An almost Yorkshire story – the podcast version

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.

How I started

Mary Ann Gill

Elizabeth Furniss & George Downs

Elsie Moody including the photo I used to resemble

Elizabeth Dean and the Butterworth connection

Hannah Demaine, the woman who married twice

Widow paupers including “Wid Swinden”

The Wellocks

Walter Scott, the boy who was shot by his friend

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.

The Butterworth identity – a namesake clue

Thomas Booth (b. 1870) is my great, great grandparent. He lived in Askwith, a small village near Otley in Yorkshire, farmed sheep, died of “farmers lung” in 1929 and was buried at Weston Church with his wife Sarah. He was father to Arthur Booth, who was father to Mary Booth, my maternal grandmother (known as Nana). This much my Nana shared with me over 30 years ago. Without reviewing any formal documentary evidence, I thought I knew his story. Yet I was missing a single critical piece of his identity which in turn enabled me to unlock the story of his illigitimate mother, Elizabeth Dean.

We are a family of amazing women so when I picked up family history research again, I chose to focus on the women. Thomas’s wife, Sarah Cooper, came with a tantalising snippet of a tale about a mother who married twice, the second time to an older man. Over time I was able to evidence this and came to know better the stories of both Sarah Cooper and her mother Hannah Demain.

I turned back to Thomas. In pursuit of Sarah, I had visited Thomas’s grave, ordered his marriage and death certificates, and studied censuses from his married life. In all of these he was listed as Thomas Booth. Then an odd bit of evidence. The 1871 census listed one Thomas B Booth and this in turn led me to a potential birth certificate. When it arrived plain old Thomas Booth transformed into the far more compelling Thomas Butterworth Booth and the opened up the Butterworth identity.

Back to the women. Thomas’s mother, Elizabeth Dean, was my original brick wall. Documentary evidence was sparse and didn’t add up to a coherent picture. She was illegitimate, so no father on the marriage certificate. She died quite young, and so I had just one census as a married woman. From what I knew she could have been born in 1844, 1845 or 1846 in “Lancaster” but was living in Wilsden in Yorkshire when she married – a domestic servant without obvious roots.

There were no matching Elizabeth Deans born in Lancaster and too many options across the whole of Lancashire & Yorkshire. Finally, I hit on an effective search strategy. In 1851 she was likely still to be living with her mother in Lancashire. Focusing on those without a father’s name listed narrowed it down to two options. “Betcy Dear” with a parent “Bellow” living in Tatham and born in Wray with Botton didn’t seem terribly promising information, but “stepdaughter” did. When I opened up the record to see that the head of the household was one Thomas Butterworth, I knew I’d cracked it and with it the origin of my Thomas Butterworth Booth’s name.

1851 census listing Betcy Dear, Bellow & Thomas Butterworth

I still don’t know exactly when Elizabeth Dean was born but I do know much more of her story and in turn much more about Thomas’s early life.

Elizabeth was the illegitimate daughter of Isabella Dean born in Wray-with-Botton in the city of Lancaster district. A few years later, in 1850, Isabella married Thomas Butterworth, a quarry man and, somewhat less than nine months later, their legitimate daughter, Anne Butterworth, arrived. By 1861 Elizabeth had moved out of the family home and was working as a domestic servant in her aunt’s household. Isabella & Thomas had moved further south to Warley in Yorkshire likely in pursuit of work.  By 1866 Elizabeth, too, had moved to Yorkshire where she met & married Samuel Booth. Elizabeth & Samuel had two children, John, born in 1869 and Thomas Butterworth a year later and shortly thereafter took over the Booth family farm, March Cote, near Bingley. Elizabeth remained close to her sister during this time. Anne’s first child was named after her aunt Elizabeth, and her second, Marian, was born during a visit to Elizabeth in Bingley.

Sadly, being the wife of a small tenant farmer could be a hard one. Elizabeth’s son, John, died in 1876, aged just seven years old. Then Elizabeth herself succumbed to a combination of diabetes and pneumonia on 3 February 1880 aged around 36 years old. Later that same year, whether as a result of grief or the general agricultural depression of the time, Samuel sold his farm livestock and implements.

He’d been peering through the window when the man in the suit arrived. He’d seen his father’s face grow pale as the man talked, watched his body shrink in on itself. Now the boy sat stiffly opposite his father, toes straining to touch the floor, eyes fixed firmly forward. His father started to speak, to tell him something important, but the words just tumbled around in his brain making no sense“. (Author’s supposition).

This was the point that Thomas dropped the Butterworth identity bringing us back to the beginning of this blog.

With much gratitude to my Nana, Mary Booth, to Elizabeth Dean for naming her son Thomas Butterworth Booth and also to Amy Johnson Crow whose 52 ancestors in 52 weeks challenge, this week on namesakes, encouraged me to publish this story (