The naming of our grandparents

My siblings & I have never quite agreed how to spell Grandpy (my mum’s dad). Is it Grandpy, Grampy or Granpy?

It seems, from recent consumer research into the names we Brits call our grandparents, that Grampy is now the more popular. Whilst I may have to concede Grampy is, in fact, a legitimate spelling, he’ll always remain Grandpy to me! Reading the research further I discovered that Grampy is particularly popular in Wales and the South West and my curiosity was piqued for Grandpy’s own great grandparents, Elizabeth Prout and Thomas Barrett, were born in Pembrokeshire and Gloucestershire, respectively. Could the name have echoes of distant ancestors? And what other grandparent names have we used in our family?

My sister Anna’s christening in 1979 taken in the garden at Hill Top Cottage, Lindley. From right to left, back row: Grandpy & Grandad, middle row: Mum, Grandma & Nana, front row: me, Helen & Anna. Own collection.

I was the first grandchild on both sides, so Mum was able to decide what our grandparents would be called. She had a Nan & a Grandma herself so decided on Nana instead for her mum. Grandpy was not, sadly, a historic echo but rather chosen simply as a name which was different and more fun. (As an aside Nana’s sister, Hilda, became Gam, which I also love). Mum’s relationship with her in-laws was undoubtably more formal and she avoided calling her in-laws by any name until I was born when she could refer to them as Grandma and Grandad. My nieces and nephews know Mum as Gran (as Nana will always be Nana, and Nan felt far too old), Dad as Grandad Bob and Mum’s husband as Papa Joe (of Charlie and the Chocolate factory fame).

An extract from Mary Wellock’s date book showing use of “Granma Barrett” to describe Jane Brooks. Own collection.

Mum’s grandparents were Nan & Grandad Booth (Marion Moody & Arthur Booth) and Grandma & Grandad Barrett (Mary Wellock & George Thomas Barrett). Grandpy, in turn, called his own Barrett grandparents Granma & Grandad Barrett (Jane Brooks and Henry Barrett), demonstrating conclusively that the name Grandpy did not pass from our Welsh forebears.  

An extract from Grandma’s memoires “The Changing Years” referencing Grannie Houseman and Grandad Michael. Own collection.

Dad only really knew two of his grandparents. According to my uncle, my grandad’s mum (Mary Abigail Clapham) was Grandma and my grandma’s dad (Jesse Houseman) was Grandad. As there were only two grandparents, there was fortunately no need to add a surname. Fortunate as confusingly both would have been Houseman! Grandma always called her own parents Mother & Dad, perhaps reflecting their respective family status which is also seen in how she referred to her own grandparents. Her father’s parents were Grannie Houseman & Grandad Michael (Amelia Bradbury & Michael Houseman) and her maternal grandmother was simply Grandma (Maria Reynard) “a refined lady.” Strangely there is no note in Grandma’s memoires of her maternal grandfather, John Scott. He had died just before Grandma was born so she never knew him, yet her other grandfather, Michael, had died almost thirty years earlier and he was still warrented a mention.

With seven Grandads, a Grandpy and a Papa, four Grandmas, a Gran, a Granma, a Grannie, a Nan and a Nana in our family we seem to mirror the modern research. Whilst 68% of men are known as Grandad the women show more diversity with Nan coming in at 33%, Grandma 32% and Nana 24%. Once again, I am grateful to Mum for choosing a more unusual option as a name!

With much gratitude to my grandparents for all their love and to Amy Johnson Crow whose 52 ancestors in 52 weeks challenge encouraged me to publish this series of stories.

Infographic presenting the main research findings on what we call our grandparents, from the original press release.

Unlocking Maria Reynard’s family photo album

Maria Reynard c. 1902, perhaps on her 40th birthday. From Maria Reynard’s album. Own collection.

I inherited the beautiful leather-bound album from my Grandma, Mary Houseman. She is turn had inherited it from her mother, Hilda Mary Scott. Beyond that, I knew almost nothing of the pictures within. How old was it? Who had put it together? Who were the photos of? Whilst the clasp itself was broken, the people inside were strangers, their connection to our family locked away, with the key lost forever.

There was one exception. Thanks to the apparent beauty of a small child, captured by a travelling photographer and subsequently enlarged, followed a few short years later by the same child’s tragic death, I could identify one person with absolute certainty. Walter Scott was to be the key. Walter was Hilda Mary’s brother and that meant that the album likely belonged to either Maria Reynard, Hilda Mary & Walter Scott’s mother or her mother Mary Ann Gill.

What better thing for someone living alone in lockdown 1.0 than to work away at that lock? I carefully extracted and scanned the photos, scribbled down possible family trees, studied the later pictures of Hilda Mary’s siblings, aunts, uncles & cousins and dived into the world of Victorian photography. Some ideas emerged, I started making educated guesses but was uncertain and didn’t feel I was really doing the album justice.

Then up popped professional dress historian, portrait specialist and photo detective Jayne Shrimpton on Who Do You Think You Are? and I realised it was time to turn to an expert. It took a few more months but finally I was sitting in Jane’s beautiful Lewes garden on a hot, sunny July day slowly unlocking the album’s secrets. Who knew that leg-o-mutton sleeves could date a photo to within three years? Or that a red line around a photo meant it was twenty years older than others on the same page? Several “educated guesses” proved to be out by a decade or two but my earlier research combined perfectly with Jayne’s dress expertise to put many names to faces.

Now, finally, Maria’s album can be unlocked and shared without doubts. The album opens with her husband John Scott likely with his father Charles not long before Charles died. Next are two portraits of Maria aged 21 and 40. Turning the page we see Maria & John’s infant children possibly including the only photo of a son, Charles, who died just three years old, followed by Maria’s siblings and their partners. And so it continues.  

There is still a lot more work to do to identify all the people in this album and whilst it’s likely there will always be gaps, I am hopeful that by sharing this story others may spot their ancestors.

Maria was born in Ellerbeck on 16 December 1861 the second child of Mary Ann Gill & William Reynard. The Reynard family moved to Topcliffe when Maria was about five. Maria married John Scott, the son of Elizabeth Webster & Charles Scott, in 1885. The Gill family were from Norwood, the Reynards from Hampsthwaite, the Websters from Boroughbridge and the Scotts from Minskip. Maria & John had eight children. Two sons died as children leaving just William Richard (b. 1889) to carry on the Scott name. Hilda Mary (b. 1891) (my great grandmother) married Jesse Houseman, Laura (b. 1895) married John Taylor Houseman (Jesse’s nephew), Gertrude (b. 1899) married William Clarke, Clarice (b. 1900) married Malcolm Pennock and Marjorie (b. 1906) married Harold Millington Shutes. If this album was a wedding gift, I am sure it won’t have been the only one.

With much gratitude to my great, great grandmother, Maria Reynard, for creating this album, to Hilda Mary Scott & Mary Houseman for keeping it safe and to Jayne Shrimpton for helping me unlock its contents!

Walter Scott (1893 – 1900) – the tragic story of a boy shot by his friend

The portrait of Walter Scott, aged four, hanging in my mother’s living room, own photo

I can shoot you” said the elder friend as he picked up the gun the boys found lying around. And so, he did.

Thus goes the family story of Walter Scott, passed down from Walter’s sister, Hilda Mary Scott, to her daughter Mary, my Grandma, and then to me. My Grandma loved to tell the tales of tragic death but it’s the beautiful, almost life-sized portrait of four-year-old Walter that has made his story so compelling. It is thanks to this portrait too, that I know so much about Walter’s story. My Dad inherited this picture from his Grandfather, Hilda Mary’s husband, Jesse, following Jesse’s death in 1977 and Aunt Clarrie, Walter & Hilda Mary’s younger sister wrote to my Grandma to tell of its history.

Walter was born on 27 March 1893 above the family grocer’s shop in Langthorpe near Boroughbridge. He was the fourth of the eight children of Maria Reynard & John Scott. The Scott family were relatively prosperous for the time although not without their own sad tales. The first-born son, Charles, had died aged just two from an infection caused by a scratch on a rusty nail in his playpen (another of Grandma’s tales).

It was also a close and happy family. Maria’s sister, Aunt Nellie (Sarah Ellen Reynard who married a distant cousin, William Reynard) was unable to have children and asked if she might adopt one of Maria’s. “Mother said No, she couldn’t spare any one of us” records Aunt Clarrie. Nellie & William were later to adopt a boy, William Watson, at some point after 1901.

When Walter was four, a travelling photographer, C Watson from Ripon, arrived in the village. Aunt Clarrie picks up the story. He was a beautiful little boy of 4 years old when that photo was taken. A traveling photographer came to the shop & asked my Mother if he could take his photo, so she said yes. It was so good, so later on, he asked if he could paint & enlarge it, in colour. It would cost £5 which was a lot of money in those days. However, they agreed & this picture was so beautiful it was sent to an exhibition & shown all around. My Mother was getting anxious about it, but eventually it came back & it was our pride & joy.

The original photo of Walter Scott, aged four, taken c. 1897 by C Watson of Ripon. Own photo.

In the summer of 1900, Aunt Nellie asked if Walter might come and stay for a holiday and Maria agreed so Walter went to stay with his Aunt & Uncle at Birstwith. On 16 August, Walter asked his aunt if he might go with his friend, Edward Fraser, to collect eggs from the stable and cowshed and his aunt agreed, presumably thinking the thirteen year old Edward would take good care of the seven year old Walter.

Unbeknown to Aunt Nellie, one of the Reynard’s farm labourer’s George Smith, had been having trouble with his gun, a breech-loader, when he had been out shooting rats earlier in the month. The extractor had broken, the cartridges were too tight to remove and so he’d left the loaded gun by the door of one of the outbuildings. Edward, being a curious teenage boy found the gun and picked it up. Walter, being a frightened child, pleaded with him to put it down then turned to scramble over the railings to get out of the way. Too late, the gun went off shooting Walter in the back.

Uncle William ran to the barn after hearing the report, he picked Walter up and ran back to the house. The doctor arrived to examine Walter and found him in a sorry state with both flesh & ribs blown away. Walter’s mother, Maria, was also sent for. Walter, loyal to the end cried “Tell Teddie I forgive him. He did not know it would go off” as he died, we believe, in his mother’s arms.

The funeral card to Walter Scott, own records

Walter was buried at Kirkby Hill on 19 August, later joined by his parents, and the inquest the following day returned a verdict of “death by misadventure killed by the discharge of a gun” and the tragic end of a beautiful child.

West Yorkshire County Coroner’s records, 1900

With much gratitude to Walter Scott, my great, great Uncle, who, despite his short life left a story that has lasted a hundred years, Clarice Scott, my great, great Aunt, who told the story of Walter’s portrait, to my Grandma for passing on the tale and to Amy Johnson Crow whose 52 ancestors in 52 weeks challenge encouraged me to publish this series of stories.

Four generations

Christine Mary Houseman, Mary Houseman, Hilda Mary Scott & Maria Reynard

From young to old: Christine Mary Houseman, Mary Houseman, Hilda Mary Scott & Maria Reynard. Own collection

It was Christmas 2002. Grandma (my Dad’s Mum) was known for mostly standard presents, with an occasional inspirational one dropped, unexpectedly, into the mix. This year, it looked like a box of chocolates. I was gracious in my thanks and then I realised it wasn’t in a cellophane wrapper. I opened it up and inside was a photo album working backwards through my life and beyond, from that very summer to the 1940s. Right at the back was photo you see here.

I don’t know exactly why Grandma decided to do this. My best guess is that I was her eldest grandchild and was two years married. I think, perhaps, she was looking to inspire a new generation.

I have loved this photo since I have first seen it. It is August 1947 outside Prospect Farm, Lindley. My Aunt Christine is the baby, her mother, my Grandma, her mother, Hilda Mary nee Scott, Grandma’s mother, my great grandmother and finally Maria nee Reynard, Hilda’s mother and my great, great grandmother. A fellow family story blogger shared their three Grandma photo and story last week and made me want to share this story. It’s a super brief summary of four “mothers” that I plan to share much longer stories about.

Christine Mary Houseman, the baby in the photo, is a very special person in my life. She was born on 13 June 1947. Her older brother, George Christopher, lived just two and a half days, so she was de-facto oldest child. I always got the sense she was encouraged to stay at home, the daughter who would look after her parents. Whether this is true or not, Christine never married. She was a farmer, a caterer, a WI produce judge and a Sunday School teacher at Norwood Bottom Methodist Chapel. Her twin loves that I witnessed were Young Farmers and us, her nieces & nephews. When my Dad, her brother, died in 1984, she was a constant support. The best epitaph for me, though, came many years later when talking to some ex-Young Farmer friends, who said “We still ask ourselves what Christine would have said” – she was as important in their lives as she was in ours. Sadly, Aunty Christine lost her battle with cancer on 1 April 1999.

Mary Houseman, the new mother, my Grandma, was born in 1921. This being the 100 year anniversary of her birth I plan to write a more fulsome story. She married my Grandad, George Houseman, in 1945. This photo, though, tells something of her life. It’s taken on the front doorsteps of Prospect Farm, Lindley. Grandma moved here when she was a young child. She left, briefly, when she married and had returned by the time of this photo. As she writes it

One Monday when Thomas [Grandad’s brother] and George [my Grandad] went to Otley auction they had been talking to my Dad and he told them that George Baxter had got other work as an apprentice joiner in Otley. That just left Dad, Mother and George Barker to start hay time. Would we consider coming back home and taking over the farm? They would find somewhere else to live as soon as they heard of something near and suitable (what a decision for us to make). It was coming back home for me BUT I was now married and felt that I could not please both my husband and Dad. It was harder for George to leave home where he was born and Thomas at the face of hay time. What had we to do? Mother told me that Dad had been so sad and lost without me at home. He was not the only one. Meg my little dog from being a pup just whined and wouldn’t do anything for anybody else. Thomas and George had been to look at other farms previous over the past but never found anything that they liked. So we decided it was an opportunity not to be missed. We came back home to live here at the beginning of July.”

We have photos of Grandma and her own great grandchildren on her 90th birthday just a few steps away from this photo. Grandma didn’t leave Prospect Farm until she was too ill to live without full time specialist nursing care. She died on 31 March 2020 aged 98.

Hilda Mary Scott is stood to the right of the photo. Hilda was born on 31 August 1891 and grew up in Pickhill near Thirsk. She was a beautiful young woman who knew her own worth. She married Jesse Houseman on 28 September 1915 and moved, originally to Haverah Park and then to Prospect Farm. Everything I have read suggests this was a love match, like the postcard from Jesse to Hilda that reads simply “Dear Hilda, hope you are keeping alright, it seems very queer without you. Love from Jesse.” Hilda & Jesse had three daughters, Muriel born in 1916, Jessie in 1918 and my Grandma, Mary, in 1921. She was a champion butter-maker, competing and winning in a number of local shows. Her death on 9 August 1954, of cancer, left her family heartbroken.

Maria Reynard sits at the front of the photo. Maria was born on 16 December 1861, daughter of Mary Ann Gill & William Reynard. She married John Scott in 1885 and together they had eight children, Hilda Mary being the third child and first daughter. The family prospered moving into a detached property, Prospect House in Pickhill, that John had built. By the time this photo was taken, Maria, 85, was already a great grandmother several times over and yet she still looks delighted to be holding baby Christine in her arms. You can read more about Maria’s family photo album and her son, Walter Scott.

Four generations captured together in love and motherhood.

With much gratitude to my Aunt Christine, my Grandma, Mary, my great grandmother, Hilda and my Great Great Grandmother, Maria, in who’s arms the generations have been nurtured, to Joan Weise who’s three Grandma’s blog inspired this one and to Amy Johnson Crow whose 52 ancestors in 52 weeks challenge encouraged me to publish this series of stories.

A spice loaf & a wig

Photo of a Yorkshire spice loaf from Traditional Yorkshire recipes

For the first 23 years of her life, Mary Ann (my great, great, great grandmother) was the daughter of Richard Gill, tailor. In 1859 she married and became Mrs William Reynard, the blacksmith’s wife. These are typical of the identities ascribed to our ancestor mothers. We track the women through their fathers, their husbands and their children and then we pass by. What makes this story different was one short reference to a spice loaf, baked regularly by Mary Ann in her kitchen, a glimpse of a woman behind the men.

Mary Ann was born between 7 June & 13 July 1836, the sixth of Maria (nee Spence) and Richard Gill’s eleven children. We can assume she was baptised at Fewston church, like her siblings, although there is no record of this. Instead, her date of birth is derived from her age on later records.

The Gill family lived at Bland Hill in the village of Norwood close to the beautiful river Washburn in Yorkshire. It’s where I went to primary school, regularly passing R Gill & Sons, Joiners, without any inkling of our potential relationship.  

Richard was a tailor, likely sourcing linen, worsted or cotton from one of several mills sited along the river Washburn. The Gills were relatively prosperous. There was work enough for at least three of the sons to join the family business and a small farm to retire to. Richard was perhaps also a man very much aware of his social status even beyond death. Richard died in 1883 aged 76. His grave in Fewston churchyard is marked with a large granite obelisk instead of a simple slab of york stone like most of the others.  Perhaps most fascinatingly of all, when his grave was excavated in 2009/2010 as part of the building of the Washburn heritage centre, Richard was found to have been buried in his socks and wig, surely the sign of a man with pride.

The Reynard family lived on a farm in the nearby village of Hampsthwaite. William (born in 1833) was three years older than Mary Ann and it is quite possible they knew each other from an early age. As the second of three sons, William had little chance of inheriting the family farm and so, by the age of 18, he was working as farm servant at a large farm in Allerton. At some point over the next few years, he trained to be a blacksmith and moved to Osmotherly, over 40 miles away.  

Whether Mary Ann & William had stayed in touch over that period, or whether William bumped into a newly grown up Mary Ann on a trip back to see his family, it was at this point that the 27-year-old William felt sufficiently secure in his station to approach Richard Gill for Mary Ann’s hand. They married in Otley on 13 July 1859.

Children quickly followed. Sarah Ellen (1860), Maria, my great, great, grandmother (1861), and Annie (1865). Then a move to the village of Topcliffe, perhaps to take over a more prosperous blacksmiths business. Mary was born in 1867, Hannah in 1871, John William in 1873 and finally George Gill in 1879. They were a close family – I’ve inherited a great deal of warm correspondence between the children in later years although, sadly, none with or about their mother, Mary Ann. Maria’s family album contains many pictures of the family.

A daughter, a wife and a mother. Then I chanced upon “Topcliffe. A history by Mary Decima Watson” written in 1970 and here was my glimpse into Mary Ann herself.

It was a custom at the turn of the century for the tradesmen of the town to send out their accounts once per year. The joiners, the sadlers, the shoemakers and the village blacksmith. The farmers sold their livestock for the year, and would then settle their accounts with the tradesmen. The village blacksmith’s wife had her own special custom, she made a very nice spice loaf, so that when the farmers called to pay their accounts to Mr Reynard, the blacksmith, she would cut a piece of this loaf for the farmers, or anyone paying their accounts to eat while her husband attended to the business side.

An excellent baker, a custom-setter and, I like to think, a thoughtful and generous woman.

Sadly, Mary Ann died of influenza and jaundice on 2 April 1895, aged just 58. Dead, but not forgotten, thanks to that spice loaf.

Mary Ann was mother of Maria Reynard who was mother of Hilda Mary Scott who was mother of my maternal Grandma, Mary Houseman.

With much gratitude to my Mary Ann Gill for her spice loaf, my friend Andrea for the photo of the memorial, the Washburn heritage centre for their work on the graves at Fewston and thanks also to Amy Johnson Crow whose 52 ancestors in 52 weeks challenge encouraged me to publish this series of stories.