Since retirement I've had time to work on my family history project which has been made easier because my late mother kept a record on her side of the family, I have a line called 'a pedigree' on my father's side going back to the 17th century because of some well-documented ancestors and I'm in contact with cousins who are also family history research enthusiasts.
The items that I've inherited from both sides of the family make the documented research come to life. However, it's my father's side of the family that I'm going to write about in this post as I've been thinking about each member since going down to the southern counties at the weekend.
My father and his siblings were born in what used to be a small Thames Valley market town. His father and the generations before that came from rural Hampshire and his mother's family came from an equally rural environment in West Berkshire and before that from the county of Wiltshire.
The 17th century ancestors were cloth merchants who gravitated to Richmond upon Thames and Twickenham, London were benefactors in education, notaries, scriveners and some were in the social circle of Samuel Pepys, the diarist. All very interesting, but naturally I feel more connected to the Victorian and Edwardian family having known members who lived through the drastic changes of the late 19th century and the early to mid 20th century.
Thomas and Mary, my great grandparents and my grandfather, Thomas Henry, with his oldest sister, Alice.
(Thomas Henry married my grandmother, Helen May, and had two girls before going off to the Front in WWI where he died from his wounds some days after my father, Thomas, was born, not knowing that my grandmother had delivered a son and is buried in a war cemetery in northern France).
Later, my grandmother, Helen May, married a widower and had two more children, but her husband, weakened by his war experiences, also died and my father and his two half siblings were sent to a Methodist boarding school in Hampshire.
Alice and Thomas Henry had other siblings, Louisa who died when she was 12 years old, and Emily and Edith - the great aunts that I wrote about who gave me the doll, Queenie.
Unlike Emily and Edith, Alice married, had one child, Edith Emily, and lived in the house where I grew up from the age of 10 years. (Edith Emily lived with the two unmarried aunts (who moved to the family home when her parents died) and she also lived there with us when they died as she needed support due to health issues from birth).
Alice as a young woman.
Here are some of the sewing and knitting items belonging to my great aunts, such as the tape measure holder in the shape of a butter churn, wooden needle case, bone crochet hooks and knitting needles and a sewing set in the shape of a velveteen shoe.
But one of the items I treasure most, as well as the photograph albums, the family prayer books and Bibles, is this faded sampler worked by Alice.
Some of these women family members were employed in the offices and in retail in a very genteel boot and shoe business, which was still very old-fashioned until near the end of the 20th century with cash containers that whizzed above the client's head on wires from the retail floor to the cashier's cubicle- like office. The last of these family-run businesses in Reading has recently disappeared. It was a more personal and enjoyable way of shopping for a more leisurely way of life and very different to the busy, waterside, retail centre in the heart of town where we had a family celebratory birthday meal last weekend!