I hadn’t really been aware of my Great-Great Aunt Susan, but a few years back my mum hung a framed photo of two teenage girls on her wall; she explained one was my great-grandmother Catherine and the other was Catherine’s younger sister Susan. Lovely to see.
Three years ago I was starting out with computer-based genealogy and Catherine’s was one of the first census records I practised with so I could get the hang of using the search engines.
And straight away it raised two issues. First of all it showed Susan was not actually the younger but the older sister. Secondly, confusingly, it said the family lived in Street-An-Nowan, Newlyn.
My family were really surprised when I mentioned that Catherine was the younger sister; they’d ‘known’ the wrong thing for years.
And with over 200 years between them of living in Newlyn and Penzance, my mum, aunt and uncle couldn’t actually tell me where Street-An-Nowan actually was. We chatted vaguely about how it might be that road down over there, or maybe where the car park behind some shop is now… But we didn’t know for sure.
Well almost straight away I got called away from my Cornish ancestors to look first at my Yorkshire, Devon and Northumberland families, and it wasn’t until this March that I found my answer, thanks to Genuki and the British Newspaper Archive.
One upon a time Newlyn used to be two separate villages in the Parish of Paul. Newlyn was the part of the village higher up above where the old medieval harbour was, and Street-An-Nowan is the section further round by the Fisherman’s Mission and the post office, where the water roars up the Coombe – and occasionally floods away from it (as seen on pretty much every ‘The weather went mad in…’ programme a couple of winters back).
Well it was proposed to join these two areas up for the benefit of transport links, and after much protest from the local people it went ahead after they’d been told they wouldn’t have to fund it themselves. So the census has helped me discover a new part of Newlyn I’d been walking through for years.
But it was the British Newspaper Archive which helped me discover Susan: I managed to find the report of her funeral in The Cornishman on the BNA site.
Her father had been a fisherman and later become a baker, with his own shop, so I think they must have known a lot of people; in addition she was a dress-maker so would have met a lot of people that way.
Susan had married a local man called Henry Richards in summer 1918. Two years after that she died, aged just 27. So I can understand why one of the hymns they chose for her funeral in the Methodist chapel was “Who fathoms the eternal thought?” The article lists all the various tributes and messages, including “…our darling Susie, from Stephen Catherine and baby” [baby being my grandmother], there was so many and they are all so genuinely loving it was very moving to see.
So this summer when I am up at Paul Cemetery, laying flowers on her younger sister Catherine’s grave, I’ll look for Susie’s wall grave and lay some extra summer flowers for her.
© Text and photos copyright Lynne Black, 6 April 2015