Andy, Jenny & Bob too

A letter from “Aunty” to Andy, Jenny & Bob too – Friday, 26 September

A letter full of love and affection, mushrooms & blackberry jam. There’s a new baby (Jenny), a date, if not a year, and mention of another relative, Andy’s Aunty Hilda, plus there’s an address at the top of the letter. A heady cocktail. Anyone who is even vaguely interested in family history would want to know more about Aunty & Uncle Charlie, Andy, Bob & Baby Jenny and would believe, that with all those names and other details, they should be able to identify the protagonists.

It’s a beautiful letter and one that never fails to make me smile when I read it, for I am Baby Jenny.

Which is fortunate as if I hadn’t known Baby Jenny was me, I would have found it almost impossible to work out who was who. It would have been relatively easy to use the address to work out that “Aunty & Uncle Charlie” were Edith “Edie” (Moody) & Charles Hardy for they lived at Elmwood Grove for many years. But “Aunty” stands for Great Aunt, and “Aunty Hilda” is in fact the Edie’s niece. Then there are the trio to whom the letter is addressed. “Andy” is Elizabeth Ann, known both as Ann & Liz, I have been known as Natasha, rather than Jenny, since I was six months old and “Bob” (my Dad) was born George Christopher. Collectively, my Mum, Dad & I, have adopted names designed for maximum confusion if you are researching at a distance.

So I’ve scribbled relevant names (in pencil) on the letter and written this brief blog to preserve a message of love between generations for the next.  

And yes, there may be a brief cultural reference in the phrasing of the title. Any guesses?

What surnames can add to the knowledge of our beginnings

We begin our family history journey at the end. There are many logical reasons for this, for after all, what would be the beginning? The generationally oldest ancestors? I believe I know something about eighteen 12x great grandparents who lived in the 1500s but far from enough to make their life interesting and what about the other 8,174 of them (endogamy aside)? DNA? Mine simply supports what I already know – my ancestors are mostly from Yorkshire. However, there is one other angle, that of surnames which can provide an insight into ancestors much further back than we will ever be able to prove.

In this article, the numbers born refer to the period from the start of civil registration, currently transcribed on freebmd (1837 – 1992 approx). The counts for the first seven surnames were taken on 3 August 2022, for more distant ancestors on 29 November 2022.


Jesse Houseman (Grandma’s Dad)’s signature at the end of a letter to his landlord. 1920. Own collection.

Born a Houseman, like my Grandma, I plan to die as one. Although I’m resorting to changing my name back by deed poll whilst my Grandma just married a Houseman. As the subtitle to my website notes “it’s who I am.” It is, though, only my second favourite surname. Largely, I think, because it’s already been well-researched and I am forever grateful to Gary Houseman who proved the link between my two paternal grandparents.

Whilst this surname is believed to originate from an occupation, from someone working at or associated with the local “great” house, it is relatively uncommon and highly geographically concentrated. 43% of the 2,651 Housemans born in England & Wales between 1837 and 1992 (as counted on 3 August 2022) were born in Yorkshire counties and of these there is only one branch who are not directly related. I was delighted to find that the one family in Yorkshire who are not related by blood can still be connected into my tree as William Shaw Houseman (b. 1848) who’s father, Robert, was born in London, married Hannah Smith, who’s mother was a Houseman!


Grandpy’s entry in my autograph book. 1985. Own collection.

By contrast, I’ve never felt the same connection to my mother’s maiden name. It crops up too often for me to be sure I’ve found the right family. There’s even a shoe store which carries the name. Our Barretts had the audacity to originate from Gloucestershire and it’s Norman in origin. Sorry Grandpy, I love you, but it’s not a surname that holds my attention.


Nana’s Booth signature at the front of her own autograph book. c. 1939. Own collection.

Nana’s birth name.

Many years ago I spotted a beautiful seventeenth century wooden tray painted with the names of a Booth family. £400 was an awful lot of money but I was severely tempted, convinced the family would be related somehow. Whilst I still hold a slight sense of regret the chances that the tray family were in anyway related is slim to non-existent for there were nearly 50x as many Booths born as Housemans.

Booth is considered to be a northern name (over a quarter of those registered births were in Yorkshire) originating from the old Danish word “bōth” meaning a temporary shelter such as a cattle-herdsman’s hut. We were cattle keepers, probably the most appropriate of our surnames throughout my paper history. It also accounts for the 2% of Swedish & Danish ancestry in my Mum’s DNA profile.

Booth is also one of the two surnames I planned to use if I was ever to write under a pen name, which leads me onto….


Ernest Moody (Nana’s grandfather)’s autograph from Nana’s book. 1939. Own collection.

Nana’s mother’s birth name and the other pen name I would choose.

From the Middle English mody meaning ‘proud, haughty, angry, fierce, bold, brave, or rash’ not grumpy as it is now.

I broke freebmd trying to work out what percentage of people had been born in Yorkshire, but in the 2021 census, Yorkshire was home to about 9% of the population of England & Wales so essentially anything over 10% represents a northern bias and Moody, at 14% is no exception.

But as for Moodys being proud & haughty? This was the most unassuming branch of our family tree. We’d obviously not inherited those genes.


Mary (Pollie) Wellock, Grandpy’s mother. From her date book. 1907. Own collection.

Grandpy’s mother’s birth name.

I love the Wellock surname. Most recently it’s enabled a wonderful Canadian adventure. Every Wellock alive today can be traced back to just two men. They are either descendants of Henry (born in the late 1500s in Kirby Malham) or of Robert (b. c. 1546 in Linton in Craven). The two are undoubtably related but I am always disappointed when a Wellock is descended from Henry.

Common thinking is that Wellock is a derivation of de Wheelock suggesting Norman ancestry, but given that the Wellock (or Walock) name is only held by those from Craven, Yorkshire, my interest stops there.


John Scott (Grandma’s grandfather) from his will dated 1920. Own collection.

Grandma’s mother’s birth name.

Ultimately it’s a man from Scotland. Which could mean anything. Weirdly, my Mum’s DNA contains a lot of unexplained Scottish DNA whilst my paternal Uncle’s contains none. It’s also the most common surname amongst my great grandparents. Combine it with John and you’ve got a genealogical nightmare. So I just feel grateful that I’ve been able to trace this line as far back as my 6x great grandfather, John Scott, born in the early to mid 1700s in Branton Green, North Yorkshire.


Martha (Handley) Clapham (Grandad’s grandmother)’s signature from the 1911 census. Own collection.

Grandad’s mother’s birth name.

The last of my great grandparents surnames is slowly gaining my attention. Growing up there were a lot of Claphams and I thought it must be a common name. But there were under 10,000 of them born between 1837 and 1992 and of those, over 40% were born in Yorkshire. Which explains why there were a lot of them about when I was growing up.

More interestingly (for me), I have Claphams on my maternal side too – my 5x great grandmother, Elizabeth Clapham was born in Lawkland about three miles from the village of Clapham.

Given that Clapham is believed to originate from the name of a village that could suggest a connection for whilst there are Clapham villages and (different) family branches originating as far away as Bedfordshire, Surrey, Sussex and even Devon, my Grandad’s mother’s family had been slowly tracking south and east away from the original Clapham village. 

Could this be the elusive connection between my Mum & my Dad’s family trees?

Earlier generations

Going back to my 3xG grandparents adds a further twenty-four surnames. It seems I’m unlikely to ever find a familial connection to my friends Sarah Walker & Helen Cooper (being the two most popular surnames in my tree with over 300,000 of each of them born). There were fullers and coopers in almost every village from which these surnames derive.

There are some though which will be worthy of further exploration.

  • Stansfield, Furniss and Hinchcliffe are all relatively rare. They are locational surnames recognising people from Stansfield (near Todmorden), Furness (Cumberland) and Hinchliff (near Holmfirth) so it is not surprising that around 50% of these births were in Yorkshire. Each one might give me a hint as to where the families originated from. Each also has a number of different variants and the exact spelling could be useful in tracing my line.
  • I grew up surrounded by Beecrofts and they pop up on both sides of my tree so was surprised to learn how uncommon the name was both generally and in Yorkshire. It’s a locational name based on an apparently “lost” village named “beo-croft” meaning bee farm. Tracing potential locations in the region could help me bring together the two sides of my family.
  • Down to those names with fewer than 5,000 children born. Teal has my favourite origin story, as it is thought to be a nickname, meaning like a water-bird. One of my distant ancestors must have been graceful in their deportment. The Teal variant of the name is also strongly associated with Yorkshire with over half those born being from Yorkshire.
  • There were fewer Reynards born than Housemans. Reynard does not in fact mean fox-like, but rather a popular medieval story book fox character was given this name and it stuck. It’s a surname with a number of variants, but 64% of the people born carrying the surname in this form were from Yorkshire meaning I stand a good chance of bringing them together in one tree.  
  • And finally, my favourite 3xG Grandmother, Hannah Demaine, keeps on giving. Surprisingly, given it means someone from the ancient French province of Maine, it’s a surname even more rare than Wellock and just as heavily concentrated in Yorkshire. The variant Demain, which I have also seen, only adds a few hundred births. This family of agricultural labourers are about as far from a Norman knight as it is possible to be and has whetted my appetite to research further.

There are a few more ancient names I should mention as being gateway surnames that have enabled me to reach back much further than I would otherwise have done: Wigglesworth, Hebden and Swale are all locational from Yorkshire. Pettyt leads me to a cousin, William, appointed Keeper of the Records in the Tower of London in 1689, who invented a wonderful family history claiming descent from King Arthur and might provide a connection to my oldest friend, Andrea (nee Petty). Finally, there’s Inglesant is a rare example of a surname derived from a woman demonstrating the strength of my female ancestry right back into the medieval ages.   

And so it is that my beginnings reflect the end. It’s an (almost) Yorkshire story.

With much gratitude to Natalie Pithers for her two prompts, beginnings & surnames, which led to this blog and to all my ancient ancestors for picking such wonderful surnames.

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 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, 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.

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.

Nana’s box of joy

I have four decades of my own memorabilia stuffed haphazardly into three large plastic boxes. Every so often I pull out a pile of stuff and discard just enough of my random keepsakes (such as tickets to events I don’t remember and birthday cards without special meaning) to squeeze in what I’ve saved over from recent months. Despite their chaotic nature I still find myself delving into these boxes to find something that is relevant to my life right now. The night Queenie died I tipped all three boxes onto the floor of my living room to hunt for royal souvenirs and that’s when I realised it was time to bring the same order to my own archive as I was with those of my ancestors. Well, almost, the papers are now at least divided into “eras.” More excitingly I found a whole pile of family history treasures I’d inherited & forgotten about over the years including an unassuming box labelled “Elton Bond.”

Nana’s box of joy. Own photo.

Unassuming as my Nana (Mary Booth) was perhaps it’s appropriate. For this small dusty box turned out to be, like Nana, full of joy, memories of all those people she held dear during special periods of her & their lives. It covers a period of approximately thirty years from 1942 to 1973 and includes a few pieces that have left me wanting to know more. This blog is broadly in the order in which I unearthed its contents rather than being chronological. I make no apologies for its length as it’s just so full of gems.

Join me as we explore its contents.

A dummy. Own photo.

I’m guessing this dummy belonged to Uncle Richard, Nana’s first born. This is how I knew this was a box of happy memories for Richard was a young man of promise who died before his time, aged just 22, and there is nothing in the box to remind Nana of his end.  

These three items from 1942/3 are the most intriguing in the box. First is a letter written to Mary about a skirt in February 1942. Was it C Babbs, or the skirt, or a reference to having left school which led Nana to keep this letter? Then there was a ticket for “Romany” to which school children were admitted for 6d on 25 April 1942. Was the event itself special or something that happened there? Finally an invite from the Ilkley Youth council to a Social Evening & Dance addressed Miss M Booth, Netherwood, Ilkley in 1943. I wondered who the fifteen-year-old Mary was living with at the time as this was not her parents’ address. And who it was she met there that might have caused her to keep the letter. I’m pretty sure that Grandpy wasn’t yet on the scene.

There’s one more letter from the pre-marriage period. A newsy piece from Maureen of 3 Kimberley Street, Ilkley dated 7 February 1946 with some wonderful snippets. “How is the old engaged couple getting on? I hope Hilda won’t welt me one when she see’s me” and “You’d better behave yourself all these boy friends of yours Walker will be telling you off.” An ex-work colleague who I hope might one day help me identify exactly which establishment in Ilkley helped my Nana learn her trade.

Two cards arrived at Upper West End Farm, Stainburn in September 1962 from Nana’s father, Arthur Booth. It was both the year after his wife, Nana’s Mum, had died and the year before he, too, passed away. One last holiday very different from the rest. One card was addressed to his daughter and son-in-law, the other to his grandson, Richard. It’s not difficult to guess which is which!

I’m not quite sure how Mum’s invite to Dad’s 21st ended up in Nana’s box of joy but it led me to learning a lot more about their engagement which was formally shared with the world at the YFC County Rally in the summer of 1972 being the anniversary of when they first became a couple. Young Farmers has a lot to answer for.

Which is why follows a postcard from Mum & Dad’s honeymoon in June 1973. Apparently, it’s a good job the left the accommodation in Dockray early as they’d only just enough cash to pay for the nights they had stayed. Mum elaborated “We were going to see Cassie as she was meant to be my bridesmaid (and go to her first wedding) but got the ‘kissing’ disease (glandular fever) and was too ill to come.

It is to my Mum’s paternal cousin, Jennifer “Jenny” Barrett, that I owe half of the credit for my first name (the other half of that credit belonging to my Mum’s maternal cousin Jennifer “Jenn” nee Nelson). Jenny Barrett has also sent me so much amazing family history paraphernalia so I was delighted she appeared in this collection. Was this a special holiday?

A wedding gift tag. Own collection.

Talking of Jennifers – it doesn’t surprise me which gift tag Nana kept in this box of joy, one from the, not yet one year old, twin daughters of her beloved sister Hilda, Joan & Jenn.

There is also only one wedding card in the box. Aunty Edie became as close to a grandmother as a great aunt could be to my Mum after Nana’s own mother, Edie’s sister, Marion, died in 1961.

Staying with a wedding theme, next up are the wedding mementos. There’s a blog to be written comparing the cost of my Nana & Grandpy and Grandma & Grandad’s weddings with my own and far more joyful than that of funeral receipts I have inherited (although that, too, might make it to a blog in future….).

My favourite items amongst the receipts and charms are these two. A pouch, which I assume contained Nana’s wedding ring and a tattered receipt for teas and coffees on 5 June 1948 at the Bowes Moor Hotel. This had me scratching my head, why did Nana have a receipt for four teas and coffees from a hotel near Barnard Castle on the day of her wedding? Until I realised this must be in fact four shillings not four drinks and they were on honeymoon!

Card from Grandpy to Nana. Own collection.

I couldn’t decide whether Nana kept this 1959 postcard from Grandpy because he’d had “a grand day”, because it was the first night they’d spent time apart since marrying or because she’d been forced to pay a 1d charge to receive it!

What’s left is an interesting collection.

First there’s a letter from “Aunty Mary” aka Mary Ramsden, wife of Nana’s uncle, Johnny Booth. Mary had a special way with words recognised locally through the publication of her poems in the Wharfedale & Airedale Observer.

Within her book of “Selected Poems” published in 1990 are two which hold a special place in my heart. The first celebrated my Uncle Richard after his early death. The second, “Your Empty Chair” was written following the death of Uncle Jonny and I found considerable solace in after my own husband died.

I still wonder though if this letter only made the cut because of the recipe for Melting Moments captured on the back 😉

Then there is a postcard to Grandpy from his prospective in-laws just two weeks before the wedding. What were they trying to say?

Continuing on the theme of cheeky postcards, I have by now I’ve started to get a sense of my great grandfather, Arthur’s, handwriting and sense of humour. Arthur married Marion in 1925. Marion’s sister, Edith was not to marry Charles Hardy for another decade. I’ve speculated before that Edith may have been kept at home to help, free to marry only after her mother died. Dating this card might well provide a clue. Either way I can see that Grandpy may well have shared a joke with his father-in-law……

Finally, there’s the handkerchief. Mum & I have debated this one. Nana’s WI trips were to The Netherlands and Norway rather than Belgium and as Mum put it “Aunty Hilda helped Mum choose between Dad and Richard Greenwood – no Belgians!” so we didn’t think it was a sweetheart. Was it a gift from a female friend? Nana’s big sister Hilda is conspicuously absent from this box. She was also the more adventurous of the two sisters, so whatever the story behind it I’m going to associate with Aunty Hilda from now.

A painted hanky. Own photo.

I hope you enjoyed this brief peek into Nana’s life, I know I did even if it’s left me with more questions than answers! With much love & gratitude for my Nana who created such a wonderful collection.

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.

Annie Bentley & Edith Moody – my mother’s line

The old leather suitcase full of genealogical goodies. Own photo.

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 [Postscript, November 2022, Annie’s father, also turned out to be illegitimate].  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.

The sole photo of Annie Bentley, own collection

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.

The marriage certificate of Mary Hinchcliffe & George Bentley, Annie Bentley’s parents, in 1867

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 (see my sister is also my aunt). 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.

St John’s church, Horbury Bridge complete with Mum. 2021. Own photo.

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.

Photo taken at Harrogate Baths. Ernest Moody is sitting on the front row, third from the left. Own collection.

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 & 1921 censuses, 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.

Elsie Moody. Own collection.

Annie’s eldest daughter, Marion, my great grandmother, married the following year and moved away. Edith, however, stayed close.

Edith (aka Auntie Edie)

Edith Moody, possibly between 1914 & 1918, possibly in a work place – possibly either a factory or in a hospital. Own collection.

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.

Edith Moody. Own collection
Charles Hardy. Own collection

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.

Edith with her sister Marion (my great Grandmother) and her two nieces Hilda & Mary Booth (my Nana). Own collection
Auntie Edie & Uncle Charlie in the garden at Sunny-Dene. Own collection.

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.

Postscript: Edith also appears in Nana’s box of joy.