19 Apr 2013

My family history (1)

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!


  1. So very interesting Linda. I love all the old photos - they look like they are right out of a Jane Austen movie. You are so fortunate to have that history of your family.

  2. I'm also a family historian Linda although its on the back burner at the moment but I've had such fun tracking everyone down. Been on some lovely weekends away in country villages in the hope of finding an old house or a tomb in the local churchyard. Have also met some delightful people on our travels too. Thank you for your lovely comments on my last couple of posts. Have a great weekend.
    Patricia x

    1. Sorry Linda I should have said what a lovely post with wonderful photos. I had started my comment with that but further on I needed to edit something, cut this one but forgot to paste it again!! P

  3. Thank you for this fascinating information about your father's family. Betsy is very much interested in family history as well. You are fortunate to have so many photos and items from your family. Have a great weekend.

  4. Very interesting Linda and how lovely to have so many family mementoes. I find that interest in family grows as life progresses and I did persuade my mother to write down some of her family memories a few years ago. Otherwise it is lost and that is a shame.

    Have a good weekend.

  5. Your family history was very lovely to read about.. The photos and other things are certainly things to treasure forever... Have a lovely weekend. Hugs Judy

  6. Oh how interesting... As you probably know, I love working on my Family History. Love seeing the old photos. I have some similar ones in my family... My mother also kept good records -which helped, when working on her side of the family. My Dad's family were poor--and it's hard to find much on them.

    Have a great weekend.

  7. What an absolute treat this post was for me. I loved the black and white photos and those sewing items are priceless. I loved the little butter churn tape measure holder and the shoe in which these wonderful items are stored.

    How lovely that you actually have samples of Alice's work. Have a lovely weekend.xxxxx

  8. What a super post, I've really enjoyed reading about your family history - you have some wonderful photos and family treasures. I find Family History so absorbing although I haven't done any research for quite a while nor updated my Family History blog although I've been searching some newspaper archives recently and it has got me interested again:)

  9. My goodness, you have such lovely treasures! I just love knowing our roots and being able to look at faces and touch the things they touched is priceless beyond measure.

  10. un véritable trésor
    j' ai beaucoup de photos également de ma famille
    3 à 4 générations
    j' aime connaitre leurs métiers
    les prénoms ; Blanche ; Celeste ; Modeste ; Célestine ,Émilienne ::::::
    on héritait souvent du prénom du grand-père ou de la grand-mère
    bon weekend
    EDITH (iris) France

  11. So interesting. How lovely that you have the connection through the items passed down to you, and of course, those wonderful photos. I've been researching my family history, though it's been put to one side for the time being as I seem to have hit a brick wall on all branches, but it's wonderful what you discover along the way. I've also found some distant relatives who have been able to provide me with photos of ancestors, so lovely.

  12. Che bello questo post!!!!! Molto interessante, hai fatto un ottimo lavoro, bellissime le foto e che emozione gli oggetti di cucito, bravissima

  13. What a super post, Linda, really fascinating and full of so much human interest. I love the photos and the personal mementos of your great-aunts. One of my younger sisters is our family historian and shares her discoveries with the rest of us. It's good to know where we come from.

  14. Hi Linda,

    Loved reading your post and seeing your lovely family photos. This is so neat that you have all the wonderful family history and some wonderful treasures to cherish.
    Hope that you are enjoying the weekend

  15. Interesting family history.
    There is a woman in our church named Helen May, so that name really jumped out to me. It does sound like you are enjoying the research.