One hundred years ago today my beloved Grandad was born. I nagged and nagged him to write down his memories. He managed to do this up to the age of 9!
With the commencement of memory, you are able to recall parts of your life. The great war was declared on Tuesday, August the fourth 1914 and I was born, I was told, on the 29th, which was also a Tuesday, January 1918. The great war ended on Monday, November 11, 1918, armistice was signed. The house I was born in was 29 Ingleby Street. My memory commenced at the age of three as near as I can make it, it may have been earlier. I can recall riding in a pram having the sound of horses as they clip-clopped along the streets, the sound of the iron trimmed wheels as they rolled over the cobblestones. I lived at three back of 29 Ingleby Street. I was not a robust child, due, no doubt, to the shortages and I suffered ill health. Children, the Victorians decided, should be seen and not heard. I did not think I was noisy but I was often hushed and if I failed to keep quiet punished. There was one brass tap in the yard which was shared by the three homes since there was no water in any of the homes or toilets, one outside toilet was shared by three families so you always had to have a Poe under the bed or chamber. The tap in the yard had a round knob which you have to press down to get the water to flow, which it did with some force. When I was thirsty I would have to hang onto the tap with both hands, it took my full weight to operate it, I did not get much to drink but I did get very wet. I was, however, growing a little every day, so I did finally grow out of this problem.
At number 27 there was a man who we saw occasionally we regarded him with some awe. He had, we were told, been gassed in the war. He had no bed or blankets, he slept on the Chaise Longue with old coats for covering, very little or no fire, a basin he spat in. He had developed consumption. By the time I had reached five years of age he was not there anymore. I felt great sympathy for him and only as I grew old enough to understand that he was a young man who had died in a most disgusting fashion. It was about this time I nearly killed my sister. She had been bought a small broom, a replica of an ordinary broom. I picked it up and began to sweep with it when my sister perceived me she began screaming and crying. I did not want the broom but I was angry at the way she was carrying on. I raised the broom over my head, "shut up or I will bash you over the head with it." My mother had arrived on the scene, brought there by the noise, "you dare" she said. She could not have said a worst thing. The response was instantaneous, my sister was knocked screaming to the floor. Naturally, I had a beating for it which I thoroughly deserved.
I started school at five and a boy had to march into class with a girl. A girl came and stood by my side. I looked her up and down and said: "I’m not marching you into school, you’ve got a hole in your knickers". Looking around I said to another girl I’ll give you a sweet to marching to school with me she accepted. I was 100% little snob but my education had begun and if the clock could be put back I would be proud to march her into school.
The Victorians were very clever and forward-thinking people. The terraced houses were called back to back houses for this is what they were. They were built in a continuous line with an entry which opened out into the yard, in the yard was a building known as the wash house. It contained a boiler with a coal fire to boil the water, a table constructed with blue bricks on which to wash clothes and to provide a working area. At the back of the wash-house was a toilet on one side and on the other was a place for refuse and ashes from the fires.
The front house had two doors, one in the street, a front door, and one in the entry, a side door. The house at the back had one door, it was similar for the houses at the back of the yard so one area would accommodate six families. It was my dad’s practice to take us some Sundays to our other grandmother, Granny Woods. I was too young to understand that my Gran had remarried after the death of my grandfather but my grandad Wood was as nice a man you could wish to meet. I would be dressed up in my best clothes and I had an uncle Billy and an Aunt Nora who was my step grandad’s daughter. She was learning the piano and they were better off. They would insist on dressing me in Nora's frocks to keep my best clothes clean. Apart from this my Gran always made me welcome.
Ingleby Street was about 200 yards long, it was about halfway up the street, a hill that joined Monument Lane at the top and Spring Hill at the bottom. Looking down the hill from Monument Lane on the right was the Palace de Danse, on the left was the Doctors, a very old man, his name I believe, was Dr Trout. There were a few shops and a small public house which was on the Doctor's side about halfway up the street. On the same side was the passage that led to the infant school and a little lower was a small fish and chip shop. The street was wide because it joined a Spring Hill at an angle. In the middle of this was a small island on which was a stone horse trough about 2 foot six wide and 6 feet long, 3 feet high. There were a number of these troughs about so that horses could if allowed to, relieve their thirst. Opposite our entry was a small general shop for sweets and groceries. On the bottom and corner of Spring Hill was the Queens Head next to the Queens Head was the faggot and peas shop. They served dinners in there, you could also take away. We rarely had any and just to write about it makes my mouth water. Scrupulously clean, freshly prepared and wholesome in every way. Then came a clothes shop next Uncles where each Monday a queue would form so that clothes, usually a man’s best suit, would be pawned so that wives had money for food. Then it was George Bains, the cake shop, butchers, greengrocers I don’t remember them all. It was much the same on the opposite side. The shop I remember most was the Maypole, the street opposite ours was George Street West which led to a small playground. Just before Christmas each year the Palace de danse would put on a party where we would play games, sing, listen to dance music, get an apple and orange and a small gift so we were sure of some pleasure about Christmas time.
There were two incidents of note that took place while I live there. The one very tragic. The people who kept the small pub had a very pretty blonde daughter. She was being put to bed on one cold evening and she stood in front of a big fire. Her nightdress ignited and she was burnt to death. They allowed everyone who wished to file past her coffin, which was glass topped. She was about eight years old. Her face untouched. She was dressed in a nightdress and looked for all the world to be fast asleep. My eyes filled with tears as I realised the finality of death for someone as beautiful and as young as she.
The next incident was at the small chip shop. I was walking down the street when I heard a scream. I was startled. A woman appeared in the doorway of the chip shop. There was a very loud bang, the sound of breaking glass and the young woman flew through the air to land on her knees in the middle of the street and chip shop was enveloped in flames. She did not appear very badly hurt though very badly shocked. The Fire Brigade soon arrived and put out the fire.
Your world is full of noise which you hardly notice but with which you become familiar. The motor-vehicle was on the streets but the numbers were small and the horse would dominate the scene for a few years to come. The tram and the electric trolley bus were the public transport. The trains being the next important means of public transport. Then it was the push bikes turn and last, the motorbike began to appear in ever-increasing numbers as with the motorcar.
My world was an ever-changing place and still is. House lighting was by candle, kerosene or gas paraffin and kerosene or lamp oil as they were commonly called. Some of the lamps were quite efficient but the gas mantle gave the better light and the oil lamps went out of fashion. Just as on your bike if you had one it was paraffin lamps first then acetylenic lamps came next and electric lamps and dynamos.
The fireplace was the central place in any home. The fire grate, as it was referred to, could be used for all your cooking. The grate was polished with black lead, dampers controlled its function and it usually had cleaning doors, very small access places in which you had tools to insert to remove ash and soot. There were plates inserted into the flat top of the grate and if you wished you could lift one out to boil a kettle or saucepan.
Saucepans of my early days were made of cast iron and if dropped would shatter into pieces. These would vanish as aluminium came into fashion, the grate would have a guard called a bow. It was some 2 foot 2 inches high and was fixed to the wall on either side of the grate by two hooks. It could be lifted off. It was very useful for drying all kinds of articles. It was a favourite place to sit on. The grate would have the sheet iron piece called a draw tin when the fire went low it would be used to increase the draught and has caused many a chimney fire, some of which could be quite spectacular and if the Fire Brigade attended one of these they were quite ruthless. Regardless of damage, they would send a streak of water straight down the chimney so for some people misfortune could strike both ways. It must be said for some that they did it deliberately to avoid paying a sweep to do the job. In front of the bow would be a rug, home-made. It was made from discarded clothes which would be unpicked and cut into strips about 3/4 of an inch wide by 2 1/2 inches long. These would be threaded by a Bodger into a piece of hessian stitched into position then backed by another piece of hessian. These rugs, when well made, were very good and if your mother yelled "get off that cold floor" you knew where to go. Of course, it had to be kept clean so you did not walk on it in dirty boots. That’s why it was the centrepiece of every household. You would riddle the ashes and burn them, they were saved sometimes to relight the fire because it took less wood sticks to light ashes than coal. Sugar bags were made of a heavy blue paper. These were ideal for filling with slack coal that had been crushed by breakage with these the fire could be the banked to last a long time, indeed when you became skilled you could make a fire last eight or nine hours. Colds were not so prevalence as they are now because the open fire would ensure that the air you breathe would be fresh.
My granny Mitchell was a small woman and as a child, I never went to my mother, when hurt it was always to my Gran she would love me, so it was always her lap that I sobbed in.
My Gran had a vice if you can call it that it was always hard times and money was short but my gran loved having a bet. She knew her subject and had some success. My grandad, I never called him that for I spent time in his company, I called him Pop. I never knew for sure exactly where he came from, it was, I think Glasgow. His liking for his national drink brought him financial ruin. He was a man of skill though through his failure was always looked down on. He was of medium height and build, balding grey hair turning to white, much as I am now. I loved him for the time he spent with me.
On Sunday, I don’t know how old I was but I was an early riser so I started taking a cup of tea up to my mum and dad. The kettle was too heavy for me to lift and pour into the teapot. I used to drag the chair up to the stove. Doors were never locked, I would go down the yard to fill the kettle, lift it onto the chair and then the stove. At first, I had trouble lighting the gas because I wasn’t quick enough the gas would go bang, blow out the match and not light but I got better with practice. I would tip the kettle to pour water into the teapot then I could put the teapot on the stove and lift the kettle to finish filling it. I could not walk upstairs so I went up by lifting the cups a stair at a time but as time went on these problems vanished.
I was going into my six year when I decided to go to my granny Woods on my own, I was not asked by the conductor to pay any fair on the tram. The terminus was in Edmund Street where the tram would change over to the return line for the tram to load up for the return journey. Just below the tram terminus was a passage, Eden Place which led from Edmund Street to Colmore Row, on the corner was a news vendor for Sunday papers, just round the corner was two pavement artists war cripples [unreadable] as the man who played zither in Colmore Row at the other end of the passage. To my young ears he was very good, the sound reverberating along the passage and sometimes mingled with the signs of the church bells. The man who played the zither dragged himself about on a wooden platform mounted on casters like those used on furniture. He was without legs but he was a man of great spirit and courage for these were real hard times, you would see many cripples from the war, men who twitched and jerked about and became very agitated at any loud noise. These things, even when you were only five years old, you accepted with sympathy, part of your normal world. I would go down Colmore Row, of course, I didn’t know the names then, crossover to Saint Phillips Cathedral, walk past it and go down Cheery Street to Martineau Street, the terminus to catch a tram to Saltley. I would get off at Duddlesten Mill and walk down to my Grans. I knocked on the door at the front of the house, hello Gran, she looked at me, where's your dad? I was indignant, I came on my own. I was too young to know that my Gran who had not greeted me with her usual warmth was filled with consternation by what I had done did not meet with approval and I began to feel some misgivings. It was I think about an hour later that my dad arrived, he was angry, he came in the back way, "have you seen our kid", "yes he is here". I did not hear anymore so I can only guess, I think Gran had words with him, dad came in and I expected to be beaten. "what do you think you doing", "I came to see Gran", "don’t you ever do anything like it again, if you’re going anywhere you tell me or your mother first", "yes dad", "right let’s go". He had come on his bike and I had to sit on the crossbars to ride home, which was pretty uncomfortable but there the matter ended.
My Granny Mitchell had three children living with her. Ruby the youngest then Herbert and Ethel, my other uncles and aunts were either in Service or married. Ruby was just two years my senior but she has the advantage of saying I am your aunt. Then there was Herbert, he was somebody who I thought I could look up to for help and guidance. Some of the things he subjected me to it’s a wonder I am alive. I now know that he had a sadistic streak in him. It was he who caused me to smash out my front teeth. He nearly drowned me and he thought it quite funny. I went with him to the public swimming baths for the first time. He took me out of my depth and kept dunking me under the water and holding me under. I was swallowing water and I could’ve drowned. I made sure when I got out that he never got near me again. He thought it was hilarious. He played football and he would take me with him and I had to guard the clothes for the players.
If I was deemed to be naughty my mother would lock me down the cellar. The first time I was terrified and crying and I was told to shut up or I would not be let out not only that I was told how the bogeyman would get me and it became one of Herbert's pastimes to hide in the dark and spring out on me as I went past. It was he that cause me to smash out my front teeth. I had a large wooden train which needed some strength to pull. I was trying to pull him on it when I was able to move it he would just put his feet down so that’s how I lost my front teeth. Well, that was my uncle Herbert. All in all, I think I had a pretty terrifying childhood, luckily I grew out of it though some fears remained for a long time.
Dick had arrived on the scene I was made to look after him, rock the pram, wheel him up and down. Sunday afternoon I would have to take him in the pram and then by the hand for walks of at least two hours and if I came back too early I would be sent out again. Sometimes Lily would cry but I could do nothing except comfort her.
I think I was eight going on nine when I first started to fetch the cold and very hard it was too. I would have to go to the wharf on canal side. Here you would take your place in the queue to wait for the return of the two-wheeled barrows that you carried the coal in. I think when I first went 1 cwt of coal cost 1/8 pence by today’s money 8p. You had to leave a deposit on the cart or barrow as they were called so you had to hope you got one that would not be too hard to push. The wheels were never oiled except the pusher who wanted to make pushing easier. It was weighed in a big scoop, the same as the one used for weighing sweets. You paid for the coal and left a deposit which was chalked up against your barrow number. People were different then you could always have someone who would give you assistance if you needed, it the first thing to do when you left the coal yard was to arrange the coal so that it balanced over the axle then you did not have to carry a heavy weight on your arms, then it was just the slog home and return barrow.
In winter I often cried with pain from the cold. I used to suffer chilblains at this time, and they were almost on bearable, mostly my toes. The only relief was from rubbing dripping on them. Growing up I did not know all my relations because they lived in other places only now I have found out them all. My Gran Mitchell had 14 children, the eldest was Elsie then Violet and a boy called Herbert who drowned at the age of seven, Millicent also died aged two then came my mother, Dolly, Sid, Mabel, Alfred, Muriel, Ethel, Herbert and last Ruby from whom I received the order of the family. Most of the girls went into service, it was when they came home that I came to know them. Violet was at Colwyn Bay, she was joined by Muriel. Mabel was down at Margate. When they came home they brought with them a Holiday feeling of happiness with little presents for everyone plus money to buy sweets not that people could afford much but they were happy occasions which created a pleasure for all. It was different with my Granny Wood. Her home was by the standards of that time well kept and wealthy. When I first went to Gran's Liz and May still lived there as did Bill and Nora. Uncle Jim was married otAunt Nell and Iris was their first child and Nell's, mum and dad, we called Gran and grandad Rudge. Aunt Liz and May soon married leaving Bill and Nora at home. Nora was only a few years older than I and she took piano lessons so there was always a sheet of popular music to be found. So my liking for music started at Granny Woods, we had a wind-up gramophone, his Masters Voice, of course, which we would play mostly on a Sunday evening. Our records then we’re nearly all overtures or marches I was allowed to be the winder upper and record changer. Still, it afforded quite a few hours of pleasure for all at home.
I was always getting the cane for being late at school, the fault was usually Dick. It was my job to keep him entertained so when it was time for me to go to school, he did not want me to go, so one day I took with me to prove that I was telling the truth when I said my brother was the cause of my being late. It was not a good idea though looking back the teachers allowed him to stay and they were very good the problem was Dick, he had the nickname of moaner. I had to do my schoolwork and the teacher's entertained Dick which wasn’t easy so I was very glad when school ended so that I could take him home it did have one good effect Dick decided it was not so good going to school so I was not caned so often. You could not be a second late as soon as the bell went a teacher would stand by the door and you would be told to "stand over there". Children would march from the playground into school and the teacher would fetch a cane, cane you and send you to class.
There were some tough neighbourhoods and you could be faced with having to make a quick decision run or fight. Such was the time that my Granny sent me to get some potatoes. I was confronted by a lad much bigger and beefier than me, "you can’t come past here" he said. I hit and he went down crying. I did not wait to find out why I chose to run as fast as my legs would take me. I did not go back the way I came but the following day I forgot, going past where he stopped me, he had a bandage round his head "mom here’s that kid that hit me,". I did not wait, I was gone. Not all my encounters ended so favourably to me. I was frequently on the receiving end but I always reckoned that I could and did hold my own.
It was about this time that I decided to go with Grandad Rudge. He was my dad‘s brother's wife’s father, his father in law, but we called him Grandad. He worked on the LMS railway as the parcels delivery man. It was a separate service. The cart was like a bread van with no doors. Where the doors would have been hung a rope with a knot on the end this was for the driver's mate to hang on. The system was simple, the cart would be loaded at the "docks" so called, for they were loading platforms. The parcels would be loaded so they would follow on each delivery, the boy's job was to hang on the back of the cart and ensure the safety of the load and to assist in unloading it. It was a fast service and the horse would fast trot, it was not a heavy draught horse like most but more like today’s police horses. On a warm day, they would be lathered in sweat. I had asked Grandad if I could go with him several times and he had said yes. So one Saturday morning I got up quickly taking care not to wake anybody, it would be about 5:30. By the time I got to town, it was gone 6 o’clock, they started early in those days. I had to walk from town to where they lived and I worried whether I should miss him. I decided to risk going down back street with which I was not familiar and turning one corner I bumped straight into him. He was very surprised to see me. For a while he had promised to take me, he never thought he would have to. However, in those days people kept their word. When we got to the yard I had to wait a very long time, he had to go harness the horse, go down to the dock pick up the cart and his mate, check the notes to see how they had arranged the first drop and we were ready for our first 8 o’clock delivery. About 10:30 am we stopped for breakfast. They went to the pub and I sat on the cart. It was pretty cold so I began to walk around. There were a number of horses and carts outside the pub and one decided to take off on its own. I ran and jumped on his head to hang on the bridle. It didn’t make any difference it took me as well. A man passing stopped it and backed it up to the place that he had left. Learned my first lesson it is the reign that you hold not the bridle. Grandad had to work all day so he went home about 12:30 to drop me off and get some dinner. Dad had been looking for me but since I had met him going to work they didn’t know I was with him. They told me to wait until dad returned as he intended to call in on his way home as he had gone to see if I was with Gran.
Uncle Jim worked in the steelworks opposite where they lived. Dad returned, he was not pleased, for me it turned out to be a long day but no worse for with a few drinks inside him all Dad wanted to do was relax. Dad did not forgive and forget readily, he would remind me of one of my misdemeanours. When I was nine Dad bought me a secondhand bike, though I did not know it my mechanical education had begun. It took me several days and lots of bruises, skin off my knees but I mastered it on my own. I forget what happened to it for when we moved from Ladywood to Pipe Hayes I did not have it. It was now that I would lose 12 months or more of my schooling, Paget Road School was in the process of being built, and that’s a lot of time to lose from school. I had two years in which to make up the time I had lost. I was a loner not by choice but condition but I did make friends and enemies for the next two years. I did a paper round. I was sent on an errand and jumped over a fence I lost 2/6d so I got a paper round so that I could pay it back. This would be the time of my life when I would be at my fittest. I don’t know how I fitted everything in. I ran most places. I had more space and freedom, that was missing at Ladywood. It was late summer when we move to Pipe Hayes, we were in for a very hard time. There were few people in the road when we moved in, the road was unmade, when it rained it was mud everywhere, it would remain so throughout the winter. It was a hard winter.
Dad was an active Labour member and meetings would be held at home, Dad due to his active role in the labour movement had a hard time getting employment. He did any work he could get, mostly gardening and some part-time work at a chemist's. It was here that he started to learn names in Latin. He applied for and got two council allotments so I had to help with the work on the allotments. In retrospect, Dad was a very capable man and without any doubt, he taught me voluntarily and otherwise quite a lot, though I was eager to learn, Dad was weak in mechanics while I learned them quickly. My youth did not give me the understanding, that I now have, only the passing years have done that. My early knowledgeable years I do not remember my parents showing me any affection, indeed when I was about seven years old my Dad picked me up onto his knee and put his arm around me, I burst into tears, that ended my Dad showing me any affection. Dick was the apple of Dad's eye as I came to realise this I was very resentful but he was a hard worker and I knew he did his best for us in very difficult times. I accepted that that was the way it was. Mother was always occupied with first Lily and Dick and finally Jim. I was very shy, quiet and being the eldest a loner. Hard times made me willing and hard-working in this I suppose I took after both my parents. Having a sense of humour was important though it always got me into trouble when I gave it a little help. My two years at school were happy years. I was fit very active always up to some mischief or other.
I live three back at 29 Ingleby Street my Granny lives in 29 she was a small rotund lady who I loved indeed in times of stress. I turned to my Gran for comfort which she was always ready to give. My aunt Ruby was two years my senior so she was part of any growing up. My aunt Ethel and uncle Herbert were older and taken with doing their own thing. We did not have electric but we had candles and gas, dark nights and rear homes were separated by a freestanding wall my uncle Herbert thought it was great fun to hide behind the wall when it was dark so he could leap out on me when I was passing. My shrieks of fear only added to his enjoyment. At the age of 10 I was able to fetch 1 cwt of coal this meant going to the wharf on the canalside, here you have to wait for someone to return the two wheelbarrow which she used to transport the coal home you have to leave a deposit on the barrow which you collected when you return to the barrow. I used to suffer from chilblains and I would be crying from the pain suffered through cold weather the pain was quite severe. It was about this time I had my first bike I had to teach myself to ride it, it took quite a long time but once having learnt it I could not understand why it had taken so long, a week or more and I have the scars to prove it. I was nearly 9 years old...
Monday, 29 January 2018
Tuesday, 7 February 2017
Live stream schedule
Missed a session - click on the relevant day below to access the RootsTech streaming archive
Missed a session - click on the relevant day below to access the RootsTech streaming archive
|9:00 a.m.–10:00 a.m. | Innovator Summit General Session
Speakers: Steve Rockwood, Liz Wiseman
|4:00 pm – 5:00 pm|
|10:15 a.m.–11:15 a.m. | Industry Trends and Outlook
Speakers: Craig Bott and Guest Panel
|5:15 pm – 6:15 pm|
|11:30 a.m.–12:00 p.m. | Innovation—Best Practices and Applications
Speaker: Cydni Tetro
|6:30 pm – 7:00 pm|
|8:30 a.m.-10:00 a.m. | RootsTech General Session
Speakers: Steve Rockwood, Jonathan and Drew Scott
|3:30 pm – 5:00 pm|
|11:00 a.m.–12:00 p.m. | Getting Started in Genealogy
Speaker: Kelli Bergheimer
|6:00 pm – 7:00 pm|
|12:15 p.m.–1:15 p.m. | DNA: The Glue That Holds Families Together
Speaker: Diahan Southard
|7:15 pm – 8:15 pm|
|1:30 p.m.–2:30 p.m. | DNA Matching on MyHeritage
Speaker: Dana Drutman
|8:30 pm – 9:30 pm|
|3:00 p.m.–4:00 p.m. | Jewish Genealogy: Where to Look and What’s Available
Speaker: Lara Diamond
|10:00 pm – 11:00 pm|
|4:30 p.m.–5:30 p.m. | Family History Is Anything but Boring
Speakers: Crystal Farish and Rhonna Farrer
|11:30 pm – 12:30 pm|
|8:30 a.m.–10:00 a.m. | RootsTech General Session
Speakers: Levar Burton, Special Guest Panel
|3:30 pm – 5:00 pm|
|10:30 a.m.–11:30 a.m. | RootsTech Innovator Showdown Finals||5:30 pm – 6:30 pm|
|12:15 p.m.–1:15 p.m. | Mothers, Daughters, Wives: tracing Female Lines
Speaker: Judy Russell
|7:15 pm – 8:15 pm|
|1:30 p.m.–2:30 p.m. | Censational Census Strategies
Speaker: Mary Kircher Roddy
|8:30 pm – 9:30 pm|
|3:00 p.m.–4:00 p.m. | Big 4: Comparing Ancestry, findmypast, FamilySearch, and MyHeritage
Speaker: Sunny Morton
|10:00 pm – 11:00 pm|
|4:30 p.m.–5:30 p.m. | Cross the Atlantic with Religious Records
Speaker: Jen Baldwin
|11:30 pm – 12:30 pm|
|8:30 a.m.–10:00 a.m. | RootsTech General Session
Speakers: Cece Moore, Buddy Valastro
|3:30 pm – 5:00 pm|
|11:00 a.m.–12:00 p.m. | Journaling Principles That Work
Speaker: Steve Reed
|6:00 pm – 7:00 pm|
|1:30 p.m.–2:30 p.m. | Don’t Just Be a Searcher, Be a Researcher
Speaker: Crista Cowan
|8:30 pm – 9:30 pm|
|3:00 p.m.–4:00 p.m. | Creating Google Alerts for Your Genealogy
Speaker: Katherine R. Wilson
|10:00 pm – 11:00 pm|
Sunday, 1 January 2017
This is an essay I did back in 2001 when I was doing an introduction to family history course via the University of Birmingham.
The task was:
A 3,000 word-equivalent project with charts, pedigrees and diagrams as appropriate, producing an outline family history from the collection and management of relevant material.
This was in the days when you had to go to libraries and record offices to scroll through microfiche and microfilm until you found what you were looking for. This, however, is just the narrative minus the charts, etc.
My Fairbairn Family
My Nan was born on New Year's Day 1920. She knew very little about her family. She knew her elder sister, Lucy, her younger sister, Winnie and her half sister, Irene. She knew about her sister, Ida, and her brother, Jimmy, both of whom had died young. Nan knew her father's name was James Southall but she had no recollection of him as he had died when she was only two and a half years old. She remembered her mother, Emily Fairbairn, and recalled that she had been known as Pem. Her mother had died when she was young and the family had been split up. She also mentioned an Aunt Kate and an Aunt Hannah. I had successfully traced the Southall line back to Nan's great grandfather, Joseph Southall in Tipton, Staffordshire. However, it was the Fairbairn line that was intriguing as nothing was known about them.
This is the limited information I had to start with. The marriage certificate for James and Emily had already been obtained in order to trace the Southall line. Emily Fairbairn had been 19 when she married James on 10 December 1906 at St Michael's & All Angels, Smethwick. (Emily must have been about six months pregnant when she got married as Lucy was born 21 March 1907). James and Emily were both shown as living at 84 Regent Street, Smethwick and Emily's father stated to be Alfred Fairbairn, Moulder. From this information, it was calculated that her date of birth would be c1887. A copy of her death certificate was obtained. She had died Emily Gittins (wife of Reginald Gittins, her second husband) on 4 August 1930 aged 41. This made her date of birth c1889. A search was made of the General Register Office (GRO) indexes for birth's from 1885-1890. The only reference to be found for an Emily Fairbairn was in June Quarter 1887. There was also a reference to a Kate Fairbairn in September Quarter 1885. Aunt Kate? Both had been registered in Sculocates. A request was sent off to Sculocates for the certificate for Emily Fairbairn to be sent ONLY if the father was listed as Alfred. A 'phone call was received from the Register Office to advise that the father's name was not Alfred but John.
The 1881 Census index had been checked for an Alfred Fairbairn. A 20 year old Alfred had been found to be living at Oldbury Road, Smethwick, with father, Robert, sister, Maria and a child, Herbert. No connection could yet be made between this Alfred and Emily.
Irene, Nan's half sister had managed to maintain contact with family members. Nan had not had this opportunity as she had been farmed out to distance relatives of her father's when her mother died. Contact was made with a cousin, Kate. Kate had been born to Kate Phipps nee Fairbairn, Emily's sister. Kate was interviewed and from the information she gave, a basic family tree was drawn up. Apart from her mother, Kate, she had Aunts Emily and Ethel, Uncles Samuel and Arthur. Another search was made of the GRO index for birth's in case something had been missed. This time the search covered 1881-1897 and a note was taken of all the Fairbairns (and name variants) registered in Kings Norton, West Bromwich, Aston and Birmingham. There was only 16 references. Included in these names were Kate, Samuel Alfred, Arthur Albert and Ethel May, all registered in Kings Norton. But no Emily. However, there was an Emma Fairbairn, Kings Norton. This had to be Emily! A request was sent off, again stating that the certificate should only be provided if the father's name was Alfred. At last a certificate arrived. Emily had been born Emma Fairbairn on 19 July 1888 at 193 Bearwood Road, Smethwick to Alfred Fairbairn and Selina Povey. Church records were checked to find the baptisms. All five baptism's took place at Holy Trinity, Smethwick between 15 April 1886 and 13 May 1897.
Although the census records for 1891 were fully indexed for this area my Fairbairn family could not be found. A search was made of the properties in Bearwood Road and the family were found at 193. Alfred FIRBIN was living with his wife, Selina, daughters, Kate and Emma and son, Alfred. The head of the household was Kate Povey. The census showed that Alfred was 30 years old and born in West Bromwich. The 1881 census mentioned earlier had shown a 20 year old Alfred who was also born in West Bromwich. Given the rarity of the Fairbairn name in this area, Alfred could be one in the same.
A search was made of local churches for the marriage of Alfred Fairbairn and Selina Povey. Kate had been registered in September Quarter 1885 but baptised Keziah on 15 April 1886 at Holy Trinity. The dates gave a starting point. The marriage certificate for Alfred and Selina was found in the church records for Old Church, Smethwick and showed that they were married on 1 November 1885. The birth certificate for Kate has been requested from both Sandwell Register Office and Birmingham Register Office but the correct certificate has not yet been located. This was requested in order to prove that she was born before her parents marriage. The marriage certificate stated that Alfred's father was Robert, glass maker. Again, cross referencing with different records confirmed that the 1881 census did indeed show Emily's father, Alfred.
The 1861 census index held by Sandwell Community History and Archives Services at Smethwick Library was checked for West Bromwich as this is where Alfred stated he had been born. The family were found living at Parliament Street in Holy Trinity Parish. The record showed Robert, 32, glass maker, his wife, Mary, also 32 and children, Eliza, Emma, Maria and Alfred.
A search was made of the GRO index for births for Alfred's Birth and a copy of his certificate was obtained from West Bromwich Register Office. Alfred Robert was born 23 August 1860 at Parliament Street to Robert Fairbairn and Mary Thompson.
The census indexes were checked for 1871, 1851 and 1841. The 1871 census shows Robert living with daughter, Elinor, 19 and son Alfred, 10 at 15 Oldbury Road, Smethwick. Since Eliza is 9 on the 1861 census and Elinor is 19 on the 1871 and with Emma/Emily and Kate/Kesiah name changes it makes one feel that Eliza and Elinor are the same person. There was no trace of Robert and Mary in the 1851 census index. The 1841 census shows a Robert Fairburn aged 11, glass maker, living with Robert, 65, glass maker, Mary, 45, James, 15 and Mary Ann, 8. Assumptions have to be made about family relationships as this is not recorded on the 1841 census and will need to be proved or disproved by the use of other records.
Researching my Fairbairn family has been a valuable lesson in name variants (Emma/Emily, Kate/Keziah, Elinor/Eliza) and variations in spelling (Fairbairn, Fairburn, Firbin, Fairbain, Fairbaine, etc). It is important to have an open mind and 'think outside the box' when it comes to researching ones family. What would they have done then, without the knowledge we now take for granted?
A search for the marriage certificate of Robert Fairbairn and Mary Thompson was made in the local church records. Assuming that Eliza/Elinor was the oldest child, the starting point for the search would be c1852. The marriage was found to have taken place at West Bromwich Parish Church, All Saints, on 4 September 1850. Robert had been a 20 year old glass maker whose father, Robert, was also a glass maker. One of the witnesses was Mary Ann Fairbairn. This tied up with the names on the 1841 census.
A check was made in the 1851 census index for Robert's father and the other members of his family as shown on the 1841 census. No trace could be found for Robert, snr, however, his widow Mary was living as a housekeeper with her daughter Mary Ann at Spon Lane. James was living with his wife, Hannah and his children James and Samuel at Bowater Street, West Bromwich. References to James and his family and descendants have been found for the 1861, 1871, 1881 and 1891 census and it shows that they lived for all those years at 21 Hawthorn Street.
The International Genealogical Index (IGI) was checked for references to the Fairbairns in Staffordshire. It showed the christening of Eleanor (14 May 1827) and James (24 September 1825) both to Robert and Mary at West Bromwich Mare's Green Independent. The original source was checked on a visit to the Public Record Office (PRO), Kew. A copy was taken which showed James had been born on 24 August 1825 and Eleanor on 18 April 1827. No references to the other children were found in these records. The visit to Kew was also an opportunity to check the non conformist records for the baptisms of Alfred and his siblings as these had not been found in the Church of England records in the area. The records for the Wesleyan-Methodist Chapel of West Bromwich showed that, on 26 September 1860, Alfred Robert had been christened along with Maria. The next entry was for 24 October 1860 and showed Eleanor Mary along with sister Emma. The address given for them all was Spon Lane.
The IGI also showed a reference to a marriage of a Robert Fairbairn to Ann Sadler at Smethwick on 22 May 1816. The original source was checked and a transcript taken for future reference. Interestingly, Robert was shown as a widower.
A reference to the marriage of a Robert FAIRBAIN to a Mary Parish was found. A transcription was taken from the original records which showed that they had married at St Mary, Handsworth on 5 September 1824. It is felt that this is Robert and Mary, parents of Robert and grandparents of Alfred. Unfortunately, the certificate did not indicate if Robert was a widower. Robert is c53 years old when he marries 27 year old Mary. An assumption could be made that this is not his first marriage. Is it possible that his previous wife was Ann Sadler as he would have been 45 years old at that marriage. It states on it that Robert was a widower. Was Ann Sadler the second wife and Mary Parish the third? This is to be investigated further using burial records as a starting point. An application was made to the Staffordshire Burial Index held by the Birmingham and Midland Society for Genealogy and Heraldry. A reply has been received but unfortunately, there are no Fairbairn's (and variants) shown in the index for the whole of Staffordshire! It had been hoped to be able to compare the signatures on the two marriage certificates but it looks as though the certificate for the marriage to Mary Parish has been written out by one person and the wedding party just put their X. This could mean that Robert who married Mary could not write but it could also be that the priest just didn't give them the opportunity to do so.
There were limited references to Fairbairns in the area. It was decide to collect every reference to be found and make family trees up even if they did not belong to the family being investigated. To get off to a good start the Will Indexes were checked for all Fairbairns (and variants) from 1858 to 1948. Wills can offer a fascinating insight into family and the relationships. Wills that have been proved in Birmingham during this period can be found in Archives at Birmingham Central Library. For Wills that have been proved at Lichfield a trip was necessary to Lichfield Record Office. Wills after this date are still held by the relevant Probate Office and the cost of viewing them is prohibitive for this kind of study. Basic family trees can often be drawn up and built upon later as other references come along. In conjunction with this, the GRO death indexes were also checked from the beginning of civil registration 1837 until 1950, so far. When a reference was found for a Fairbairn that had died in Smethwick, Smethwick Cemetery Records for that quarter were checked. When successful this gave the name of the person to be buried, age, address, date of burial, who did the service, place of burial and whether consecrated ground or not. For later burials the Electoral Rolls where checked to establish who had lived in that property and for how long. A letter has yet to be sent to Bereavement Services at Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council to find out who else was buried in the graves and the exact location so that a visit can be made to the cemetery. The information on family relationships taken from the wills and added information from the GRO Death Index, cemetery records and electoral records have been used in conjunction with the census records to draw up basic (sometimes detailed) family trees. The results of this research showed that apart from my Staffordshire glass making family, there were four other families in the area. The most detailed of the families was the bakers of Birmingham which descend from Ralph Fairbairn who was born in Scotland c1810. There were the 'engineers' of Staffordshire who descended from Thomas Fairbairn born c1832. The family of Richard Fairbairns born c1819 in Poplar, Mid, a stock and share broker of Birmingham. And finally there was the Wesleyan Minister family of James Parkinson Fairbourn who went from Lancashire to Staffordshire to Cheshire. It has been useful to have a note of these families so that when a reference is found for someone new it is easier to eliminate them from my own family. It is also to be wondered if one or more of these families is in fact connected to the glass makers. Robert born c 1771 was, according to the 1841 Census, born outside the county. Could he be related in some way to the baker, Ralph Fairbairn born in Scotland in c1810. Robert had four children with Mary, his first when he is 54 years old! It has been suggested that Mary is his third wife. How many children could he have had with his first and second wives if this turns out to be the case? Is Ralph Fairbairn his son? These ideas are to be investigated further.
It has been shown that by 1851 Mary was a widow so Robert must have died between 1841 and 1851. The GRO death indexes had been searched and a certificate was obtained. Robert FAIRBAINE had died on 9 November 1846 at Spon Lane aged 75 years. The cause of death being Disease of the Heart. The informant was Robert Fairbaine who had been in attendance at the death. Being 'in attendance' usually meant that the person had been attending to the person during their illness but had not been present at the death.
Three other death certificates were obtain as a result of the search of the GRO death indexes. The first was Robert Fairbairn who had been in attendance at his own father's death 58 years earlier. Robert FAIRBURN had died on 20 July 1904. He too had been 75 years old when he died. The cause of death had been Senile Gangrene and he had died at 81 Corbett Street. The resident of 81 Corbett Street had been Sarah Maltilda Hall who was the informant and had been present at the death. It is not known what her connection is and this is to be investigated.
The other two death certificates were for Alfred and Selina. Selina had died some months before her father in law, Robert. Selina Fairbairn nee Povey had died on 25 October 1903 at the Workhouse Infirmary, Selly Oak. She was just 38 years old and the cause of death was pulmonary tuberculosis. Although she is list as the wife of Alfred Fairbairn, a labourer of Smethwick the death was registered by the Steward of the Workhouse Infirmary. According to Smethwick Cemetery Records, Selina was buried on 31 October 1903. The address stated is Workhouse Infirmary but underneath is written 154 Gilbert Road. The electoral roll was checked for this address. The resident of 154 Gilbert Road was Emmanuel Thompson, her sister's husband.
Alfred's death certificate showed that he had died on 13 September 1937 at 1a Raddlebarn Road, Selly Oak, a euphemism for the hospital. He had lived slightly longer than his father and grandfather and had made it to 77 years. His occupation was given as 'of no fixed abode formally an iron moulder'. His son S(amuel) Fairbairn of 16 Lones Road, Smethwick had registered the death. Unlike his wife, Selina, he was buried in a paupers' grave at Lodge Hill Cemetery on 16 September 1937.
Nan would have been 17 years old when her grandfather died and yet she did not even know his name or that he existed.
Robert lost his father, Robert, when he was 16 years old. Emma had lost her mother, Selina, when she was 15 years old. Nan lost her father when she was 2 and half and her mother when she was 10. It is not surprising, then, that family information has not been preserved.
Thursday, 7 April 2016
Strange things you find when searching the newspapers on Find My Past.
February 13, 1770
Monday, 28 March 2016
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