Category Archives: Broadbent

#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.

52 Ancestors logoWhen 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.

A have found this rather stilted conversation between the Princes and the Captain:


And this one about their visit to the Argentine:

What 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
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#52Ancestors #9: Rewinding 300 years: Jonas Wilson

In my last post I featured my grand-mother Phyllis Broadbent. I do appreciate she’s an ancestor too, but as she’s in my heart she’s a person, known family rather than an ancestor. To me, ancestors imply unknown people, who lived so long back that I’m lucky if I ever find out the names of the women.

So it’s from my most recent to my most ancient ancestors that I head this week.  After doing very little genealogy work the last two weeks, with booking travel and accommodation and then attending Who Do You Think You Are Live, I got stuck in again yesterday, my first day off work after the show.

After the daunting army of Broadbents I faced in the 19th century, I found out yesterday that they suddenly thinned out.

My 6G-grandfather Jonas Wilson lived in various small villages south-west of Bradford: Illingworth, Ovenden and later Great Horton.  He was the son of John Wilson, baptised 28 December 1711 In Illingworth, and his daughter my 5G-Grandmother Eliz was baptised in October 1740 in Bradford St Peter Church (Bradford Cathedral). She later married into the Broadbent family by marrying James Broadbent, my 5G grandfather.

I’m still to find out about John Wilson.  The records are getting so irregular, so badly scrawled, that it’s getting so much harder to be confident, plus Latin words are starting to creep in, a look towards a language change to which I’d not given a single thought until Jackie Depelle flagged it up at WDYTYALive last week.

52 ancestors logoI found a marriage record on 6 July 1727 which I think could be ‘my’ Jonas Wilson’s given that his first child arrived in 1732.  However it took place in Wakefield, approx 20 miles from all other known events in his life. He was a groomsman, and if he worked with horses then perhaps he’d gone there for his work and met a local girl…  Hmmm.

So plenty more work to be done to find out about his life, and that of his father John. But I’ve now gone more than 300 years back in time and that’s fantastic!

And today I’ve discovered a great website, from GB Historical GIS / University of Portsmouth, called A Vision of Britain Through Time. Fantastic, wish I’d discovered it a couple of months back when starting out with my Yorkshire family.  It’s meant for 1801-2001 but even for getting an idea of a place it was really good, helpful and calmly presented.

#52Ancestors #8 Phyllis Broadbent Brown

Phyllis Broadbent Brown, age 19, 1926

Phyllis Broadbent Brown, age 19, 1926

My grandmother, Phyllis Broadbent, was the youngest child of Ernest Broadbent and Hannah Holt, born 1907 in Leeds, Yorkshire.

Phyllis started as a seamstress with Hurst & Thackways, but later worked in their bookkeeping department as a pay clerk.  She was all her life an excellent seamstress and made most of her own clothes, including suits and coats.

She married William Brown in 1931 (they were known as Phil and Bill) shortly after the death of her mother Hannah, whom she’d nursed in her old age.  Their son Keith is my father.

Happy birthday Granny xxx

©Photo copyright Lynne Black 28 February 2014

#52Ancestors #7 Martha Waddington – Daughter, wife, mother, grocer

Rhoda and Martha Broadbent

Rhoda and Martha Broadbent

My great-great-grandmother Martha Waddington was another Yorkshirewoman.  One of ten children, she was born in Baildon Green & baptised in February 1827 in Guisely St Oswald Church in Yorkshire.

Martha married William Broadbent, a coal miner, in Birstall St Peter when she was 20 and together they had 8 children; I’ve previously written about their eldest daughter Rhona.  Rhona was an inspiration for me when getting back into genealogy, see Rhoda – a smile from history, and I discovered she hadn’t had the young death we’d initially feared, see What Rhoda did next .  I’m descended through Martha & William’s sixth child Ernest Broadbent, born 1860.

By 1871 she and William were living in Leeds where he was working as an iron stone miner; by 1881 he was still a miner, but by 1884 he had become a grocer, based on Freehold Street.  A year after that, when William died, she took over the running of the shop.

52ancestorsAlthough illiterate when she married William back in 1847, by 1887 she had taught herself to write, or at least to sign her name, for when she re-married in 1887 she wrote her own name in the register. And again on the register I saw Rhona’s signature – obviously a very close mother and daughter.

Her new husband had a unique name – such a gift after trying to tease out the threads of the Broadbent families – Pybus Allison.  He too had been married previously and widowed; he too was a store-keeper retired before he and Martha married.

Pybus, as well as having an unusual name, had an usual profession, being an omnibus and milk & groceries proprietor.  In 1870 he was tried for manslaughter but acquitted unanimously when a woman died after a wheel came off his omnibus.

Pybus set up an irrevocable will which did not include Martha’s descendents.  Later they tried unsuccessfully to revoke this so that her children from her first marriage may benefit. She only outlived him by two years and died in 1908; I hope her family took care of her financially in her last years.

Next I’d like to find out about Martha’s parents – they’ve not been as easy to track down as some of the other sides of the family, so if you’re a cousin of mine, I’d love to hear from you!

©2013 photos ©2014 words copyright Lynne Black
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52 Ancestors #4 Hannah Holt: home, hearth and nimble fingers

Hannah Broadbent nee Holt,

Hannah Broadbent nee Holt, 1864 – 1931

Hannah Holt [Hoult] was the grand-daughter of Mary of Rothwell (52 Ancestors #1) and the great-grand-daughter of Lucy Rawson (52 Ancestors #2).

One of seven children, she herself went on to marry and have 16 of her own with Ernest Broadbent, a miner from Leeds. Of these 16, of whom my Granny was the youngest, 13 survived.

Hannah was the first person in my Granny’s family to have a profession recorded on the census: she was a tailoress. Unfortunately this is a talent which went no futher than my Granny!

One of her sons, Uriah, emigrated to Australia, but was back and fighting for his country in the First World War; they had a party for him when he came back from France on leave c.1917; after the war he headed back to his new life in Australia.

52 ancestors logoAfter Ernest died following a mining accident, Hannah ran a corner shop on Every Street, Leeds, but after a while she became frail and Granny nursed her in her last years.

However Hannah was still finding a use for her nimble fingers: Granny worked in the office at Freedmans and used to walk home with 12 pairs of trousers for her mother to finish – buttons to sew on, turn-ups and waistband to finish. All for 2 shillings and sixpence! One of her grandsons used to sit on a little stool waxing the turn-ups and sorting the buttons for her. It must have been quite a load for her daughter to carry every night and morning.

Hannah died in 1931 and was buried in a Guinea Grave in Burmantofts Cemetery with her husband Ernest.

I’d be really interested to hear from Uriah’s descendants in Australia, he had a son also called Uriah, but who preferred to be called Jack.

©2014 copyright owned and written by Lynne Black
Original post at: ‎

52 Ancestors #3 Ernest Broadbent – life and death at the mine

Ernest Broadbent, 1860 - 1821(?)

Ernest Broadbent, 1860 – 1821(?)

Ernest Broadbent was another of my Yorkshire miner ancestors – third (known) generation.  He married Hannah Holt/Hoult, herself sister, daughter, grand-daughter and great-grand-daughter of miners. So mining was in his blood, had strengthened then worn down his ancestors, had crept in through the air they breathed.

I get the impression that his family may have been slightly better off than his wife’s, but his side of the family is proving much more elusive than Hannah’s so I can’t be sure yet.

Born in Churwell, he met and married Leeds girl Hannah in St Albans the Martyr Church, Leeds, in 1884.  Together he and Hannah had 16 children, the youngest being my grandmother.  13 of these 16 survived infancy, but I’m still to find evidence of their names, maybe they did at birth before they had a chance of baptism? Not sure where I would find out, I think perhaps stillbirth records are registered separately, to prevent identify theft?

What I would like to find out about Ernest, my great-grandfather, is the date of his death.  There was an accident in or around the pit (he was a coal miner/ hewer) and he was brought home by horse-drawn ambulance; not long after that his grandson recalled seeing a horse-drawn hearse taking Ernest from his home for the last time.  He, and many years later Hannah, were buried in Burmantofts Cemetary in what were then called Guinea Graves.  15-20 people would be buried in a grave; that was all they could afford.  His grandson thought this would have been in about 1916, but I’ve found another entry for 1921 so I’m following that up too.

I would love to hear from anyone in the family, or any Yorkshire historian who knows about mining history, not many of the sites are easily searchable, I suspect being run by former miners rather than a genealogy corporation.  I’d also like to know to find out also which pit he (and all my other miner ancestors) worked in.

©2014 copyright owned and written by Lynne Black
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Undiscovered country, re-discovered family – one year on

Photo of hands reaching outOne year back at my genealogy work and I’ve discovered over 1470 people across Scotland and England – the equivalent of a small village! The majority long-dead, but I’m in touch with newly-discovered distant family in England, Canada and Australia (step-third-cousins by marriage – who said modern families were complicated!?). All really nice people and interested in keeping in touch and sharing discoveries.

I’ve also met my cousin in Plymouth for the first time, and met his father again after several decades. We’ve talked for hours about all sorts of things, and I’ve seen glimpses of  early 20th century life and heard stories of my grandparents which I’d never heard before.

I’ve encountered colourful characters yet many ancestors still elude me.  I’ve discovered multiple marriages, missing fathers, long lives, sticky ends and people with long, hard, working days in Argyll, Devon and latterly in Yorkshire.

Photo of gravestones

Alva Old Kirkyard, November 2013

I’ve started working to clean and restore graves in the Historic Kirkyards of Clackmannanshire project with Ochils Landscape Partnership. I’m not always very comfortable reading handwriting so gravestones are (mostly) much more my thing. I’d like to do one of these transcribing projects but I wouldn’t have the confidence in my accuracy. Yet.

I’ve got back to my writing after several years and started blogging so that is an unexpected bonus.

So thanks to one email kick-starting it all from the OLP, and an enthusiastic and knowledgeable teacher (thanks Elma!) I’ve had a fascinating and rewarding year.

Next I want to find out more about military history, to learn more about resources and my family in Yorkshire and Devon. I’ve applied to do a military history course in February, fingers crossed I get a place.

It’s a hundred years from the merging of three of the local areas in Plymouth, my family’s patch.  Although I won’t be able to get down to Plymouth History Festival in May there may be some publications or new record sets available perhaps.

It’s also Homecoming Scotland 2014 so maybe there will be events to look out locally and in Argyll.

Finally it’s the 100th anniversary of the start of the first world war. Although I find this a bit grim – couldn’t we celebrate in 2018 instead? – there may be the opportunity to find out about my ancestors’ service in the Army and the Navy.

So here’s to the undiscovered country, and the re-discovered family!  May 2014 be just as interesting as 2013.

What Rhoda did next

Rhoda and Martha Broadbent

Rhoda and Martha Broadbent

Last week, after finding my Yorkshire-born great-aunt may not have died in infancy, I set out to find out for sure. Result!

Intriguing to find out that she married the son of a ‘gentleman’ with a swanky French-sounding name when she was 19, just before a census. Wow – how posh is my family getting!? Not! It does explain why we hadn’t found her straight away in the records.

Until earlier this year I’d thought that the late teens had been the normal marriage age in previous centuries.  However, back in July I read an interesting article in Family Tree by Rebecca Probert about debunking marriage myths where she’d found that the mid-20s were more the norm for marriages at that time (mid-19th century).

Hmmm.  So why the young age?  Why the hurry?  Shock! Well, not much of a shock, actually, but possibly two sets of angry parents.  Six months after the happy couple tied the knot in West Yorkshire, the first of many children arrived.

Well, his Dad may have been a gentleman but the son was an iron turner, later a mechanic.  So there’s the hint of an untold human story – was he cast out in disgrace? Was it a story of forbidden love coming good? Were there huge tensions on a young couple expecting their first child? The latter, probably. As to the other questions, this is reality not fiction, so unless I contact their descendants I’ll never know.

But what I do know is that none of these online discoveries would have been possible without the digitising work of the West Yorkshire Archive Service.  So thanks, once more, to another dedicated local service who actually help make genealogy interesting and affordable – and who prevent my blood pressure going through the roof when I scream at the sight of another damn b/m/d index!

Rhoda – a smile from history


Rhoda Broadbent – 1850 – ?

One of the things that I loved about taking up my family history work again was re-discovering all the lost children.  I’ve since come across so many children who’ve died young that these discoveries are now distinctly bitter-sweet.

We had this family photo of Rhoda but didn’t know anything about her for certain.  She was one of my first online successes – it turned out during my very first hour on a family history website that she’s my great-great aunt.  Such information out there and now at my fingertips!  But then she disappeared again.

Sanitation, vaccination, better nutrition, central heating, improved working conditions – so many reasons to appreciate living in the current day, so many factors conspiring against kids in the 19th century.

I don’t know for sure yet what’s happened to her but I’ve always been a happy-ending person.  Just this evening I’ve found a new lead online, and I feel optimistic again – so fingers crossed she was smiling for many years after the photo was taken.

And now I’ll be heading back to my Yorkshire family to see what life had in store for Rhoda….