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Just a short post to let everyone know that I will be putting up my hourly genealogy service charges from £20 per hour to £22 per hour.
The new charges will be in effect from Monday 22nd September. However, if you are a current client I will not be increasing the charges for any current work.
Also – if you are considering hiring me to do any work, I will still charge £20 if you contact me before Monday – even if the work doesn’t start until after the 22nd. Just start the conversation with me before Monday and I’ll keep you at the old rate for the first stage of work.
See my full range of services with the new charges here.
As a writer who is also a professional genealogist, I find that my work feeds my writing, and the research I do for my novels feeds my family history research. It is rather a perfect marriage. I have been writing historical, or historical ‘time slip’ novels for some time now, and I have at last felt confident enough to go ahead and self-publish one. It is called Out of Time and it has been published on Kindle since March and as a printed book at FeedARead since May.
I am pleased to say that it has been considerably well received by all who have read it, so I feel confident enough to blow my trumpet about it on my blog. If you are interested in family history and you like a good read, then you can order it online as follows:
Click HERE for Amazon Kindle
Without giving too much away, the story follows Catherine Burns, who meets an enigmatic musician, Will, and discovers that he seems to know more about her family history than she does. As she finds out about each of her female ancestors in turn, more questions arise about Will, the house she lives in, and how the past is reaching out to influence her present life. It is a story with a mystery at its heart which I hope will keep you guessing to the end!
Please feel free to leave any comments below if you have read the book and would like to discuss it. I will be happy to answer any questions too.
I will also shortly be publishing a children’s novel (C. S. Lewis fans would probably enjoy it!) and I am currently working on a historical novel set in Victorian theatre. Watch this space!
Read an extract below:
My Great Aunt Florrie died young. My mother thought that she had probably never married. That’s about all I knew about her before carrying out my research.
According to her baptism record (published on Ancestry.co.uk), she was born Florrie Read on 12th January 1886, and baptized at St. Oswald, Collyhurst on 9th March 1887, over a year later. Why such a late baptism I do not know, but we do know from the record that they were still living at 13 Forrest Street, so it was not an oversight due to a change of address.
I have been unable to find Florrie on the 1901 census with any variation of her first or second name. It may be that, like my grandmother, she was fostered out while her mother was in the workhouse infirmary and may be listed with a different surname.
I think I have found her in 1911, living in the household of the Fawkes family, her occupation given as a cloth stitcher in what looks like ‘Shiping House’. If anyone can tell me what this means, I would be very grateful. My guess is that this was one of the shipping warehouses used for the cotton industry where fabric was prepared for overseas sales. The address is 57 Princess Street, Moston, which is in the Failsworth district, not far from where she was born.
From carrying out searches on Google, I have found that Princess Street is now known as Princedom Street, just below Moston Lane. The street seems like a fairly typical Victorian residential street, but No. 57 no longer seems to exist.
There was a mill at Moston – though it’s a few streets away, and it’s equally possible she could have been working at one of the cotton mills in Hapurhey.
Given that we thought that she had not married, I searched the death records, but found no death record with any variation of her name.
I therefore wondered whether we had been wrong about her being married, so I had a look at the marriage records and I found that a Florrie Read married a Richard T Marsh in 1913. To check this out I searched the death records for a Florrie Marsh, and sure enough, I found that she had died a year later. The burial record states that she was buried on 9th June 1914 at Christ Church in Harpurhey aged 27. This all fits, so I am very confident that this is my Great Aunt.
She died two months before the outbreak of World War I. But why did she die so young? Given that this was just over a year after her marriage I wondered whether she possibly died in childbirth. I decided to order her death certificate to find out.
The address of her residence on the burial record was 6 Lindum Street, Rusholme. This address can be clearly seen on StreetView, and is quite a pleasant looking street opposite a small green.
Did they have children? I checked out the birth registrations, and found a Lucy Marsh born in 1913 with the mother’s surname of Reed, but this turned out not to be their child.
The death certificate told me that she died at this address, of ‘mitral stenosis’. This is a narrowing of the mitral valve in the heart – often caused by rheumatic heart disease, which can occur after rheumatic fever. This is not too surprising, even in one so young. Rheumatic fever was once common in the UK in places of poor sanitation and over-crowding, but is now thankfully rare in this country. In the 19th century, Manchester had one of the highest death rates for diseases of the respiratory system (the sisters’ father had died of pneumonia at the age of 35), and while things had improved by the 20th century, it was still an unhealthy place to live, particularly in the poorer areas.
So what happened to Richard? I could not find a military record for him. He was born in Moston the son of John and Sarah, and was a labourer in a tin yard. He died in 1959 aged 76. He may have married again – there is a marriage in 1937 for a Richard T Marsh and a Bertha Barlow.
While my Great Aunt Florrie did not live through the Great War, she is an example of life in Manchester in the time that led up to it, and she serves to remind us that, 100 hundred years on, our urban centres are generally far healthier places to live now than they were then.
Oxford Road, Manchester 1910. Valette
On a personal note, I now think of my grandmother, who would have been 20 when she lost her older sister. I remember that she was always worried about health and alarmed at each little cold or cough. It’s no wonder, when she lost her father and sister at such early ages to diseases that nowadays are so preventable.
This is the third in my series of Women during WWI – focusing on the lives of my grandmother and her sisters. Before researching Agnes I knew very little about her, except that my mother thought that she had been an actress at one time.
According to her baptism record, she was born on 29th October 1884 and baptized at St. Oswald’s, Collyhurst as Agnes Annie READ.
After this my first search was the1901 census where I found the most likely entry for her as a domestic servant in Rixton with the Herden family. The Head of the household, James Herden was an architectural draughtsman.
It took me a long time to find her in the 1911 census. I did not know whether she was married at all, and no searches for her as Agnes Reid, or any Agnes born in Collyhurst came up with any results.
So I looked at marriages and found several possibilities. I then looked at the 1911 census entries for the respective husbands, and found that one with a spouse that was born in St. Oswald Parish. She had not come up on the census previously because the transcriber had written her name as James Annie. This is a common problem with online indexes – so it is always worth searching with different criteria until you find someone who looks right. Looking at the original record I could see that it was clearly Agnes Annie. The husband’s name was Whitfield Halstead, a paint brush maker. As is often the case for women, there is no occupation recorded for Agnes.
The marriage was in the April to June quarter of 1904 in the district of Prestwich.
Whitfield was born in Hulme in about 1882. By 1911 they had two children, Gladys May, born 13th December 1904, and Robert Whitfield, born 7th June 1906. They were living at 7 Springfield Avenue, Moston. This street still exists, but on Streetmap I found it full of modern houses, so it will look completely different now to how it did then.
A recent article in the Manchester Evening News describes what life was like in Manchester at the beginning of the war – and is worth a read. It pictures a city still clouded in pollution, noisy, crowded, dirty and unhealthy. The outbreak of war made things even more grim, with the imminent food shortages and young men being shipped off to fight.
From his war service record on Ancestry.co.uk I found Whitfield and Agnes were still at the same address. Whitfield enlisted in 1915 and joined the Bedford Regiment. I also found records for him on FindMyPast showing that he was in the 1st Battalion, 363rd Reserve Employment Company at the Eastern Command Labour Centre. He was also a member of the Welsh Regiment, 12th Battalion in 1916. A service record for 1919 shows the Bedfordshire Regiment again. A further record showed him in the Cheshire Regiment, 21st (Labour) Battalion.
Luckily, he survived the war, but died quite young at the age of 56 in 1940 in Manchester. We don’t know whether he was wounded in the war – but we do know that life expectancy in Manchester was still fairly low, so he may have just been one of those who succumbed to its pollution. Of course, I would be able to find out the cause of death from ordering the death certificate.
I did not find any official war records for Agnes, and presumably she was busy enough looking after two young teenagers while Whitfield was away. With the children old enough to understand what was happening, it must have been a difficult and tense time for them, as well as the difficulties of food rationing. When her sister Alice was widowed in 1916, it must have brought it home to her even more, though I am sure the sisters all pulled together through this time.
Possibly Agnes took on domestic work during the war, or perhaps worked in a munitions factory, while her unmarried and widowed sisters helped to look after the children. Unfortunately, we have few records for women’s work during World War I apart from some nurses’ records, so much of the time we can only guess from what we know from history.
The other possibility was some kind of theatrical career, as my mother seemed to think she had done some acting. I have searched newspaper records, including those accessible online at the Manchester Library, but found no reference to her either with her maiden or married name. It could be that she was part of the recruitment drive for the war – the theatres in the First World War were used for encouraging young men to enlist before conscription and also for fund-raising and as a morale booster.
We do not know whether she was a professional or amateur actress, but if we are right in thinking that she was, she must have been a busy lady!
Agnes married again – to Arthur Perkin in 1942, and died in 1960 aged 76. Both her children married. Gladys May to Herbert Hallewell in 1930 and Robert to Rose Green in 1932. I found that a one-name study has been made of the Halstead family at halstedresearch.org.uk and this tells me that Robert and Rose had a child, Geoffrey R Halstead. A search on PeopleTracer tells me that Geoffrey is still living in Manchester. He is my second cousin. If we are able to get in touch with him I will post updates!
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This is the second in my series about my grandmother and her six sisters and their lives, focusing on how the First Word War affected them. This article is about the second eldest sister, Alice.
This is what I knew about Alice before carrying out my research. She was born in about 1883, she married before the war, her husband died young (possibly in the war) and she then emigrated to Australia with her children.
Looking at the census I found that in 1901, the year her mother was in the workhouse infirmary, she was working as a domestic servant in Chorlton for a beer and wine seller, the widow Helen E Irwell and her son Robert. She was 18 and appears to be the only servant in this household.
I also found her in the 1911 census as a general domestic servant, confirming her birthplace as Collyhurst in about 1883. The address is Higher Green Farm, Blackley, Manchester, and her employer was a farmer, Henry Kay, and his wife Ada. On the census night there were two other servants recorded, a cowman and a milk boy – so I am guessing this was a small dairy farm. Blackley is a little north of Collyhurst, and was probably open fields then, but the farm no longer exists and Blackley is now a fairly built up area.
Only a few days after the census, on 19th April 1911, Alice married Ernest Henry Parnell at Christ Church, Harpurhey, also very close to her birthplace. In the 1901 census Ernest was described as a ‘warehouseman’, living with his family. In 1911 his name was for some reason written down as ‘Hubert’, which made him difficult to find at first, but he is still with his family and is still a ‘warehouseman – Manchester trade’.
They had two children, Alice in 1913, and Henry in 1915.
By now the war had started and Ernest had enlisted and gone to war in France. Sadly, I found that he was killed in action on 15th July 1916, which led me to think that he died during the notorious Battle of the Somme, one of 420,000 British casualties. He may never have seen his baby son.
The record of Ernest’s death records that he was a private in the Manchester Regiment of the 20th Battalion, number 17455. I was able to find out a bit more about this unit at the very useful and informative site at www.1914-1918.net and also at www.themanchesters.org/20th%20batt.htm. Another good site for searching for ancestors who died in WWI is www.forces-war-records.co.uk though you need to subscribe to search the records. Using the information on these sites I was able to work out that Ernest probably died during the Battle of Delville Wood (see artist’s depiction left). I found more information about this battle at http://www.ww1battlefields.co.uk/somme/delville.html. There is also a more detailed account of July 15th specifically at http://www.firstworldwar.com/battles/delvillewood.htm . This battle is mostly associated with the South African Brigade, so if anyone can tell me more information about the involvement of Ernest’s regiment, I would be most grateful.
I found out where he was buried using www.findagrave.com. This took me to the Thiepval Memorial cemetary which also gave me a plot number. It is nice to know that the next time I am in France I could visit his grave on behalf of my Great Aunt and her family.
Alice would have received a widow’s pension, but this would have been pretty minimal, and it would have been a struggle to bring up her two children – but I am sure that her six sisters must have helped. It was calculated that about 160,000 women lost their husbands during WWI
There is a book available online called Discourses Surrounding British Widows of the First World War on Google Books which gives some interesting information about the lives of widows – though as it points out, there has been little research done on this subject.
I knew that Alice emigrated to Australia some time afterwards, so I searched the worldwide emigration records on Ancestry, and I found her on the passenger lists with the two children on board the Moreton Bay embarking at Fremantle in Western Australia.
There were two things that surprised me about this: a) the date was 1928, much later than I had thought, and b), they departed from London rather than Liverpool. Further searches led me to the outward bound passenger lists which gave her last address as 1 Marine Terrace, Llanfairfechan, North Wales, and she an her daughter are listed as a ‘domestics’. So, she had moved to Wales and had worked as a domestic servant. As usual, genealogical searches had raised more questions! Why did she go to Wales?
Llanfairfechan is a lovely seaside town in the district of Conwy, and would have been quite a haven compared to Manchester – but why did Alice leave the comfort of her family to go and work there? My only guess is that the work as a servant became available through a friend of the family and offered an income for both her and her young daughter. Perhaps there were too many memories in Manchester. Whatever the reason, Alice travelled from there to London, and then made the big journey to Western Australia at the age of 44 to start a new life in Brisbane. She must have had guts.
It is possible that Alice took advantage of assisted immigration. During the 1920s, two thirds of the 300,000 immigrants to Australia were through assisted passage. The Great Depression which struck in 1929 brought an end to this, so Alice may have just got in on the tail end. The following leaflet on pdf gives more information about immigration into Australia during the 20th century: www.immi.gov.au/media/publications/statistics/federation/timeline1.pdf
I found Alice in the Australian electoral registers living at Fortitude Valley, Brisbane. I also found a record of her death on 19th December 1952. She had never married again.
As for her children, my mother remembers Henry coming over to England to visit them in the early 50s. She tells me he was an incredibly handsome man – but he does not seem to have been married, and I cannot find any other records for him in Australia. As for young Alice, she married (possibly twice) and emigrated to Hawaii and did a lot of work for voluntary organisations. She visited the UK about 15 years ago and we met her for lunch in Stratford on Avon. She was a lovely, lively lady, and died a few years ago leaving my mother a small legacy. She must have been well into her nineties when she died.
In summary, while some women’s lives were improved during the war, in terms of status and work, for many women it left them bereaved, struggling to bring up young children on very little money. For Alice, it seems that there was nothing left for her in Britain, and I hope hew new life in Australia brought her better happiness.
Before writing this, these are the facts I knew about my great-aunt Maud Reid: She was born in Manchester in about 1882, and before, during and after the war she was a nurse. My mother remembers her husband as ‘Uncle Willie’. Mum also remembers her as a handsome, elegant woman.
Firstly checking for a baptism record, I found that she had actually been born on 25th April 1880 and baptized on 22nd June 1881 in Collyhurst. This tells us that we should never trust the ages given in census records, and should always widen our searches for at least 2 to 5 years when looking for a specific birth record.
I then looked for her marriage. Using Ancestry.co.uk, I put her name into the search engine, the place name of Manchester, a date of 1908 with ten years either way, and the name William into the spouse’s name. No obvious results came up, so I tried spelling the name differently, and I also searched FamilySearch.org and the useful online parish clerks website for Lancashire at www.lan-opc.org.uk.
Nothing came up, so I searched for her in the 1901 and 1911 census records. In 1901 I believe I found her working as a servant (with her surname spelled ‘Reed’) in the household of a John Harrison, ‘traveller in confectionary’, the district of Chorlton. She is named as a domestic servant, but if this is her, then I suspect that she was working as a private nurse for the 2 year old Charles Harrison.
Domestic service was the most common job for single working class women before the First World War. Tough work, but it was better than working in the mills. This particular household was a small one – most people above working class status had servants at this time, often a nurse, cook or general maid.
In the 1911 she appears to be still single and still working with the Harrisons – but still as a domestic servant. If I was right about this being her, then she married quite late, as she was now 29 years old. There is also a visitor who is a nurse, but Maud is the only living-in servant.
As she was still single in 1911, I needed to search for a later marriage – and found a marriage in 1930 in Manchester to a William J OAKES. This would have made her 50 when she married. I checked this surname with my mother and, yes – she remembered, that was her name.
So Maud was single for a long time and married very late in life for those times. By her looks, I think she was strongly independent, intelligent and kind. Was she perhaps a suffragette? And what did she do during the war?
Many suffragettes either stayed away from home on the night of the 1911 census, or made a statement on the census paper itself. As a live-in servant, Maud would not have been able to do this, so we need to search other records. One of the best sources for searching anyone who took part in suffragette campaigns is the national newspaper archives. I checked the databases on FindMyPast and the British Newspaper Archive but found nothing.
She may not have been a suffragette, but we know that Maude was a woman perhaps ahead of her time – and so were some of her sisters. She also helped her youngest sister, Dorothy (who worked at Lewis’s) to organise a royal banquet; more about this when I look at Dorothy’s life.
So what did she do during WWI? FindMyPast has a database of military nurses. However, my searches produced no results. I then went to the National Archives website where you can search online for British Army nurses 1914-1918 (other nursing records are only available at Kew). The most likely records would be in the Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Military Nursing Service or the Red Cross. I tried all variations of the name but did not find anything for the nursing corps. Another useful website is the Red Cross site at: http://www.redcross.org.uk/About-us/Who-we-are/Museum-and-archives I tried a search here, but could not find a Maud Reid with any of the spelling variations.
In the TNA I did find a medal card for a Maude REID in the Queen Mary’s Auxiliary Corps Regiment, classed as ‘Worker’. I decided the £3.30 charge for downloading this record was worth it, even though I wasn’t totally sure this was her. The actual record does not tell us much so I googled for more information about the Queen Mary’s Auxiliary Corps. At www.1914-1918.net I found that this regiment was started in 1917 and made up of volunteers who worked mainly as cooks, caterers, clerks, telephonists and motor vehicle maintenance.
I don’t know whether this is my great aunt. Unfortunately, many World War I records were destroyed during World War II bombing, so it may be that Maud’s records have not survived. However, the available records show us that women were beginning to be seen as essential parts of the war effort, and despite the dreadfulness of the war, it did bring up many opportunities for young, single women such as Maud. For the first time they were involved in jobs such as vehicle maintenance and administration – previously thought of as male careers.
At home they were needed as nurses to look after the vast numbers of injured service men as they returned from the battlefields.
The Voluntary Aid Detachment (VAD) was formed in 1909 to provide nursing services in times of war. While many women – mostly middle and upper classes – offered their services at the outbreak of World War I, the Red Cross did not want civilian women serving overseas as they were not used to the hardships of the front line. However, the records show that those who did serve on the front line acquitted themselves with great fortitude and efficiency. As nurses became more and more necessary overseas, volunteers over 23 and with more than three years of hospital experience were allowed to serve overseas. VAD hospitals also opened at home in large British towns.
Mainly protected from the harsh realities of life in the past, it must have been a huge shock to many women to see the consequences of warfare, or to experience life close to the battlefield. It makes me think of the scene in Gone With The Wind when the spoilt Scarlett comes face to face with the thousands of wounded soldiers in Atlanta during the Confederate retreat in the American Civil War. And just as the way of life changed in Southern America after that war, Britain too faced great changes after the First World War.
More nursing records can be found at the Royal College of Nursing where you can search their collection:: http://rcnarchive.rcn.org.uk/. No results for Maud, though.
Given that we have a photograph of Maud holding a baby, I searched for Manchester hospitals for children. The National Archives tells me that the Manchester Northern Hospital was a hospital for women and children and was at Cheetham Hill Road, Manchester. This would be quite near to where Maud lived, so I would not be at all surprised if she had worked here. Unfortunately, there do not seem to be any records for this hospital.
The Representation of the People Act of 1918 allowed women over 30 who were a member or married to a member of the Local Government Register, a property owner or a graduate voting in a University constituency. This meant that 40 per cent of the female population were now eligible to vote. Maud was not married and would not have owned any property, so I am not sure whether she would have been enfranchised. However, in 1928 the vote was extended to all women over 21, and I am very sure that Maud would have proudly exercised her right to vote – probably her first opportunity to do so at the age of 48.
Maud lived a very long life. The only death record I have found which could possibly be her was in 1981, making her 101 years at her death. My mother confirms that she was very old when she died, and that she and her husband had been very happy until, sadly they were separated in their latter years in hospital. It looks as though William died in the same year and at the same age.
My mother remembers her with great fondness – a really lovely woman. She once stayed with her in Manchester. Willie was quite well off, and they had a beautiful flat. I am glad that after her humble beginnings she found happiness and a comfortable life. I wish I had known her but sadly I never got to meet her even though she died when I was in my early 20s.
Although I have not found any specific record for Maud, this search has opened up various lines of research for nursing records, both specific and general, and given me a deeper understanding of what life may have been like for Maud in those years.
Of course, I am limited to what’s available online. There may well be more documents to be researched at the National Archives at Kew, and at the Manchester Archives. These will have to wait for another day – and if I am able to find more information I will update this post.
Background research is never wasted because it helps you to get an idea of the lives of your ancestors, even if you don’t find their name on any record.
More information about Nursing during World War I:
More information about Manchester during WWI:
With the centenary of World War I starting this year, I thought it would be a good idea to create a series of blogs about women during the World War I. But I don’t want to do just a generalised history of women at this time. Instead, I am going to use my grandmother and her six sisters to give a more personal viewpoint of what life was like for women before, during and after the war.
In future posts, I will take each of the seven sisters one by one, and I believe that each of them will have her own story to tell, and be an interesting example of life for women during this important period in women’s history. I still have research to do on most of them – so you will be following me as I try to find out more about them and their experiences. I will discuss sources used as I go so that anyone searching their own ancestors can follow suit and find out more about
This initial post will give an introduction to the family, and the historical background into which they were born.
The sisters were all born in Manchester in the 1880s and 90s, the daughters of an Irish immigrant, Michael Henry Reid, and his Yorkshire wife, Ann Jepson, the daughter of a Railway Inspector.
Manchester is of course one of the most significant cities in Britain during the Victorian period. Not only was it a huge centre of industry, with its cotton and other textile mills, iron foundries and railways, but for women, it was the centre of the suffragette movement, as this was where the Pankhursts were born and lived.
Michael worked in a mill – but not a cotton mill. He worked in Manchester’s paper mill as a paper ruler, as did his father and several of his brothers. A paper ruler operated printing machinery, setting out the inking pens and drawing lines on paper. He was also a cricketer, and it is rumoured in the family that he played with the great W G Grace. Sadly Michael died very young at the age of 35 of pneumonia, leaving his wife so distraught that she turned to drink, and spent a year in Manchester’s workhouse, her youngest two children (including my grandmother) having to be fostered out to other families.
In the 1891 census the family are living at Monton Green in the Prestwich district of Manchester. The first five daughters are all there: Maude, Alice, Agnes, Florrie and Lottie; my grandmother, Elizabeth, would be born in 1892, and the last, Dorothy, would be born in 1895.
A railway station had just been built at Monton Green, but no longer exists, being one of those axed under Beeching in 1969. There was a big connection with my mother’s family and the railways. Ann’s father was a railway inspector, and my grandmother was to marry a railway clerk – but more about that later.
Just two years after the birth of Dorothy, and when my grandmother was just five years old, Michael Henry was dead of pneumonia, one of the common respiratory diseases that plagued industrial Manchester. For three years Ann Reid struggled to bring up her younger daughters, but on 28th December 1900, on my grandmother’s eighth birthday, she was admitted to Manchester Workhouse. I was able to obtain her admission record from FindMyPast.co.uk which shows she was of the established church (interesting – given that she married into a Roman Catholic family) and that she was discharged a year later in 1901. She can be seen in the workhouse in 1901 census, her job being to weave blankets.
There is an excellent website containing information about workhouses across the country at www.workhouses.org. It contains information about the history of each workhouse with many photographs and plans. It’s a really useful site for background information. For the workhouse at Crumpsall, I was pleased to see that a report in 1866 stated it to be ‘one of the best managed work-houses that I have ever inspected. It is in thorough excellent order throughout, and generally in such a state as to reflect the highest credit on all concerned in its management and care.’ I was glad to know that my great-grandmother was in such a well managed place, as there are many workhouses that do not have such good reputations. By the time she was there a new infirmary had been built in the 1890s, which I think is probably where she stayed.
I am not sure when Ann died. Her name is a fairly common one, and it is difficult to be sure which death certificate in the indexes would be hers. However, the photograph of her with all her daughters at the top of this page was obviously taken in happier days after she was released from the workhouse.
Ann’s daughters all survived Manchester’s polluted air and went on to marry, work or emigrate and most of them lived through the First World War and became eligible to vote by the time they were in their 30s or 40s. From the stifling air of Manchester’s backstreets, most of them managed to forge a healthier, happier life than that of their parents. They were, I think, an excellent example of the way women’s lives changed during those years from the 1910s to the 1920s.