#52Ancestors #16 Elizabeth Dolton: caring heart, busy home

Elizabeth, the daughter of John Dalton and his wife Mary (nee Kenton) was born at the end of the 18th century in the reign of King George III.  Elizabeth, my great-great-great-great grandmother, was baptised on 3 May 1798 in Brixton parish [east of Plymouth, Devon, England], where she grew up with a younger brother Samuel and possibly an older brother John.  One of Elizabeth’s neighbours was called Joseph Willing and when she had a son out of wedlock in 1816 she named him John Willing Dolton after his father who didn’t stick around. Joseph Willing – oh the irony…

Extract from Barts South Devon map 1902

Extract from Barts South Devon map 1902

Another of my Devon ancestors, Ann Keast, was also a single mum; she ended up dying at her family home aged only 30.  Elizabeth’s life was longer and happier.

Three years after John’s birth she married Nathaniel Ramsden, a quarry man born in Plymstock, on Christmas Day 1818, in East Stonehouse [now part of Plymouth].

They had nine children together: Elizabeth 1819, Ann Olive 1821, Nathaniel 1823, Emanuel 1825, William 1828 and Mary Ann 1830 in Staddiscombe, before having Maria 1833, William 1835 and Louisa in 1838 in Plymstock.

In 1851 Elizabeth, after a family bereavement, had 3 grandchildren staying with her (incorrectly recorded as nieces and nephew). Nathaniel – possibly because the house was full – was meanwhile staying with their daughter Mary Ann who by then was living with her husband William Carter and their 1-year-old son William.  Mary also had with her a 1-month-old girl called Mary Leete(?) who was recorded as ‘nursechild’; she was possibly a wet nurse.

52 ancestors logoTen years later Nathaniel and Elizabeth’s household had again gathered in a wider family, with daughter Maria (29) grandchildren Elizabeth (3) and William (1) plus foster children Letitia M Pollard (10) and Florence M Pollard (6).  By that time Nathaniel had been promoted to be foreman at a slate quarry – they were living in Penlee Quarry, Stoke [Devon].

Nathaniel died c August 1863, possibly worn out by a life as a quarryman and the chaos of a bustling extended family home!?

Eight years later in April 1871 Elizabeth was living in Charles [Plymouth] in Devonshire Street, with her daughter Louisa, son-in-law William Scaun and their children. Her foster-daughter Florence, by then called Florence Ramsden, had left home and was working as a 16-year-old apprentice dressmaker; she married John King c November 1877.

Gravestone of Elizabeth Ramsden nee Dolton

Gravestone of Elizabeth Ramsden nee Dolton

By April 1881 Elizabeth and her nephew Samuel Dolton, 53, both marked as having no occupation, were living next to the post office in Oaklands, Plymstock.

Elizabeth had lived on nearly 20 years after her husband’s death, dying in Plympton St Mary, Devon, in September 1881.  She was buried with her daughter and son-in-law Mary Ann William Carter, living for and with her family in this world, and keeping with them for the next.

© Text copyright Lynne Black 16 April 2014
Many thanks to C Lang for the use of the gravestone photo.
Content first published:   http://starryblackness.wordpress.com/2014/04/16/elizabeth-dolton/


#52Ancestors #15: William Halliday Brown, seeing the world through music

William Halliday Brown, c 1830

William Halliday Brown, c 1930

It’s my grandfather William ‘Bill’ Halliday Brown’s birthday this week, 12th April. He was born in 1905 in Leeds, the son of Michael Brown and Sarah Emmeline Halliday.  He lived about 10 miles from me when I grew up and we would go visit him and my granny Phyllis Brown nee Broadbent on Sundays.

They lived in a bungalow, with paintings by Granny on the walls, a coffee table she made in the living room, and in the garden a bank of black-current bushes covered in netting to keep off the birds.

What I associated with Grandad, however, were different: a garage full of drawers of wires, springs, wheels and cogs which would put Wallace to shame, a freshly-baked [by Grandad] sponge or Battenburg cake every time, and his piano. I remember he would occasionally do a little tap routine in the style of Fred Astaire, his hero, and I sort of vaguely knew he had been a pianist on cruise ships once, although I didn’t quite get that grandparents could have been young at all ever, so I pictured him doing it at his current age.

When I said to Dad that I wanted to feature Grandad this week he sent me through a mini-biography and I was intrigued to hear, now I’m old enough to appreciate it, how he had played piano on various cruise ships for four years until he married, finishing his time on the ships with a cruise with star passengers: The Prince of Wales (later King Edward VIII) and Prince George, [the Duke of Kent rather than the later King George VI who had been called Prince Albert].  In later years Grandad would work as a pianist in the evenings to supplement his income.

Wiki even mentions the cruise in the Prince’s entry:
“From January to April 1931 Prince George and his elder brother the Prince of Wales travelled 18,000 miles on a tour of South America, voyaging out on the ocean liner SS Oropesa and returning via Paris and an Imperial Airways flight from Paris–Le Bourget Airport that landed specially in Windsor Great Park.”

Havana welcomes Prince of Wales; Prince George as Ship's Pianist, Dundee Courier, 2 Feb 1931, reproduced with permission of BNA

Havana welcomes Prince of Wales; Prince George as Ship’s Pianist, Dundee Courier, 2 Feb 1931, reproduced with permission of BNA

At the weekend I discovered that there is currently a really good month-long subscription offer at the British Newspaper Archive so decided to go for it. Having the name of that last ship, the Oropesa, I searched for that and discovered a host of jolly fun stories about the Princes and their 18,000 mile trade trip to the Caribbean and South America, their time on board and the enthusiastic receptions they received in Jamaica and Peru.  My favourite story didn’t actually mention Bill Brown by name, but I love this paragraph:

“Prince George, who is an accomplished pianist, has on several evenings during the voyage played accompaniments for songs by other passengers, giving much enjoyment to everyone.”  [Dundee Courier, 2 February 1931]

I can just picture Grandad doing his Fred Astaire flourish moving aside for the Prince to take his seat at the piano.  He kept a journal but didn’t go into detail, just pretty much the cruise start and finish dates – no royal insider gossip there.

I’ll try at some point to find out more about the Oropesa and the other ships he played on, and see if they have photos, but I get the impression that the cruise line no longer operates.  Maybe some royal photo archive would have photos from the ship’s lounge? I’ll also try some of the hotels that he worked in after returning to the UK to settle down in late 1931.

52 ancestors logoWhat I did find disconcerting about the archive papers in comparison with the modern papers is that stories could be in an almost random order at time, with the big names and items given the same column space as day-to-day stories.  For example, on 31 January 1931, under a story about the Princes’ trip, there was three column inches of “More Cotton Mills Close, 250,000 Operatives Now Out of Work” then the same amount of space for “More Rain – Weather Prospects This Week-end”. Back to the real world.

So I would really recommend trying the British Newspaper Archives offer, to look for a glimpse of what happened to shape your family’s lives, whether it be cruises with princes or life-changing events that affect thousands of people in the population.  Even if you don’t have such an unusual search term, it lets you choose a likely publication (for me the Yorkshire Post) by year, month and date and just browse…

© Text and portrait photo copyright Lynne Black 7 April 2014
Content first published:  http://starryblackness.wordpress.com/2014/04/07/52ancestors-15-william-h-brown/

#52 Ancestors #14 Royal Marine Samuel Glover of Stonehouse

1860 Map of Stonehouse featuring Marine Barracks and Naval Hospital

1860 Map of Stonehouse featuring Marine Barracks and Naval Hospital

My great-great-great grandfather Samuel Glover was born in 1822 in Martock, Somerset, the son of William Glover and his wife, name as yet unknown.  His place of birth was a surprise as I didn’t know I had Somerset ancestors.  I haven’t yet worked out why he was born in Somerset when his father and he were Devon men! It was possibly a connection through his mother Mary, as his father William was born in Charles [Plymouth] and so were most of Samuel’s own children; only his eldest daughter Mary, born 1848, was born in Martock – had he and his wife Mary been back visiting family?

By the summer of 1841, when Samuel was 19, he was enlisted in the Royal Marines as a Private and was based in Stonehouse Barracks [now Plymouth]. There are some lovely old photos on this website: http://www.cyber-heritage.co.uk/hmsdrake/ from c 1890, slightly later, granted, but still a fascinating glimpse into his workplace.

He met his wife Mary in the mid 1840s – possibly a bit of a scandal, as his first child Samuel was born in 1846 and the likely wedding date I have is circa November 1848 – coincidentally around the same time as their second child Mary’s birth. They went on to have 7-8 further children: Walter (my great-great grandfather) in 1851, Susan in 1853, James in 1858, Emma in 1859, John (died in infancy?) in 1860, John in 1862, Fannie in 1866 and Jane in 1868.

His father William died in 1854 and again there may be a Somerset connection – if I have the correct William Glover he died in Durleigh.

52ancestorsSamuel was still in the Marines in 1861 but was discharged in 1862. Nine years later in April 1871 he was recorded in the census as being a patient in the Naval Hospital. His son James had died in autumn 1869 then his wife Mary died in March 1870.  At the time of the census his children were staying at their home at 6 Admiralty Street, Devonport, ranging from Samuel (24, labourer) and Walter (20, apprentice stonemason) down to 3-year-old Jane.

Samuel married his second wife, a widow working as a laundress named Ann Webber (nee Angel) in 1872; Ann  had had 3 children with her previous husband: Frederick (1853), Alfred (1860) and Charles (1863) so maybe children on both sides would have given then a full houseful.

In 1881 and 1891 Samuel was recorded as a Royal Marines Pensioner; he died in the spring of 1893.

What I’d like to find out eventually about Samuel and Mary is what happened in 1870/1871 when their time together ended and Samuel was in the hospital – was he ill?  Injured? He did manage to live another 20 years after that point to the good old age of 71.  And what military action had he seen?  Had he fought in New Zealand, Mexico, Japan, Abyssinia?  The frequent arrival of children in the 1850s and 1860s would suggest he wasn’t away much!

I also need to try to discover more about Samuel’s parents and to confirm Mary’s maiden name.  Plenty of work still to do with this branch of my family.

[Samuel is only distantly connected by marriage to William Keast, my #52Ancestors #13 of last week, who worked as a clark at the Naval Hospital earlier in the 19th century; William was almost 50 years older than Samuel]

© Text copyright Lynne Black 2 April 2014

#52 Ancestors #13 William Keast – Clark in the Naval Hospital

My great-great-great-great grandfather William Keast was baptised on 12 November 1775 in Duloe, Cornwall. However by the time he was 35 he was living in East Stonehouse (now Plymouth).

He married locally in Duloe in 1805 to Mary Rendle and they had 3 children together, Elizabeth (1805 Duloe), Philip (1807, also Duloe) but then must have moved through to East Stonehouse as Ann Grace was born there in c1810.

1820 Plan featuring the Naval Hospital, East Stonehouse

1820 Plan featuring the Naval Hospital, East Stonehouse

His second wife, Rebecca Holt, born in 1789, was from Okehampton in Devon and they married in St George’s Church, East Stonehouse on 14 June 1813.

By the time their daughter Rebecca was born in 1816 William was working as Clark to the Chaplain at the Royal Naval Hospital in East Stonehouse. What I’m not sure about is whether this was in a lay-religious capacity [his children were baptised as Methodists] or a paid capacity as in the 1841 census he was listed as a labourer; I’d like to find out more about the his role at the Hospital.

This website Navy and Army Military Life 1900 – 1914 around Plymouth (mostly!), kindly flagged up for me by Plymouth History Magazine, looks really promising, although focussing on a time period a few decades after William worked there.  It will definitely be useful for later generations!

52ancestorsHe and Rebecca had at least 9 children.  What I’m not sure about is whether they had 11. The 1841 census records two further children but they’re so young – 4 and 2 – that I really hope for William and Rebecca, then approx 65 and 50 respectively, that they were grandchildren and that poor Rebecca wasn’t still having babies in her 40s! But without reliable contraception, one of the most empowering developments ever for women, it was entirely possible. There were Mary, William, Rebecca, Jane, Robert, Maria, Ann [my ancestor], Mary and Leah, plus the two young ones Elizabeth and William.

William died in 1849 and was buried in Ford Cemetery, Plymouth.

© Text copyright Lynne Black 26 March 2014

http://starryblackness.wordpress.com/2014/03/21/52ancestors_13_williamkeast/ ‎

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What is in a name?

Originally posted on Root To Tip:

The other day there was a Daily Post Writing Challenge about names, mainly thinking about your name and the meaning behind it – why did your parents give you the name they did?

I don’t really understand exactly why my parents chose Alexandra, initially my mother was planning to call me Ross if I was a boy and Rosalind if I was a girl, but when I came along my Mum decided on something totally different. My Dad’s boss at the time was called Alex, so no idea if that played a part! My siblings and I do not have middle names, something which I used to dislike when I was a child, most of my friends had them and I felt a bit left out. Initially I made up the middle name Mary when I was about 5 but then discarded it when I discovered that it was also…

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#52 Ancestors #12: Ann Keast – fallen women in the home of her family

52ancestorsAnn Keast was my great-great-great-grandmother.  Born in August 1825, she lived all her life in East Stonehouse (now part of Plymouth).  Ann was baptised a Wesleyan Methodist and was the seventh child of parents Wiliam Keast and Rebecca Keast (nee Holt).

Ann never married but a liaison with a pianoforte maker called John Pool, a man who couldn’t or wouldn’t stay around, led to the birth of her daughter, Emily Keast, circa February 1846, when Ann was 20.  Three years later Ann’s father died and by 1851 Ann, working as a dressmaker, was living with Emily at her mother Rebecca’s house. I like that despite having not, perhaps, listened to everything preached in the pulpit she wasn’t abandoned by her religious family.

I had hoped to find that Ann would marry despite having a child out of wedlock but was upset to find that she died in 1856 aged 30, leaving behind her mother and her 10-year-old daughter Emily.  Granny Rebecca died in 1859, leaving Emily alone as a 12-year-old.  By 1861 Emily was working by the age of 14 as a domestic servant for the Fenemore family, before going on to have 3 husbands of her own and a troubled end.

Ann was buried in Ford Cemetery in Plymouth.

My lesson of the day: always check the timelines of my subject’s parents – and even grandparents – to work out how their circumstances might have affected their early life.

However I have this week started using online Historical timelines which I’ve found really useful (and distracting):

BBC interactive timeline:  http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/interactive/timelines/british/index_embed.shtml

British Library historical timeline:  http://www.bl.uk/learning/histcitizen/timeline/accessvers/


© Text copyright Lynne Black 19 March 2014


#52Ancestors #11 Walter Glover – life is not a soap opera

52ancestorsLast time I wrote about my Great-great Grandmother Emily Keast. I’ll now introduce you to her third husband, Walter Glover.

None of my Devon family are rich, and like my Yorkshire family several of them worked as miners.  Walter worked with stone too, but as a mason rather than a miner; he also worked in the tar pits for a while. Born c April 1851 in East Stonehouse, he was a stonemason’s apprentice by the age of 20 and worked as a mason all his life.  Walter’s children would point out to his grandchildren the houses that he built in Plymouth.

Walter married his first wife Susan Smith in 1877 but she died shortly after the April 1881 census and I haven’t to date found any children for them  He married his second wife Emily Keast (later Roston later Falkner) in St Peter’s parish in August 1883 and together they went on to have three sons, the second of whom was my great-grandfather Henry.

The family must have been going through a really rough time, or have generally lived in a really bad way.  By April 1911 Emily was in the local asylum and identified as a lunatic.  Her date of death is not known and I understand the records were destroyed in the war.  Walter died a couple of years later, on 9 December 1913.  It was a tragic end.

When I was down in Plymouth last year in the Archives I was looking through their catalogue and I came across a reference to one document which disconcerted me. It was a Coroner’s Report and I carefully unfolded the sheets of paper which were kept together with an old rusted staple.

His cause of death was noted as suicide whilst “temporarily insane” and he had been admitted in a coma to South and East Cornwall Hospital “taking a poison, to wit camphor or luminal”.  In his son’s testimony it was reported he had been drinking heavily before this.  It appeared that what had driven him to the drink – and despair – was a letter from the Retiring(?) Officer asking for money for his wife [presumably for her care?] and that had “affected his mind”.  He’d been suffering from a medical condition for a while for which he’d been prescribed something [it was hard to read – perhaps codine?] to rub into his leg and I got the impression that’s what he’d taken.

It’s so sad to think of their lives.  At first when I found out how many times they’d been married between them I thought it sounded like I’d found a really interesting story: my own family soap opera.  But the more I found, the more tragic it appeared.

The family never mentioned this to their grand-children, it was obviously painful and their dark, possibly shameful, secret.

I’ve seen some positive posters recently [eg My son seemed quiet so I asked him...] encouraging people to bring up the subject of suicide in conversation if they’re concerned about their friends.  It’s such a shame that a century after Walter’s death we still need to work to overcome the risk of stigma of being, or of knowing, someone with these thoughts and feelings.

One of my best friends, a first aider at her work, has also been given mental health first aid training.  I’d never heard of that before but I think this is a great step forward.

© Text copyright Lynne Black 8 March 2014: