhouse - fortunately as a schoolmistress, aged 25.
It amazes me too how many strong women there were in the family, who held the family together. One of them owned three houses next to each other in Jennings Street in Hull, and had sons and daughters and nephews and nieces living in them. She was born in 1783 and had nine children from 1805 to 1822. Her husband then died in 1825, but she kept the family together, dying herself in 1866.

One of the things I find really exciting about the 1911 census is seeing my ancestor's handwriting for the first time. It was the first one to be filled in and signed by a member of each household. My grandmother was a headmistress, and I have a few of her books, which have been heavily annotated by my grandmother, so I know her handwriting, but I never saw my grandfather's or my father's mother's writing before then.

Jendurham Tue 05-Nov-13 22:51:35

I have a daguerreotype of one of my mother's relatives. The problem is, it cannot possibly be the person my mother said it was. She thought it was of someone born in 1845, but they were only about in the 1860s, and it is of an old woman. The problem is that I do not know how to find out. I do not want to send it through the post to someone who could possibly tell me. It could actually be her grandmother, the woman I spoke of in the previous post. It's difficult to sccan it as it's silvered glass, and it just reflects the scanner back. Anyone any ideas?
I have thought of taking it to the Bowes Museum to find out if they think it is Mary Milner, John Bowes mother. She died in 1860. At least they might be able to help me.

pinkprincess Tue 05-Nov-13 23:05:46

One of my maternal greatgrandmothers was illiterate, because she was not allowed to go to school. Born in 1869, the daughter of a coal miner.Appaerntly it was the custom in her family to keep one daughter at home to help her mother with all the cleaning and cooking.She must have drawn the short straw, and this was her lot in the family from being a small child.
She got married young-little wonder-then carried on with her own family.She had seven children and by all accounts ruled the roost in the house.Despite her inability to read and write she knew the value of money and could certainly add up, no one could fool her with cash.She was also a strict teetotal Methodist who believed that drink was the devil's brew and would not allow a drop of alcohol in her house, her DH and sons had to do all their drinking outside and woe betide any of them coming home drunk.
I never knew her as she had died before I was born, but have my mother's old photo of her, sitting stiffly in a black dress.Two of my grandaughters have her face and features
Athough I never knew her I feel I have met her.

AlieOxon Wed 06-Nov-13 10:33:09

Jendurham I googled 'daguerreotype' and found one of Louis Daguerre taken in 1844....have a look on wikipedia.
So yours may well be who your mother thought it was.

Perhaps yours is difficult, but for others - Rootschat (very useful) has a section where they will have a go at dating uploaded photographs.
They did my ggrandfather's pic, and I discovered how the same photo probably got to New Zealand!

Jendurham Wed 06-Nov-13 10:55:00

It cannot be, Alie, as the woman in the daguerreotype is about 50 to 60 years old, and the woman my mother thought it was was only born in 1845. I have a book about early photographs, and in that it says they were phased out in the 1860s as they were quite expensive to make.
The problem is that the family were so numerous then, with 9 siblings in the generation that was born from 1805 to 1822, it could have been any of the women or wives in that generation. Or it could have been the generation before as the mother died in 1866, aged 83. She had five daughters, three of whom were called Faith, Hope and Charity!

JessM Wed 06-Nov-13 10:57:07

pinkprincess that is interesting. The first education act introducing primary education for all was passed in 1870. Of course there are still children who are kept off school because parents have health problems etc.

AlieOxon Wed 06-Nov-13 11:17:55

Jendurham, sorry - I tried. Too many ancestors....let us know if the museum helps.

But - again for others - don't rule things out too stories can be true.

Jess re the working class self-improvement movement in the latter part of the 19th century, I have an amazing book about Lancashire cotton workers then. It is a novel, but based on a LOT of research. (I have checked out many details.) My dad must have got it because he was in textiles in Lancashire.
'King Cotton' by Thomas Armstrong, and it's a big read. However if anyone has relatives there then, it's a great flavour of the times.

PS - my mother was an export from North Wales who became a teacher!

Jendurham Wed 06-Nov-13 11:21:59

Wow, thank you, Alie. I have just joined Rootschat, and searched Daguerreotype and discovered the first woman photographer set up a studio in Hull, which is where my ancestors are from. So am I. She did Daguerreotypes, and one was sold by Christies for over £400. Not that I will sell mine, but I'd better get it back from my son's partner. She was using it in school as a starting point for discussions on grandparents and history.

katyscarlet Wed 06-Nov-13 16:58:40

I was interested to read the piece about workers trying to improve their education through the WEA in the early part of the 20th Century. My own grandfather lived and worked as a flour miller in Stockport near Manchester. He was a staunch Socialist and was involved at the start of this institution. This I have learned from my family history research. In the beginning the WEA seems to have been called "The Plebs Union". I have an old photo to prove it with Granddad at the front of a large group sporting their newspaper - I believe it was called "The Plebs". To my mind it puts Plebgate on a whole different plane. To be called a "Pleb" simply meant one of the people and was not derogatory. I'm so proud of my grandfather who loved his fellow man and befriended his German farming captors during and after WW1 as well as speaking Esperanto.

jjcee Fri 24-Jan-14 21:01:06

im true scot , born and bred in Scotland if I go right back im from Viking

mollie Sat 25-Jan-14 12:03:36

I began researching my family tree way back in the 1980s so over the years have gathered a lot of names and details to add to the family history. To be fair, most of my information is the usual birth, death and marriage stuff with census info thrown in. There's very little else so my knowledge of these people is limited. I'd have liked a few letters or a diary, a few court appearances to show a bit of mischief or spirit, perhaps some militancy somewhere so that I can say my folks had a bit of backbone, courage, were rascals and rogues. Instead, I can just say they were ordinary folks who did their best and stuck to the rules. All a bit boring but I guess that's all most of us are doing. Not sure I can say I know them or understand them, I have no idea if this one was cheerful and big hearted or if that one was a miser and hated his neighbours. I don't know if this one liked the ladies and was a romantic or if that one was a flirt. I don't know anything like that, just the facts that the government insisted on knowing...

durhamjen Sat 25-Jan-14 12:15:53

Do you look at newspapers, Mollie?
There are a lot of sites that show newspapers, and can show you in the death announcements in particular, which members of the family were in touch with whom. Fortunately not every family had scandals in them. Otherwise it would be difficult to keep tabs on them all.
Are you a member of your local family history society? Some of my family lived in villages that changed from being in Durham to Cleveland to North Yorkshire on the boundaries of Westmoreland, so it was difficult to know where to research. Fortunately, I have come across a FHS that covers just that area, so I will join this year.

Elegran Sat 25-Jan-14 12:38:11

There are other records too, payouts from charitable sources and parish funds, admissions and discharges to workhouses and orphanages, lists of church members and their donations (or their receipt of funds if they were hard-up) lists of voters and of those liable to serve in the local militia, school rolls, records of the members of professional bodies and armed forces.

Take a look at cyndis List for online genealogical sites.

mollie Sat 25-Jan-14 12:45:10

I have some workhouse records and army service records to add some colour but otherwise I've tried all sorts of avenues and drawn a blank. I think the majority were too poor to leave wills or erect headstones. Most were ag labs so not land or property owning. I suppose I was trying to say that I can make a judgement about someone based on the usual facts but it doesn't really tell us much about their personalities which would be fascinating.