Oh I do like to be beside the seaside!

Living almost halfway between the east and west coasts we had our pick of the best seaside resorts. To the west there was Blackpool with its illuminations and tacky souvenirs, Morecambe where the tide went out for miles and Lytham-St-Annes which I remember most for having a far smarter class of charity shops. To the east we had amusements in Scarborough, cliffs at Flamborough Head, eight miles of spotless sandy beach at Filey, the old school charm of Robin Hood’s Bay and of course Whitby where the best fish and chips in the world are to be had, together with a sprinkling of Dracula on the side. Each year we’d board the coach for the annual Sunday School seaside trip optimistically clad in shorts and t-shirts which would alternate visits between east & west.  

Certainly, my great grandparents, Marion (Moody) and Arthur Booth did and for them it was almost invariably the west coast.

At first glance I thought these two photos had been taken on the same seaside excursion. Arthur is wearing his greige raincoat, pinstriped suit and carefully knotted tie. Marion has a dark blue coat with a jaunty collar, on which she has pinned a cloth flower, and paired the smart coat with sensible brown shoes. But look more closely and you start to notice the differences. Arthur has switched his rather swish fedora for the ubiquitous flat cap, Marion has moved her flower and changed the colour of her handbag. Broadly, too, the couple have aged. Judging by Nana (their daughter), I would say the photo on the left was taken in the mid-1940s, which would make the one on the right could be as much as a decade earlier.

Whilst the outfits may have changed and I can’t quite envisage Marion astride a donkey, I am not so sure our great grandparents’ experience was that different. Candyfloss, icecream and fish & chips with a slice of white bread and butter and a mug of tea still taste very much the same. Amusement arcades, risqué postcards and holiday snaps still keep us entertained.

A trip to the seaside was a pleasure eagerly anticipated.

By the time we reach the end of the 1950s, Arthur & Marion are back travelling without their girls. The pinstripe suit has been replaced, but not the flat cap. Marion has a new coat, but she’s kept with the sensible brown shoes.

Arthur Booth & Marion Moody. Photo coloured with myheritage. Own collection.

This was such an annual tradition that even after Marion died, Arthur took a final trip to Morecambe on his own sending separate postcards to his daughter and grandson which I found in Nana’s box of joy.

Nana’s parents, my great grandparents were modest hard-working people. They had both died before Mum reached her teens and I have far fewer documents and photos through which to reconstruct their lives. These three seaside photos represent such a small snippet and yet create a thread directly between their lives and mine.  

Life on the canals – a biography of Elizabeth Schofield (1832 – 1911) & Thomas Moody (1833 – 1901)

Sunday Night, Knostop cut, Leeds by James Atkinson Grimshaw. 1893 (c) Bridgeman images via www.artuk.org. Painting owned by Leeds City Art Gallery.

Many years ago I bought a print of this painting. It’s Leeds, not Mirfield and painted a little late (1893) for our story but so evocative of industrial Yorkshire.

Unusually amongst our ancestors, Elizabeth Schofield & Thomas Moody’s lives did not focus on a single farm, house or even a village for their family was not built on land, but rather around water, specifically the Calder & Hebble Navigation. The journey along the canal from Mirfield to Horbury Bridge via Thornhill Lees is under seven miles. It takes a couple of hours to travel it by narrowboat and yet this short stretch of waterway spans Elizabeth & Thomas’s lives.

The canal also helped to obscure their beginnings, particularly those of Elizabeth. Watermen had a tendency not to complete census forms whilst on the move, which was often if they were to make a living. Elizabeth remains unaccounted for in the 1841 census (and I am uncertain about that of 1851) and Thomas in those for 1851 & 1871. Several of their children’s baptisms and burials remain missing and Elizabeth’s father, William, is currently without both parents and a date of death. Nonetheless I now feel sufficiently confident in the evidence to be able to tell the story of Elizabeth & Thomas, my 3xG grandparents through their son, Ernest William, father of Marion, Nana’s mother.

Elizabeth was born first, baptised on 9 December 1832, the likely first child of Margaret Robshaw & William Scho[le]field. The family were living at Ledgard Bridge at the time, quite possibly on the barge itself. At some point between the birth of Elizabeth’s siblings William (1834) & Sarah (1839), the family appear to have relocated to Thornhill Lees although the whole family was on the move and unrecorded on the night of the 1841 census.

Elizabeth is difficult to pin down in the 1851 census, but after eliminating all the other Elizabeth Scho[le]fields born in Mirfield the only one left is a visitor of a widow called Susan Wooler or Woller in Cleckheaton. If this is indeed our Elizabeth, there’s a potential familial & religious connection for further research and it also tells us she was working in a woollen mill a trade her sisters were also to follow.

Baptism record of Thomas Moody, 15 August 1833, Hopton Independent [Congregational] Chapel, Mirfield.

Thomas was also an eldest child, born on 30 June 1833 in the village of Horton. His parents, Elizabeth Lee & George Moody, went on to have six more children, all of whom survived into adulthood.  The Moody family were staunch Presbyterians and maintained an ongoing link with Hopton Independent Chapel where Thomas was baptised.

George Moody, Thomas’s father, was a woodsman and built up a successful timber business. His youngest son, William Henry, or Harry ran a joinery and undertaking business in Upper Hopton building on his father’s trade. His next youngest son, John, also, in a way, entered his father’s trade, apparently of stealing three loads of timber in 1899 and sentenced to 21 days imprisonment in HMP Wakefield (although I should note that there were other John Moodys in the area at the time).

Why, then, did Thomas take to the canals? It is rare, in my experience, for eldest sons not to follow their father’s trade. The charitable explanation is that George had set his son up in logistics as a useful compliment to the timber trade, but I just don’t buy that. In my view Thomas’s career choice was either the cause of a father/son falling out or a result of one as there is no evidence that Thomas had anything to do with Moodys of Hopton in later life, no marriage witnesses nor visitors on census returns, no presbyterian religion and certainly no evidence of financial support.

Thomas is nowhere to been found in 1851, so on a barge I would guess.

Elizabeth & Thomas were married at St Michael’s & All Angels at Thornhill on 7 September 1856. At the time both were living on Lees Moor which aligns with the 1861 census above. Children quickly followed, Mercy just a couple of months after they married, Jane in 1858, Emma in 1861, George in 1863 and Lee in 1866. Lots of little helpers.

1861 census for Thomas & Elizabeth Moody along with their two daughters, Mercy & Jane. Elizabeth’s father, William Schofield, is living two doors away.
Map from 1881 – 1913, www.archiuk.org showing the approximate location of where the boats were moored in 1861 based on the enumerator route described as starting at “Aldams Head on the south of Webster Hill.” There are several mills within easy walking distance where Elizabeth & her sisters may have worked.

In the mid-1800s a canal boat would absorb the whole family. Men, women and children worked them and those same men, women & children lived in them. When transporting a load, the seventeen-hour days would have required all those able to lead the horse, steer the tiller and unload the cargo. Those who were too young to manage the heavy work would be keeping a close watch over their younger, toddler, siblings to make sure they didn’t get in the way of the work or even fall overboard. Living accommodation was cramped and squalid with limited facilities to wash or even to cook. Educational opportunities were non-existent and although Thomas was literate, none of the older Moody children were. Canal boat people were often misrepresented by outsiders, a community in need of civilisation.

Family inside a canal boat cabin. Unknown source.

Disease was rife on the canals: it was even suspected that cholera flowed down the channels from cities out to smaller towns. When ten-year-old Mercy & six-year-old Emma died within four weeks of each other in the summer of 1867, it was time for the Moodies to make a change to their way of life. The family moved to Horbury Bridge and into an onshore home. Four more children followed: Mercy in 1869, Tom in 1872, William in 1874 and then finally, twenty years after her first child, Elizabeth gave birth to her last, Ernest William, in 1876 whose middle name gave away her next to last child, William, had not survived infancy.

George and Lee both followed their father onto the waterways and Jane, too, married a waterman but the younger boys, Tom & Ernest went into millwork. By the time they were of age the golden era of the canals was being supplanted by rail for valuable goods at least. Designed as they were, the canals still retained a critical role for transporting coal and other heavy goods direct from mine to factory gate. Perhaps though, their choice of career was influenced by what happened to their elder brother Lee. I’ve not been able to find out any details but by 1901 Lee, aged 34, was blind.

Working in a mill seems also to have helped the boys’ marriage prospects as both Tom & Ernest married whereas George & Lee did not. Mercy too, was to remain a spinster, seemingly destined to stay at home to look after her aging parents and blind brother.

Thomas died in March 1901 aged 67 and Elizabeth in December 1911, aged 79. With their burial in Thornhill churchyard our direct connection to the water came to an end although not our connection to Horbury for Ernest had stayed in Horbury when he married, as did his daughter, my Aunty Edie, whom we used to visit when I was a child. It was not until she died in 1984 that we lost our final connection to the Calder & Hebble Navigation.

Ernest Moody’s entry in Mary Booth’s autograph book from Sunny Dene in Horbury, August 27th 1939. Own collection.

With much gratitude to all those who worked on our canals transporting goods to enable industry and who were often misunderstood. Thanks too, to Elizabeth Schofield & Thomas Moody for providing me with an excuse to gain a deeper understanding of these lives.

How accurate is Ancestry’s DNA ethnicity percentages for English ancestry?

I want to start by this blog by stating that whilst I am proud of my deep Yorkshire heritage I in no way associate with English nationalism. England has much to be positive about, but we have also, as a nation and as individual humans, wreaked havoc on peoples across the world and it cannot be right that to continue in the same xenophobic vein. I have not, as yet, discovered any ancestors who were directly involved with any historic atrocities, but I, and they, have still benefited from the privilege such acts have accorded us. We all need to recognise our own and our ancestors’ role in the system as was and more importantly strive to change it.

That being said, I’m now about to write about how Ancestry’s newest tool, the DNA sidebar, doesn’t work well for people with deep, known, English ancestry. I think this matters more broadly. One thing the English have been good at is record keeping. For over four hundred years parish churches have recorded births, deaths and marriages, plus parish poor law guardians took particular care to identify the fathers of any illegitimate children. Ancestry can’t be short of people to include within their sample groups, which should mean they can be more accurate than telling me I originate from “England and North Western Europe”. I only hope that Ancestry have instead focused their resources in adding to sample groups which can help those with more complex ancestry. Those with enslaved ancestors for example for whom so few records exist.

Each year I like to count the ancestors I have “identified”. It’s far from a perfect barometer of progress, making no reference to the depth of research. Sometimes all I know is a first name, generally Mary or Elizabeth. Nonetheless last time I counted (January 2022) I could identify 567 ancestors and I am also aware of other’s (quality) research that could help me extend this further.

Broadly the paper evidence leads me to believe I am 90% Yorkshire, 75% from 3 river valleys originating in the Dales – the Wharfe, the Nidd & the Washburn. Another 6.25% covers Wales and the Gloucestershire or the Welsh/English border. The remaining 3 – 4% is unknown but given where the babies were conceived there’s a high probability their fathers were from Yorkshire or surrounding counties.

In working this out I generally start with my 4xG Grandparents. This generation was born in the late 1700s/early 1800s when ordinary folks moved around less, and I’ve not found any evidence of earlier ancestors moving far. Indeed, they rarely even move beyond a neighbouring parish. One is unknown due to illegitimacy, one is questionable for the same reasons (both on my Mum’s side), four were from Gloucestershire & Pembrokeshire (equally split, again my Mum’s side). One, on my Dad’s side, carried the surname Scott, so some small part of him was possibly Scottish. That leaves me with fifty-seven (90%) from Yorkshire.

My DNA matches support the paper trail. I have found no unexpected parental events. I am a descendant of the left-behinds, of those who didn’t stray from home either geographically and sexually speaking. It makes me a somewhat inbred and my family history a little dull.

With background, let’s move to what Ancestry’s ethnicity data shows.

My DNA analysis

Ancestry DNA ethnicity estimate – October 2022

On the face of it my England & Northwestern Europe heritage has increased from 67% to 71% and indeed the range suggests that it could be as much as 99%. The regional identification is sound, but why not provide an estimate for this? Looking at it in more detail:

  1. England & Northwestern Europe? That is a huge area and quite honestly belittles cross fertilisation within the Isles. Why are Scotland & Wales considered separate units and England not?
  2. The range now runs from 63 – 99%. I could be just 2/3rds from Yorkshire, or equally, totally inbred. Ancestry’s best guess (71%) is considerably lower than it should be.
  3. Sweden, Denmark, Norway – on first glance it could be as much as a sixth of my ancestry. The range runs from nought to a quarter. Yorkshire was, of course, Viking controlled, but that was over a thousand years ago when they controlled or invaded much of Northwestern Europe. This is where my doubts about the usefulness of this tool really started to creep in.

I turned to the parental splits being fortunate to have access to both my Mum’s and my paternal Uncle’s DNA which takes me back a further generation.

My Mum’s DNA

Mum’s DNA – ancestry October 2022

The Welsh ancestry made it easy for me to identify which of Mum’s two parents was Grandpy and hence which was Nana.

Diving into Mum’s ethnicity split it seems that Mum could be somewhere between 2/3rds and 99% England & Northwestern Europe with Ancestry’s best guess being 72%, fractionally higher than my own. Odd, as it is from Mum that I inherit both my known Welsh ancestry and that part of my DNA which could come from anywhere.

But then it tells me that Mum is also, apparently, 19% Scottish. Split 11% maternal and 8% paternal,

That would make my Nana nearly a quarter Scottish. Possible as she has two illegitimate great grandparents, but there is evidence to suggest who one of the fathers was and he has Yorkshire ancestry. Which would make the other a full-blooded Scot. The North Yorkshire/Lancashire border is not that far from Scotland. It is certainly possible. But I’ve also got to factor in my apparent Irish heritage of course making up about 4% of Nana’s DNA.

Grandpy on the other hand? The only reason he is not highest in my ancestor count is because I got a bit bored of adding others (quality) research to my tree. 10% Welsh, absolutely, if you count the Barretts from Gloucestershire, everything else is pure Yorkshire. I have no idea how he’s turned out to be 16% Scottish. Hence why I think the English/Scottish split is unhelpful. I am sure Northumbrians & Cumbrians would agree.

My paternal Uncle’s DNA

Paternal uncle DNA – ancestry 2022

My paternal Uncle’s DNA is the best substitute I have for my Dad’s. I based his parental split on shared matches but given how odd his own DNA ethnicity breakdown seems to be I don’t think the split adds any value. What’s interesting is that there’s no Scottish ancestry. Clearly the surname Scott doesn’t necessarily mean Scottish heritage. My Uncle is a Viking at heart so perhaps he’ll be pleased with Swedish, Danish & Norwegian genes.

I, on the other hand, am not, for both my paternal grandparents’ trees are fully documented for over 200 years. All 32 of my paternal 4xg grandparents were born in Yorkshire as were all of their ancestors whom I have so far identified (275 at the last count). It helps that they are (twice) descended from the same ancestors and rarely married outside of the parish.

Clicking in, the detail becomes increasingly lazy as whilst the ranges allow for my Uncle being 99% England & Northwestern Europe they also allow for him being 21% Swedish and Danish and up to an astonishing 29% Germanic European. Imagine if you were starting without a decent paper trail. These ranges would leave you criss-crossing the whole of western Europe.

In conclusion

It would be unfair for me to end this blog without referring to all that is positive about DNA testing. Through DNA testing I have been able to confirm the paper trail and have also corresponded with and even met some wonderful DNA cousins. It’s also helped an adopted friend who was delighted just to know that he was as biologically Irish as his adopted family helped him feel (although even in this example, it’s the specific matches which have helped us prove this). It’s just that, at best, the ethnicity splits, promise an accuracy which they don’t deliver. At worst, without a paper trail to fall back on, you could end up believing something which isn’t true.  

Elizabeth Webster (1832 – 1903) & Charles Scott (1834 – 1897)

The Reynard-Scotts were the smartest of our Victorian great great grandparents. The Reynards were one of the first couples I wrote about intrigued by stories of a spice loaf and a wig so it seems apt for the Scotts to be one of the last, bookending tales of mining, farms and grinding poverty with two stories of the Victorian middle-class.

Elizabeth Webster & Charles Scott are my 3xgreat grandparents, Grandma’s mother’s father’s parents and for this tale we are moving into what is now North Yorkshire, to the village of Minksip just south of Boroughbridge.

Last year, for my birthday, Mum took me to the Wild Swan pub for dinner. It’s one of her favourite “local” pubs, local being defined as anything within a twenty-mile radius so long as it’s not in a town. The food and the company were wonderful and the trip had the added benefit of being able to wander down the village high street trying to work out exactly which home had belonged to Elizabeth & Charles.

A model of the White Swan pub, Minskip, now known as the Wild Swan. Own photo.

Minskip is one of those immaculate North Yorkshire villages with solid brick-built houses and well-tended gardens strung along a main road. The location is key to that well-heeled vibe. Harrogate, York and even Leeds are all within reasonable commuting distance for those with a car. Without a car, you are much more limited. I did discover the existence of a once daily bus which would take me from Mum’s direct to Minskip but none which would bring me back!

Minskip’s location was just as important to its economic prosperity in the early to mid-1800s for the Great North Road ran close by and stagecoaches were in their heyday. The White Swan coaching inn opened for business in 1832 bringing an increased number of travellers (and their coins) to the village. This wasn’t to last as within three decades trains had decimated the stagecoach trade, but by then the Scott family were already established.

Elizabeth Webster was born the same year as the pub was opened in the village of Kirby Hill, about three miles north of Minskip, just the other side of Boroughbridge. She was the daughter of Ann (Williamson) & John Webster, a cordwainer. Elizabeth’s exact birth date was unknown, but she was baptised at All Saints church, in Kirby Hill on 6 May 1832 and a birth date in mid-April would fit with most documentation.

Charles Scott was born in Boroughbridge a couple of years later, the second child of Jane (Drury) and Thomas Scott. Jane is another of those wives hidden by lack of records and propensity for the widowers in my family to choose a second wife with the same name as the first. For a long time, I thought Charles’s mother had died in 1872 until another person’s research alerted me to the death of a Jane Scott on 18 June 1838. As is also the way with the widowers in my family, Thomas didn’t hang around, remarrying the following year, to a woman named Jane Kendrew……

Like John Webster, Thomas Scott was also cordwainer. I imagine a mini guild of cordwainers in Boroughbridge, a rural remnant of The Company of Cordwainers of the City of York which had been disbanded in 1808. In addition to the Websters & Scotts there was also the Barker family of Dishforth. Dishforth is another small village in the vicinity of Boroughbridge, now mainly associated with the airfield. It also happened to be where Thomas Scott had been born and where he sent his son Charles to be apprenticed to one Francis Barker. The heads of all three households were small business owners and likely met regularly over a pint of ale to critique the latest shoe fashions, complain about the price of leather, and even share business opportunities during peak periods. Like any good fraternity, I expect they also drawn to each other at larger social gatherings such as the Barnaby horse fair bringing their families with them, meaning Elizabeth & Charles would likely have known each other as children.

So it was, on 3 May 1856 that the Webster and Scott families were united in marriage. By this time Charles had completed his apprenticeship and Elizabeth was earning her own money as a dressmaker giving them the means to set up home together. More pertinently, Elizabeth was in the early stages of pregnancy….

Thomas Scott had left the area by this point and was living with a nephew, John (son of his brother William), close to Bradford. This explains the birthplace of Mary, Elizabeth & Charles’s first child, although it is not clear whether this was a short family visit, the place where the couple first set up home together, or a deliberate attempt to disguise a child conceived out of wedlock by moving out of the local area. Scott is simply too common a surname for me to be able to follow this up.

A postcard of Minskip c.1900 from the facebook page Boroughbridge then & now.

By the end of 1860 (before the birth of their second child, Arthur), Elizabeth & Charles had moved to Minskip where they were to spend the remainder of their lives. Charles’s occupation was given as a cordwainer in both the 1861 & 1871 censuses. More unusually, Elizabeth continued to have her occupation listed too, as a dressmaker in 1861 and a milliner in 1871. These complimentary trades could have helped the Scotts attract a more fashionable elite. Certainly, their third child, John (my great, great grandfather) cut a fashionable air in his youth.

John Scott (right, standing) taken c.1890. The seated man could be his father, Thomas. Although Thomas would only have been in his late fifties by this point, many of Grandma’s relations sported white hair from an early age. From the Maria Reynard family album. Own collection.

Elizabeth & Charles had two more children, Alfred Herbert & Annie. Mary married a farm labourer, Joseph Dobson and moved to Easingwold. Arthur trained as a joiner, before eventually becoming a farmer and milk dealer in Menston. John, trained as a bricklayer, and then worked as a grocer before moving into farming in Topcliffe, eventually putting those bricklaying skills to good use by building his own home there. Alfred, trained as a joiner and ended up in Harrogate. Annie did not marry, but became a butter factor in her own right, leaving an estate worth £188 when she died in 1903, a decent sum for a single woman.

What the children’s occupations tell me is that this is a family who understood the value of being skilled in a trade and were also astute at business, knowing when to switch to alternative ways of making money. In this they were following their father’s example. By 1881, Charles had switched career to become a fruiterer. Later that decade he also became a landlord. At a major property sale in 1889 he “secured two cottages, with outbuildings and gardens, occupied by Mrs Taylor, for £160,” a major outlay for the time.

But not everything was as rosy as business, for at some point in the mid-1880s, Elizabeth became a “hemiplegic.” Whilst most commonly caused by a stroke, it can also be the result of some other brain trauma, an accident or a tumour. This would have been devastating for an intelligent, active woman such as Elizabeth. For the next seventeen years, until she died from heart failure on 28 June 1903, Elizabeth would have been reliant on others. I’m guessing this was when Charles invested in a horse & some sort of carriage, adding carrier to his portfolio career.  Her granddaughters (Mary’s children) took on the domestic work.

Still, paralysed as she was, Elizabeth outlasted her husband by six years. For, like his son and two grandsons after him, Charles fell afoul of a random tragic accident.

The met office monthly weather report for March 1897. From the met office archive.

On the 24 March 1897, yet another spring storm hit northern England. The met office report for the month focused rather more on the south of England and on Scotland, but did note that “elsewhere, however, the conditions remained very unsettled, with frequent, and in some cases heavy falls of rain.” Local newspapers help to provide a better picture of the day’s weather. Whilst the Knaresborough Post chose to focus on a local football match writing that “This match took place at Ashville in very stormy weather. Trinity, who won the toss, elected in the teeth of a perfect gale,” the Hull Daily News took a wider view reporting on the overturning of a tramcar in Bradford (no serious injuries), and the loss of at least one member of a dredger crew off the west coast. This was serious weather.

Charles and his daughter Annie braved the storm. Wednesday was and still is market day in Knaresborough. There were goods to transport and butter to be sold. Charles Mackintosh had long since patented his waterproof raincoat providing protection from the rain if not the cold on the six-mile journey into town. However, the market was uncovered and by the end of the morning the pair would have been chilled to the bone. I really hope they had chosen to partake of a cooked dinner before they set off home in the early afternoon.

There again, it would have been better if they hadn’t, for just as they were passing Mrs Collins’ house on the high street, a tile flew from the roof and struck Charles on the head, “scattering his brains” (to quote The Knaresborough Post, in its rather graphic description of events). Charles was killed immediately, a death subsequently found to be accidental, but I can imagine Mrs Collins was careful to keep her roof properly maintained from then on. I cannot begin to imagine the impact on Annie.

A report of Charles Scott’s death in the Knaresborough Post, 27 March 1897 downloaded from www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk

It’s rather a sad and abrupt end to this tale, so let us finish back in the White or Wild Swan with a toast the couple who rode the Victorian wave of prosperity and, of all my 3xg grandparents most effectively set their five children up to continue that journey. RIP Elizabeth & Charles.

Mary Holmes (1826 – 1876) & George Brooks (1829 – 1901)

The children of Mary Holmes & George Brooks. Unknown origin. Shared by William Brooks’ descendent, Adrian Rhodes.

More than once I have misjudged our ancestors. “Rogue” Robert Walker is perhaps the most blatant, but when I re-read my early attempts to capture George Brooks’ story, I realised I was in danger of misjudging him too. It reminded me that George’s declining career and the hoicking of his family from the fresh air of rural Bewerley into the slums of Bingley was due to poverty and circumstances beyond his control, not laziness and certainly not from choice.

I do not know who to credit with sharing the above document, but I am grateful that they did. It shows George’s son, William, entering what I believe to be the Manchester Unity of Oddfellows in 1881. William was seeking to join a fraternal order set up to protect and care for its members. This must surely be a hardworking family, taking proactive steps to care for themselves and others. William is not George of course, but in 1881 he was still living with his father. Joining the Oddfellows must have been done with his consent and perhaps blessing.

This then is the rewritten story of Mary Holmes and George Brooks, our 3xgreat grandparents, through Grandpy’s father’s mother, Jane Brooks.

George was born on 8 March 1829 in Bewerley. His father, William Brooks, was already 43 when his last child was born and died when George was just fourteen. His mother, Anne Grange, was ten years younger than her husband, but she too, died, before George had ended his teenage years. George had an older sister, Ann, by this time married with her own family. His eldest brother, Harker, had died as an infant which left just one brother, also Harker, and ten years George’s senior. Harker promptly chose to emigrate to Australia with his young family and George was left alone.

(As an aside, Harker was a useful name to help track back this family – it helped confirm both George’s grandfather, Harker Brooks, and his great grandmother, Mary Harker).

George was not to be on his own for long. On 25 July 1850, George, having just come of age, married Mary Holmes, a local woman, a year his senior.

Mary was born in Bewerley on 24 February 1828, the fourth of six children of Jane Wilkes and Christopher Holmes. Like Harker, she too had had a deceased elder sibling after whom she was named. Fortunately, two elder siblings, Joseph & Ellen, and a younger brother, John, were all to survive childhood, with the youngest, William, dying in infancy. Jane & Christopher, too, appeared healthy with Christopher still recording his occupation as a stonemason well into his seventies. Unlike George, Mary was surrounded by family.

Registration of the birth of Mary Holmes by the minister of the Salem Independent chapel in Pateley Bridge. From an ancestry collection.

Importantly for my interpretation of this family, Mary & her siblings births had been registered at the Salem Independent Congregational Chapel in Pateley Bridge. There is a strong thread of non-conformist worship across our family, and I tend to associate this with a certain level of industry and temperance. It feels much more of an active choice. I wonder, though, why George’s sister Ann, had also been baptised in the Salem Chapel, but neither George nor his brothers were. Perhaps this form of worship had not been to the Brooks taste.

Mary & George settled into their new home in Bewerley. George, like his father-in-law, worked as a stonemason, Mary reared their children. I think Mary had the harder task. Jane (my great, great grandmother) was the first to arrive on 30 March 1851, a honeymoon baby. Eight more children arrived, one girl, Ann, followed by seven boys, regular as clockwork, every two years. They were a healthy bunch too. Only one, John Holmes, died in childhood (aged five).

Then at some point between the 2 April 1871 (the census) and 20 Jun 1872 (John Holmes’s death) something happened to cause the family to move to North Street, Bingley. My best guess is that this was down to opportunities for work.

George was a stonemason. Whilst pre 17th century this was considered to be a skilled profession it had broadened somewhat by the 1800s to include quarrying and basic building and construction. The evidence in George’s life suggests to me he was more likely to fall into the latter category. Quarrying for stone & lime was an important industry in Bewerley, but the area had been in slow decline over the period from 1850 to 1890 as the lead mines closed leading to pressure on other occupations. With several growing children who also needed to find work, Bingley, with its factories, may have seemed an attractive option.

It proved the be a poor choice. The aforementioned John Holmes died shortly after the move. Then Mary herself succumbed to tuberculosis on 15 February 1876, a disease far more prevalent in towns. It also marked the start of the decline in George’s own career, from stonemason to mason’s labourer (1879 marriage) to unemployed stonemason (1901 census). The latter stage was entirely predictable, for who would employ a 72-year-old to undertake work that required physical strength?

With Mary dead, and the girls gone (Jane had long since left home to work as a live-in domestic and Ann had married in 1877) George was left with a houseful of boys. By 1879 Harker, too, had possibly left home, but that still left William, George, Joseph, Christopher and Thomas. Just like so many widowers in my family, George had a solution. On 3 August 1879 he remarried, to a spinster named Ellen Emmott, a 42-year-old domestic servant. Too old in 1879 to have children of her own, Ellen would have been a wonderful asset for a household consisting only of males.

As regular readers know, one of the aims of my research is to ensure that women’s lives are recorded and with no children of her own, Ellen is at risk of being forgotten. So indulge me whilst I take a short diversion into Ellen’s own story.  

Ellen was the illegitimate daughter of Isabella Mitton born on 17 January 1837 in Addingham. It wasn’t until 28 October 1839 that Isabella married John Emmott, so he clearly wasn’t the father, and the documentation seems to suggest he never treated her as his own. John was a blacksmith, prosperous enough to leave a, still legible, York stone memorial in Addingham churchyard. His gravestone also records the death of Isabella and of their first child, Alice, born in 1841. By 1851 Ellen had left mother’s growing family and went to work as a domestic servant. At the age of 42, she married George and essentially acted as his (unpaid) housekeeper and they descended together into slums until George’s death in 1901. It seems that none of the Brooks’ brothers thought to invite her into their own homes when their father died, but she did find peace. She was taken in by her two unmarried half sisters, Ann & Phoebe (eleven and seventeen years younger than her), who were housekeepers at a boarding house at Arnside, Morcombe Bay. Phoebe, the second of the two sisters to die, left an estate of £2,400 in 1930, so the sisters were in a good place to support her Ellen until her death in 1913. I am happy to think that she lived out her last days in peace with her sisters.

Crossflats, postcard taken from https://www.facebook.com/groups/bingleymemorylanephotos. Foster Street has been demolished, but was in the area to the South East of the junction between Canal Road and Keighley Road.

Of course, Ellen’s story has essentially given away the end of our tale. George junior died aged twenty-one in 1880 and then one by one the Brooks’ brothers left home. Thomas, the youngest, was last to leave. By 1901 George & Ellen lived alone, having moved to Foster Street in Crossflats, until on 4 September, at the age of 72, George died. He was reunited in burial with Mary and his sons, John Holmes & George in Bingley cemetery.

With much gratitude to a man named Adrian Rhodes, a descendent of Mary & George through their son, William Brooks, for sharing various documents about William on ancestry including the one which I shared at the start of this blog. Thanks to Nigel Brooks for his dedicated work on the Brooks family line which makes cross checking my work so much easier. My thanks too, go to Mary Holmes & George Brooks for reminding me to take equal care of all my ancestors.

21st birthday pearls

Aunty Christine’s 21st birthday pearls. Own photo.

Mum specifically warned Dad (Bob) against buying pearls for her 21st. It was the 1970s. Being a talented dressmaker she could make her own fashionable clothes and pearls, well, they didn’t excite a modern young woman. The Housemans were far more traditional in their taste and more general approach to life. Early intervention was warranted.

When Bob handed her a smart red leather case her thoughts would have run first to silver, possibly even to gold. Until she lifted the lid. I feel certain that there was a necessary re-arrangement of her face as she hoped to look grateful for something she specifically did not want. Bob on the other hand would have been struggling to disguise a smirk as would his sister, Christine.

I wonder how long he made Mum struggle before revealing that these pearls belonged to his sister, her own 21st birthday present, and from which she had only willing parted from for the duration of the joke? It was worth it. The joke has lasted for fifty years. I don’t actually know what the real present was!

Aunty Christine at her own 21st in 1968 proudly wearing her new pearls. Own collection.

She married twice, the second time to an older man

Back in the 1980s I quizzed Nana about her ancestors, and this was the only story she had about any of her great grandparents. No names, no dates, no locations. Just one fascinating line.

Fast forward thirty plus years. I’d done a bit more research by then and knew I was looking for a couple with the surname Cooper (whilst a fairly common occupational surname I am grateful that it isn’t as prevalent as Smith!). The pandemic shut us all into our homes, and I got serious about family history.  Where else to start but to find out more about the woman who “married twice, the second time to an older man.” Her story did not disappoint and along the way, she also became the ancestor on which I honed my genealogy research skills which combined made her one of my favourite ancestors and you can hear me talk to her story in these two podcasts waffle free family stories and journeys into genealogy).

So let me introduce you to Hannah Demaine, my great, great, great grandmother through my Nana father’s mother, Sarah (Cooper). Hannah was born in Otley on 6 May 1837 the eighth of nine children born to Sarah (Swire) & Joseph Demaine. Joseph was an iterant agricultural labourer for much of his life and at the time the family were living on Bondgate. These days it’s a lovely little terraced street of shops including the delicious Bondgate Bakery but at the time it would have been dirty and crowded.

Hannah was illiterate. Schooling was not yet mandatory, and cost likely prohibited any of the children from attending. Certainly, William the eldest son never learnt to write so it wasn’t just the girls who missed out. As the only daughter still left at home by 1841, Hannah would have been helping her mother with the washing, cooking, and cleaning from an early age.

By time of her marriage in 1861, Hannah was living in Farfield on the outskirts of Addingham. For 55 years or more, Joseph, Hannah’s father, had toiled for others, but finally he had secured a farm and became his own boss supported in 1861 by his youngest son, Amos, and later by his eldest son, William.

Addingham was primarily a textile town and had gone through a period of severe decline as this work became increasingly mechanised affecting at least two of her brothers (George & Albert) who had worked as a woolsorter and woolcomber respectively.

“John Cunliffe, cloth manufacturer, and John Cockshott, glazier and wool-stapler, leased land on the side of the Wharfe and built a spinning mill in [Addingham] 1788 -1789. It enabled yarn to be spun more quickly than by hand and so increased the production of cloth. A weir was constructed on the river and a wheel installed to provide the power. It was the first successful worsted mill in the world. The first piece of worsted yarn to be seen in Bradford market was made by John Cunliffe at Low Mill. In a sense, it was the birthplace of the Bradford Worsted Trade. At the same time, others were looking at cotton and there were a number of small calico manufacturers who probably employed people with jennies to spin for them. High Mill, Town Head Mill and Fentimans (later a sawmill) were built shortly afterwards, all for spinning and the handloom weavers were kept pretty busy. There were many small workshops, and many weavers cottages built three stories high – two for domestic use and the top floors to house the looms, with inter-connecting doors along the row (e.g. in Stockinger Lane). There were other, similar, cottages with the top floors used for warehouses with cranes and pulleys over the large outside doors.

In 1831-41 there was a decline in the population and the census returns state that this was owing to the closure of Low Mill. In the 1851 census, so many houses at Low Mill were empty that it must have remained closed until after that time. By 1861 handloom weavers had practically disappeared. Samuel Cunliffe Lister re-opened Low Mill, putting Addingham back in its prosperous position” (from www.addingham.info/story-addingham-village/)

The Lowcock family from Addingham were also engaged in a combination of agriculture and textile work. Whilst Edward, the head of the household, was technically a farmer, he had only 13 acres of land and supplemented his income by weaving worsted on a hand loom. Timothy, too, Edward’s son, seemed to take what work he could with his occupation being variously listed as hand loom weaver, labourer and farmer. And so it was that Hannah met Timothy.

Parish register entry for Hannah Demaine’s first marriage to Timothy Lowcock in 1861.

There’s very little to show of Hannah’s first marriage to Timothy Lowcock. Married on 1 January 1861 at St Peter’s in Addingham, Timothy was recorded as living with his parents in the 1861 census. Hannah is missing. I have reluctantly concluded that the Timothy’s 29-year-old sister, Hannah, who had brought her illegitimate child back home to live his grandparents has caused the enumerator to exclude our Hannah from being counted. Such are trials of researching our female ancestors.

As for living happily ever after, well “ever”, in Hannah’s case, was very short-lived. Timothy died of consumption on 21 December 1861, something he’d been diagnosed with for twelve months. Was Hannah aware of this when she married him? And, more importantly, was this it? Married and widowed within a year. Hannah moved back to live with her parents.  

Timothy Lowcock’s death certificate from 1861

Hannah may have taken more than a new surname from this first marriage. The Lowcocks appeared to be staunch Wesleyan Methodists. Timothy, his parents, his sister Hannah and her son William and his wife and child are all memorialised on one stone in the Addingham Methodist Church cemetery. Neither the Demaines nor the Coopers appeared to have Methodist associations, yet Hannah’s second marriage took place in Otley’s Wesleyan chapel. I can only think that she adopted the Lowcock family’s religion. 

Moving back in with her parents was also to positively shape the second half of Hannah’s life. For Joseph was to switch farms for one in Askwith.  Hannah moved not into the tiny terrace in Otley, but onto a 50-acre farm in Askwith.

It was in Askwith that Hannah met “the older man,” John Cooper. John was born in Farnley in 1820. His father, Francis, was variously described as a joiner, carpenter and then gamekeeper. Francis & his wife, Sarah (Stubbs) had at least ten children and the dangers of childbirth should have meant Sarah was the first to die. But, no, it was Francis who died at the relatively young age of 39 in 1825, leaving Sarah with a young family to support.  Sarah must have had some fun for a half-sibling, Harriet, appeared on the scene in 1828. Henry (the eldest son) took care of his mother, but the rest of the family scattered to make their own way in the world. Thankfully for us, John’s sister Ann had married a farmer in Askwith which meant a place for John to work and was also where he met the young widow, Harriet.

Certificate from Hannah’s second marriage to John Cooper in 1873.

On 2 August 1873, 36-year-old Hannah married 52-year-old John. Two children swiftly followed, Sarah (our ancestor) in 1875 and Mary Ann in 1876.

I really hope this marriage wasn’t all about the farm, but John undoubtably benefited from an elderly father-in-law with only a middle-aged unmarried son at home. After Joseph died, William & John continued to run the farm together until John died in June 1893 aged 72. Then, when daughter Sarah married Thomas Booth in 1895, he moved in too. Hannah continued to live with her daughter until 1914 when she died, aged 77, from “malignant disease of the stomach and exhaustion”. Hannah, my favourite ancestor, is buried at Weston Church.

With much gratitude to Nana for gifting me an intriguing line about her great grandmother and to Hannah herself for being one of my wonderful widow ancestors.

Mary Hinchcliffe (1846 – 1919) & George Bentley (1841 – 1907)

I searched for George Bentley’s birth certificate for a long time. Born c. 1841/1842, his birth should have been registered. His siblings were. Until it clocked. George parents (Rachel Hall & John Bentley) had not married until the second half of 1842. George Bentley wasn’t born George Bentley he was born George Hall.

Birth certificate of George Hall, otherwise known as George Bentley.

Whilst contraceptive methods in the 1800s were somewhat unreliable, the Bentley family appeared to have no knowledge of them: two of George’s sisters had illegitimate children and his maternal aunt, Mary Hall, had not one, but four. The Hinchcliffes were not that different. Mary Hinchcliffe’s mother, Martha (Deighton) was illegitimate, and Martha’s mother’s mother, Mary (Milnes) had also had an illegitimate son.

It was not wilfulness and lack of morals but rather poverty and lack of education which led illegitimacy to increase to around 7% in the 1840s (when about a third of women were pregnant at marriage). George’s start in life, together with that of Elizabeth Dean, makes this generation of our family statistically average. What feels more skewed is that all the illegitimacies which occurred in our family are ancestors of my Nana. Partly this is down to poverty, but this line is also the one least connected with agriculture. I can’t help thinking farmers must have had more idea of how to prevent conception than a coalminer or factory worker.

So let us meet Mary Hinchcliffe & George Bentley, parents of Nana’s maternal grandmother, Annie Bentley and the youngest of our 3xg grandparents.

George Hall was born on 7 October 1841 in the village of Midgley within the township of Shitlington, to the west of Wakefield (now, unsurprisingly, having dropped the “h” to become Sitlington). Whether or not John Bentley was the biological father is largely mute as George always considered himself to be John’s son and from now on, so will I. John was a coal miner and, by 1861, so was George and had likely been so for some time for his twelve year old brother, Alfred, was already working as a hurrier.

Mary Hinchcliffe was born on 16 November 1846, in Barugh, near Barnsley. Mary was the first of at least nine children born to Martha Deighton & Silvester Hinchcliffe. Silvester too laboured in the coal mines and his oldest surviving son, John, was also working in the mines by the age of twelve.

A hurrier and two thrusters heaving a corf full of coal as depicted in the 1853 book The White Slaves of England by J Cobden, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Mary & George were married at Wakefield registry office on 22 October 1867. At first glance the different locations of their births and marriage didn’t add up. However, the marriage certificate contained a clue with both listing their address as East Moor being the site of Park Hill Colliery. The couple had clearly both moved there for the mine – the main mine shaft was being sunk in 1863 providing new opportunities for local miners.  

With all that lack of contraceptive knowledge it is no surprise that Mary & George went on to have a large family, twelve in all, nine alive, according to the 1911 census, although I have only managed to identify eleven: John (b. 1868), Elizabeth Ann (b. 1870), Joshua (b. 1872), Henry “Harry” (b. 1874), Annie (b. 1876), Charles Hall (b. 1879), Abigail (b. 1882), Ada (b. 1884), Florence (b. 1886), Ernest (b. 1882) and Emma (b. 1893).

Whilst the couple’s first son, John, was born in Gawber (close to Mary’s birthplace) in 1868, he was christened in Thornhill (the parish church for Sitlington at the time) later that same year which suggests they had moved back to where George’s parents lived. The family stayed in or close to Netherton (a village within the township of Sitlington) and by 1882, Mary & George had settled Little London, about 4 miles south of Netherton, Wakefield. Little London consists of six (now ex) coal board houses and was to become for the Bentleys as Toft Gate & High Garnshaw were to the Wellocks, a multi-generational home, so I will write more about Little London in a future blog.

Little London, near Netherton. The Bentley house was probably the nearest one. Own photo.

There is little more to tell of their lives. Their remaining children (mostly) married and left home. George continued to work in the mines whilst Mary ran the household until they died, George aged 66 in 1907 and Mary aged 73 in 1919. Both are buried at St Michaels & All Angels at Thornhill, their grave seemingly unmarked. Gone, but certainly not forgotten.

What the 1921 census told me that I didn’t know

I’ve been cautious about the 1921 census. £3.50 for each page. Half the price of a GRO certificate, double that of a will. And unlike both of those I know that it will be available within a standard subscription at some point in the future. (I am still considering taking out a premium subscription for findmypast – had they made this clear a couple of years ago I was ready to transfer my allegiance from ancestry, but since then I’ve invested even more in building my family tree on that platform, so it’ll be even more of an effort to transfer over).

I also had to manage my own expectations about what I would find. It wasn’t a helpful year for our family. Grandpy was a few months old, but none of my other grandparents had been born. Grandad arrived just five days later and Grandma the following month. Nana’s parents were not yet even married. All my great grandparents were around, but I knew where they were. Four of my great great grandparents would be missing, being four of the least well researched. I am grateful that the general strike which postponed this census did not affect the possibility of seeing the last of my great, great, great grandparents in the census as Martha (Handley) Clapham died on 29 March 1921. In other words, this census, unlike previous censuses, only really covered three generations about whom I already knew quite a lot.

I narrowed my purchases down to just the ten relating to direct ancestors alive at the time. One grandparent, eight great grandparents and twelve great great grandparents. Twenty one in total which is kind of apt.

Richard Walker, Mary (Wellock) & George Thomas Barrett

1921 census from findmypast including Richard Walker, Mary (Wellock) & George Thomas Barrett

Grandpy (Richard Walker Barrett) was always going to be the first person I searched for. And yes, it was super cute to see him recorded for posterity aged just three months. It also allowed me to tick off his parents Mary (Wellock) and George Thomas Barrett. But I already knew they had lived at Scalebar Farm in Gargrave when Grandpy was born and it wasn’t either Toft Gate, Greenhow Hill nor Upper West End Farm, Stainburn the two farms with which this family is most closely associated. I didn’t know that Uncle Henry had been born at Greenhow Hill which gives me a possible date for when they might have taken on the tenancy of Scalebar, but the rest of the data on this page is all well documented elsewhere.

Mary (Walker) & Richard Wellock

1921 census from findmypast including Mary (Walker) & Richard Wellock

Possibly the least interesting was that relating to my Wellock great great grandparents. I could have filled in this entire form myself.

Jane (Brooks) & Henry Barrett

1921 census from findmypast including Jane (Brooks) & Henry Barrett

Whilst there was nothing new to be learnt about Grandpy’s Barrett grandparents, Jane (Brooks) & Henry Barrett, it was lovely to see a reference to William Henry Barrett. William served his country during WW1. It was only a couple of years ago that I learnt of his existence for he died from tuberculosis in 1924 and may have disappeared were it not for census records.

Then there are visitors. Amy, a niece of Henry’s went on to marry her fellow visitor, Henry M Chambers, thirty-four years her senior, but not until 1930, by which time, Henry was 74 and Amy had been his domestic help for at least twenty years. Amy suddenly made it onto my list of sibling & cousin stories to explore.

Marion, Annie (Bentley) & Ernest Moody

1921 census from findmypast including Marion, Annie (Bentley) & Ernest William Moody.

Unlike our other grandparents, Nana wasn’t even a twinkle in 1921. Her parents weren’t even to marry for another four years.

The Moody family (Nana’s maternal side) was the second census I looked for, mainly to check out the lodger. There’s a family rumour that the youngest son, George, may not have been Ernest’s and whilst I have a different interpretation it was rather satisfying to find the same Tom Atkinson, who was with the family in 1911, still living with the family on Lodge Terrace. George was born in between the two censuses so if a lodger was the father, then this was certainly he.

Edith Moody at work. Colourised using myheritage. Own collection.

More excitingly still (and that which I consider to be “the” finding of the 1921 census) was the listing of Aunty Edie’s occupation and workplace as blanket weaver for Clayton Brothers, Coxley, Netherton. Finally, I was able to put some context to the photo I had inherited. These were factory girls.

Arthur, Sarah (Cooper) & Thomas (Butterworth) Booth

1921 census from findmypast including Arthur, Sarah (Cooper) & Thomas (Butterworth) Booth

On to Nana’s father’s family, the Booths. Whilst there is very little here which I didn’t know, it was good to have further confirmation of certain details such as Sarah’s birthplace where I had previously considered different options. However, Arthur’s workplace on a nearby farm is new and something worth doing further work around. Scales Farm clearly couldn’t support the whole family. I have an intriguing photo of Arthur as a young man together with a group of men of varying ages. As much as I would love this to be of Arthur, Thomas & other relatives, it is just as likely to relate to his 1921 employer.

Mary Abigail (Clapham) & George Houseman, Mary Ann (Wilkinson) & Samuel Clapham

Figure 52: 1921 census from findmypast including Mary Abigail (Clapham) & George Houseman

Switching sides to my Dad’s parents.

I perhaps shouldn’t have such low expectations of Grandad’s family given that it is through Grandad that I have found both a proven link to women’s suffrage through Martha Clapham (aka Maria Greevz) and a rather more spurious link to royalty but the 1921 census did nothing to help change my opinion. If only Grandad had been born five days earlier.

Mary Abigail (Clapham) & George Houseman (Grandad’s parents) are to be found at Fairfield Farm with their children. George was the oldest of my great grandparents by some fifteen years, so it is no surprise that both his parents had died more than a decade earlier. Mary Abigail was the next youngest and her parents Mary Ann (Wilkinson) and Samuel Clapham are both to be found farming at North Rigton.

1921 census from findmypast including Mary Ann (Wilkinson) & Samuel Clapham

Hilda Mary (Scott) & Jesse Houseman

1921 census from findmypast including Hilda Mary (Scott) & Jesse Houseman

Grandma was born just over a month after the census was taken. I do rather smile at her mother, the rather smart Hilda Mary, being caught on paper at eight months pregnant – I feel certain she would never have allowed herself to be photographed at this stage. But rather more importantly are the birthplaces of Grandma’s older sisters, Muriel (born in Thirsk, home of Hilda’s parents) & Jessie (born in Birstwith) plus the actual recorded address (Park Head, Norwood). There’s potentially more movement in Hilda & Jesse’s early married years than Grandma either knew or properly recorded.

Maria (Reynard) Scott

Figure 55: 1921 census from findmypast including Maria (Reynard) Scott

Of all my great, great grandparents, Maria (Reynard) & John Scott were the only pair who came close to being upper middle class. Remember this was the generation who were born twenty years into Queen Victoria’s reign, class mattered, and Maria epitomised this age. It is from her I have inherited the classic middle-class Victorian photo album (for which I am very grateful!). Hilda, her daughter, though always smart, was also quoted, by my Grandma, to have “married down”. Here, in 1921, we see Maria in her element. She’s my only female ancestor to head a household in this census, proudly describing herself as “head” and “farmer” and her son as only “farm manager” working for “Mrs Scott.” Her husband, John, had been dead for a year and there was no sense of handing over control here.   

This census also neatly links in the Housemans. Whilst I already know that Maria’s daughter, Laura, married her sister’s husband’s uncle, future generations may not and the 1921 neatly demonstrates a sister who is also an aunt.

Amelia (Bradbury) Houseman

1921 census from findmypast including Amelia (Bradbury) Houseman

I am pretty certain that Grandma inherited her matriarchal tendencies from both her Grandmothers but Amelia (Bradbury) Houseman’s appearance in the 1921 census completely cloaks this.

I end this tour with the most unfairly represented of all my ancestors in the 1921 census. Amelia was rightly recorded as retired and living with her daughter and son-in-law, at Lime Street in Harrogate, where she was to live for the remainder of her life. The census says nothing of the thirty years following her husband’s death during which she continued to run the family farm both alone and in partnership with one or more of her sons. It is also silent of her fight against the 1920 rent increases which ultimately forced her to retire and left her, as a woman, disenfranchised in the 1922 election, the first in which women could vote.  

Are the 1921 censuses worth the money? I can only speak to someone who knew a lot about her twenty-one ancestors who were living at the time.  Two (Maria (Reynard) Scott & Amelia (Bradbury) Houseman) reinforced the impression I have held, that the women in our family have always been matriarchs. Two (Hilda Mary (Scott) & Jesse Houseman and Arthur Booth) will lead me to better map the places my ancestors lived and worked). One (that of Jane (Brooks) & Henry Barrett containing Amy Barrett) leads me to an intriguing story, albeit of a cousin, and one (that of the Moodys) was pure gold – helping both confirm the lodger of family legend and explain an intriguing photo.  

With much gratitude to Natalie Pithers who runs the Curious Descendants for setting twenty-one as today’s challenge.

Isabella Preston (1814 – 1886) & Thomas Wellock (1810 – 1885)

“Isabella” Thomas cried out and, not for the first time, the woman laid by his side wondered whether he called, not for her, but for his first wife.

Why did so many of my male ancestors choose to marry two women with the same name? Whether it was a subconscious act, a natural affinity due to the love of a first spouse or pure coincidence it often serves to further obscure the second wife from view. It would make more sense if the name were Mary (41,397, or roughly 17%, of all girls born in 1840, had a name that started with Mary), Elizabeth (11%), Sarah (9%) or Ann (8% including Anne & Annie) but Isabella? There were only 1,881 of those.

Fortunately for me Thomas Wellock’s first wife, Isabella Ward, was one of only two brick walls amongst my great, great, great grandparents. (The other, Elizabeth Dean, was illegitimate, married far from her home town and died after only one census making her much more difficult, although ultimately possible, to trace). Continuing to search for any clue as to her parents might be, I re-checked my research against a much wider range of websites and, thanks to Wharfegen, discovered the existence of Isabella Preston, Thomas’s second wife and my great, great, great grandmother.

Our Isabella was born c. 1814 (baptised on 11 September 1814) in Stainforth, which sits within the parish of Horton in Ribblesdale, the daughter of Agnes Sidgewick & John Preston. She was christened at Horton in Ribblesdale on 11 September 1814, the youngest of at least five children – Agnes & John were 41 & 43 at the time of her birth. Agnes & John were farm servants, agricultural labourers, and survived on the slenderest of margins.

I know little about Isabella’s early life or that of her siblings. Unusually the girls are the only ones I’ve been able to trace post their initial arrival into the world. The eldest, Dorothy (born in 1798) died, aged just sixteen. The youngest, Margaret, seems to have left more of a mark. Whilst she was married & widowed prior to civil records, she was the one who registered the deaths of both parents and must have nursed both in their final days. Then, after acting as housekeeper for her brother-in-law, Isaac Garnett, she went on to help him run the Queen’s Arms in Litton, possibly taking over when Isaac died.

Thomas’s upbringing was less precarious. Born in 1810, the ninth of eleven children of Mary Windsor & Richard Wellock. His father farmed 40 acres at High Garnshaw in Linton – not wealthy by any stretch, but comfortable enough and whilst Thomas did not inherit this particularly farm tenancy his upbringing was his apprenticeship for future.

Thomas and his first wife, Isabella (Ward) were married on 2 June 1836 in Consitone. Two children quickly followed. A little too quickly in the case of Jeffrey who was born either late in 1836 or early in 1837 in Starbotton and then Helen followed in nearby Calton in late 1837/early 1838. By the time of the 1841, the couple were both living in Gargrave although not in the same property. I would guess that Thomas, as an agricultural labourer, was living on a farm and Isabella was living in the village with their two children possibly as a result of Isabella’s health, for she was to die of consumption, aged just 26 on 10 June 1842 (by which time the family appear to have moved to Arncliffe).

Whilst the villages of Conistone, Starbotton, Calton, Gargrave and Arncliffe are all broadly in the same area, they different addresses suggest that Thomas was moving around struggling to secure a stable appointment.

1841 census from Conistone showing Isabella Preston, her parents Agnes & John as well as George Wellock, brother to Thomas. From ancestry.

They also constitute an intriguing link to our Isabella. For in 1841, our Isabella, is living in Conistone with her father who is described as an invalid. Her mother, aged 68, was still working, living a couple of doors away. Isabella’s sister, Margaret, was living in Arncliffe which was where Isabella’s parents had started life before moving to nearby Conistone. Could the two Isabellas have been friends? Also, on the same page in the 1841 census as the Preston family was a 40-year-old farmer, George Wellock, brother to none other than our Thomas. Conceivably, Thomas could have started working in Conistone and met both Isabellas there, choosing to marry the younger first and returning for the older later.  Or alternatively, Isabella and her sister may have returned to Arncliffe to live with her sister Margaret, after Isabella’s father, John, died.

For Thomas didn’t wait around and just over a year after the first Isabella died, on 25 November 1843 at St Oswald’s in Arncliffe (again) our 3xg grandparents were married. Their first child, Richard (our ancestor), was born in Halton Gill in 1844 but their second child, Agnes, (born on 10 October 1846) was baptised in Burnsall and signalled the start of a new chapter for the Wellock family.

The different birthplaces of Richard & Agnes allow us to date Thomas’s appointment as farm manager for Captain Henry Blake of Manor Farm, Rylstone to between 7 April 1844 and 10 October 1846. This was to be an important appointment. Benjamin Wellock (Thomas & Isabella’s grandson through their son, Richard) wrote the following in his family memoirs. “After his [Thomas] marriage to a woman named Isabella Preston, he continued in farm work as a married man at Rylstone, his employer being one Captain Blake, an aristocratic gentleman farmer at that time. I have a photograph of Captain Blake and my grandfather holding a cow, taken at Rylstone in 1858.” Just this month, I randomly typed Wellock into The Museum of English Rural Life’s search engine and up popped an entry “Thomas Wellock and Captain Blake at Rylstone, Skipton, Yorkshire, with letter.” Bless him, great, great Uncle Benjamin had submitted the photo for publication in the Farmers Weekly as part of a series called Country Cavalcade ensuring it’s longevity. It becomes only the second 3x great grandparent for whom I have a picture. I only wish I knew who had inherited the original.

The family most probably moved into Manor Cottage. Built in the mid-17th century, Manor Cottage is a large solid house, believed to be the original manor before Manor Farm was built. This is possibly why, in addition to Thomas & Isabella’s growing family, it was also home to several boarders including, in 1861, a young woman named Nancy Serjeanston. Nancy, deaf & dumb from birth was to continue to live with the Wellock family until her death in 1891. Two more children were to arrive whilst the family lived at Rylstone, Benjamin Preston in 1851 and David in 1853.

Rylstone was to be home for over 15 years until, in 1861, Thomas took over the lease of Toft Gate, a 150 acre farm at Greenhow Hill where Thomas & Isabella were to live out their lives.

Prize winning chickens at the third annual Christmas Show in Pateley Bridge – Richmond & Ripon chronicle, 30 December 1882, downloaded from www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk

They were well respected members of the community with Thomas being elected as the Bewerley representative on the local board of Guardians of the Poor. But it was the prizes for best chickens at the local agricultural show with a special gold medal prize for Thomas’s Cochin Chinas which made me smile – rearing chickens and entering shows being a family tradition that has continued down the generations.

Their time at Toft Gate wasn’t without heartache. Thomas & Isabella’s youngest son, David, suffered from a congenital heart defect and died aged just 17 in 1871. Their grandson, Richard died, aged four, in 1872. Richard (son of Richard) had lived with his grandparents for a period of time in 1871 and the family still lived close by.

A decade later, on 3 December 1883, came the accidental death of their son, Benjamin Preston, leaving a widow and five children. Benjamin was farming with his father at the time. I feel that this tragedy may have caused Thomas & Isabella’s final declined. For just over a year later, on 28 January 1885, Thomas died, aged 75, of pneumonia. Isabella followed just over a year later on 1 May 1886, aged 72 of “senility”. They are buried together in St Mary’s churchyard, Greenhow Hill.

Thomas Wellock’s death notice – Knaresborough Post, 31 January 1885, from www.britishnespaperarchive.co.uk

There is one final part to Thomas & Isabella’s story which the couple could not have known at the time they died and that is one of emigration. At least six of their shared grandchildren and one of their great-grandchildren were to emigrate (mainly to Canada but one went to Australia and one to the US). This in turn became part of the reason I was so interested in family history and ultimately led to this blog being written!

Isabella & Thomas are my 3xg grandparents through their son, Richard, father of Mary, mother of Grandpy. With much gratitude to this couple, for somehow instilling a sense of adventure in their children, to Benjamin Wellock for ensuring Thomas’s photo was published in the farmers weekly back in 1952 thus ensuring its survival and to the Rylstone History Project for their wonderful mapping of the buildings (and inhabitants) of Rylstone.