Writing this blog is principally about bringing our ancestors to life in an engaging and accessible way with the hope that their stories get shared and remembered now and in the future. That’s my primary goal, but it’s not my only one. It’s also about me learning to be a better writer, storyteller & communicator. So when Tina offered me the chance to record a podcast interview for waffle-free family stories, I took it.
“We talk about her grandmother’s role in getting her hooked on family trees, how she’s giving life to the women in her story, the horrible accident that led to one child shooting another, and right at the end, she gives you THE BEST conversation ice-breaker you’ll ever know.
In between all that chat, she talks about the tools and techniques she uses to get as close to the real story as possible, and how she plugs the gaps”
I’d say that our family history really is all about wonderful women and that I haven’t quite lost my Yorkshire accent! Avid readers of this blog may notice the odd mix-up I had with names but don’t let that distract from the storytelling.
Here are the links to where you can find out more about the women (and men) I talk about.
With much gratitude to Tina Konstant, for giving me space on her podcast, and also to Natalie Pithers, who runs the Curious Descendents Club which is how I met Tina & is also where I am learning to write better stories.
Back in March I snuck up to Yorkshire to see my Mum. It was her birthday, I hadn’t seen her for eight months, she’d had her first jab and she was on her own for a few days. Technically we could be a household bubble as I live on my own, but we were both cautious not wanting to advertise a 200 mile trip at a point when we were still advised to stay close to home. I brought my scanner. Mum dug out a little leather suitcase full of old family photos and documents. We spent three wonderful days identifying photos, family artifacts and sharing family stories.
My Dad’s family history is well documented – my Dad’s Mum, my Grandma, was, essentially, a genealogist. I can also (benefiting from the hard work of others) trace Grandpy’s line (my Mum’s Dad) back to the 1500s.
That leaves me with my Mum’s Mum, my Nana, Mary Booth. Her parents, Marion Moody and Arthur Booth grew up in different parts of Yorkshire – Marion’s family were coal miners living close to Wakefield, Arthur’s family were farmers living around the Otley/Bingley area. Those who know Yorkshire will understand why I still have a question as to how they actually met. Both families were relatively poor (two feature in my paupers blog) and moved a lot for work. Of my first 126 direct ancestors (ie up to great great great great Grandparents) I have just one illegitimate ancestor and it’s in this branch. Even the DNA evidence is scattered – just enough distant cousins for me not to question the track, not enough to help me go back. That’s why the most exciting discovery in that little leather suitcase was a photo of my Mother’s Mother’s Mother’s Mother, Annie Bentley – the first one I had ever seen. This being just after Mother’s Day in many parts of the world is a good reason to tell the story of Annie and her family, particularly of her daughters Edith & Elsie, who, for different reasons, never got to be mothers, which makes it important to tell their tale too.
Childhood & marriage
Annie Bentley was born on 7 July 1876 in the village of Netherton, near Wakefield, the fifth of twelve children. Annie’s parents, Mary Hinchcliffe & George Bentley were both from mining families. The Hinchcliffes came from Barugh near Barnsley and the Bentleys from the Netherton area near Wakefield. Whilst Barugh and Netherton are within an easy half hour drive these days it was a very different proposition in the 1860s and 1870s. It seems likely both Mary & George moved for work associated with Parkhill Colliery as their marriage at Wakefield registry office in 1867, has them both living in Eastmoor without family as witnesses.
By 1882, the Bentleys had settled in Netherton in a row of mining villages called Little London. This little strip of housing was apparently built by Emma Lister-Kaye. Emma was the daughter of Sir John Lister-Kaye who owned Caphouse colliery. Emma, being female, did not inherit the baronetcy, but she did inherit the colliery. She was heavily supportive of the local area and on her death her manager described her as “an aristocrat to her fingertips, and an excellent business brain, which could not be said for her father.” Annie grew up in a miner’s cottage, but likely a better than average one.
The Bentley girls seemed to have developed an obsession with the Greenwood boys. Three of Annie’s sisters married two brothers and their nephew. One of these, Florence, moved to Otley, which might just be the explanation for how my great grandparents (Marion & Arthur) met. Annie, however, had different ideas and chose nearby boy, Ernest William Moody. Ernest was just a couple of months older and living in close by Horbury Bridge. In 1891 they were both working in a mill, Annie as an assistant feeder and Ernest as a millhand and whilst I haven’t, yet, been able to prove they were the same one it seems a likely explanation. They married on 26 December 1899 at St Johns, Horbury Bridge. A Christmas wedding sounds romantic but was more likely chosen to coincide with a factory closure.
The Moody family
By 1901, Annie & Ernest were settled in a small terrace house on King Street, Horbury Bridge.
Children followed, Marion (my great grandmother) was born on 5 April 1902, Edith on 15 September 1904, Elsie on 8 February 1907 and then a bit of a gap before a son, George, arrived, on 10 September 1913.
The new century was a time of social movement. The labour party was formed in 1900. In Horbury canals had given way to railroads but left plentiful water for factories and of course there was the coal which drove the economy at that time. There are hints about how the family were involved in this social movement. George (their son) was heavily involved in the labour movement in adult life, Ernest gave some very detailed evidence at the inquest of a fellow worker in 1936 suggesting he was prepared to be public about workplace accidents and then there is an intriguing photo of Ernest at the Harrogate baths that feels like an organising conference of some sort. It’s a direction for future research.
What this meant to Annie is impossible to establish. There is a family rumour that George was the son of the lodger. There was such a lodger, Tom Atkinson, registered on the 1911 census, but I suspect the rumour is more likely to be a reflection on a couple who had different lives than of an actual affair. More likely still is that this was a family dealing with an ill child. Elsie, Annie’s youngest daughter, died on 29 June 1924, at home with her family in Lodge Terrace, Netherton (now South Lane) in Netherton. She was just seventeen. In the one photo we have she is sat in a chair with a newspaper or magazine and I believe she would have been ill for some time.
Annie’s eldest daughter, Marion, my great grandmother, married the following year and moved away. Edith, however, stayed close.
Edith (aka Auntie Edie)
Whilst Elsie’s story is contained within Annie’s, Edith’s continued long beyond Annie’s and deserves its own telling. Whilst my great Grandmother, Marion, died when my Mum was just nine. Auntie Edie was someone I had the pleasure of having personally known. The two things that shine through for me are her love for family and her love for Uncle Charlie.
Annie died in 1932 aged just 56 and Edith married Charles (“Charlie”) William Hardy in 1934. Charlie was cute, came from a good family (his father was a police constable) and he had a solid job in a local factory. Did she wait until after her mother died and no longer needed her at home? Maybe. It was often the case that at least one daughter was “encouraged” to stay at home and look after her parents. There is further evidence of filial responsibility in the 1939 register. By then Edie & Charlie were living at Sunny-Dene, 17 Elmwood Grove, Horbury, the home where the two were to live out their whole lives and her father, Ernest and her younger brother, George, were living with them continuing to be supported by Edie.
The photos I have continue to tell the tale of family love. They fall into two groups. One group has Edie by the side of her sister Marion either with or without Marion’s two children my Nana, Mary & her elder sister Hilda. The other group is generally taken in the garden at Sunny-Dene, Edie & Charlie with their arms around each other and, generally, a brother, a niece or a nephew.
My strongest personal memory of Auntie Edie is of a trip to Horbury, to the garden of Sunny-Dene. I think it was around the time of my birthday and we had were visiting for tea. Auntie Edie’s neighbour gave me a black handbag and this became the holder of my marbles as we competed in the playground of Norwood School. I have no idea who that neighbour was, but this generous gift is a suggestion of someone who made deep friendships with their neighbours.
Sadly, Uncle Charlie died on 13 December 1978 and, yet, even here we have evidence of the closeness of the coupler. Charlie’s probate wasn’t finally settled until Auntie Edie, too, died on 20 February 1984 when the estate, such as it was, was split equally between Edie’s two nieces and one nephew. A few months later my Dad died. My Mum always says that she was grateful Auntie Edie had never had to learn of her great niece’s loss, a reflection of the great affection Auntie Edie had for my Nana & my Mum, who were almost as close as a daughter and granddaughter in her heart. With much gratitude to Annie Bentley and Edith & Elsie Moody who are just three of the people who make up my motherhood. Also, to Amy Johnson Crow whose 52 ancestors in 52 weeks challenge encouraged me to publish this series of stories.