Friday, June 10, 2016

More about Grandmother Mary Jane

One year ago I posted my knowledge of Grandmother Mary Jane Cutting. Some pieces of her puzzle were still not falling into place. My plan was to focus on her and use my new skills in creating a Family Group Sheet for her and to dig deeper. I listed all that I knew about her and realised something was wrong - her birth place did not seem right. Obviously confused my research by looking for the birth of Mary Jane Cutting, when it should have been Mary Jane Robinson, her maiden name.

I followed the advice given in the Ancestry Academy and revisited my records for my maternal grandmother in the hope of uncovering further details of her family and life as a young woman and wife. My records were in a sad shape and needed work. Where to start? The Census is a good place to locate her as a child.

I worked backwards from the 1881 census in which she was listed, as a 9 year old child, living with her parents George and Mary Robinson. Her brother George aged 19 and her sister Elizabeth aged 13 were also living at 180 Gloucester Road, Croydon. The 1881 census also listed a visitor at Gloucester Road, Elizabeth Evans aged 19 and a boarder, John Edser.

Scrutinising the census I noticed Mary's birth place was listed as Croydon. This conflicted with what I had for her and launched into research to find her true birth place. First place to look, Baptism records in Croydon.  Success! Baptism records for St James in Croydon confirmed her baptism date as June 9, 1872. Back to Ancestry to add that new piece of evidence.

Her life as a child of London in the 1870's would have been one of comfort and support. I was keen to know more about her school days and visited the Surrey Genealogy Resources & Parish Registers. I searched for her in the National School Admission Registers and Log Books and found that she had be admitted to the Sydenham Road Girls School in 1883.

Moving on I wanted to find out more about her as a young woman and once again went back to the Census to find her 10 years later.

The 1891 census shows Mary Jane aged 19 as a servant at 45 Lower Kennington Lane, Lambeth. This property was and still is a Coffee House or Cafe and in 1891 was managed by Frances Rivers. In that year three boarders were listed as Policemen: Thomas Price 27, William Pettet 21 and William Saunders 30. Success once more!

These facts were known but not scrutinised. So I searched for the property online to find it listed among the many pubs, hotels and coffee houses of that area of London.

When Mary Jane was a Londoner in 1891, Waterloo Station was the city's central train terminal. Perhaps she used the train service to travel to and from her employment at weekends, and perhaps she was able to return to her parents' home in Croydon quite safely. The railways culture would have been in her blood, as her father was a porter and railway inspector during his working life. On such train journeys perhaps she, along with other commuters, enjoyed reading about Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's masterful detective, Sherlock Holmes.

It was an ever changing environment in London in the late 19th Century, and I wonder how safe she felt living and working in the 'pub' area, not far from East End. Some of the history of that era includes the beginning of the Whitechapel Murders, and London Dock Strikes. I am sure she would have been jubilant when in 1900 the Central London Railway (Tube line) was opened to the public. And she, like thousands of other Londoners, would have been devastated to learn of the death of Queen Victoria in January 1901.

I cannot find any details of Mary Jane Robinson in the 1901 census for England and this makes me curious as to her whereabouts. Charles Harry Cutting is listed in the 1901 census living in Kingston, Surrey and working as a Plumber. But where did Mary Jane disappear to? Given that she was pregnant and still single, in April at the time of the Census, perhaps she was in hiding elsewhere.

The next record I have for Mary Jane is her marriage to Charles Harry Newland Cutting on 16 June 1901. She was then aged 29.

St Andrews Church, Enfield
A huge leap from her humble beginnings as a waitress in 1891 to the wife of a young 23 year old Plumber. Mary Jane met Charles Cutting where she worked in the Kennington Lane Cafe. They were married  at the St Andrews Church, Enfield - in the county of Middlesex, far removed from their home in Croydon. I imagine that they married there, away from wagging tongues and prying eyes, as Mary Jane was already pregnant. I imagine that she did not know that she was expecting twins - a similar story to her own daughter Winifred in the 1940 whose twins were born during the London Blitz.

It seems that Mary Jane had moved to live in Southbury Road, Enfield, during her pregnancy. When I looked further into the development of Enfield in Wikipedia, I noticed that its popularity had increased when the G.N.R. introduced a new Railway Line and cheaper tickets to London. A fact that would have been known by Mary's father, George Robinson, retired Railway Inspector. Perhaps he had found a place for her among the newer estates popping up there in 1901. Wikipedia also tells me that the population in St Andrew's Parish, where they were married, had doubled between 1871 an 1891. I imagine now a small cottage for the two of them and a small wedding in St Andrew's Church on June 16th 1901. The Southbury Road, Enfied address was also listed for Charles Cutting on the Marriage Certificate.

On the certificate I noticed the occupations of Charles' father, Harry Cutting a builder, and Mary Jane's father, George Robinson as retired. Both Charles and Mary have signed their certificate legibly and their friends too. I get a real buzz out of viewing the actual handwritten documents carefully preserved in the archives of

The Parish Registers for the Baptisms of her children, provide clues as to where Mary Jane was living between 1901 and 1911.

  • In 1901 her residence is listed as Southbury Road, Enfield, Middlesex
  • In 1903 to 1906 her residence is listed as 7 Glenville Road, Kingston, Surrey
On 17 November 1901 the twin boys, Charles Reginald and Frank George were born. They were both baptised at St James Church in Croydon. It would not have been easy for Mary Jane to look after her two babies; having most likely, prepared for just one. I imagine that she would also have needed to weather the barbed comments and disapproving looks from people back in her home town.

I do remember Uncle Reg, as he emigrated to Australia with his wife Margaret Monk and their three children in the 1940's at the same time as my family. I do not have any memories of Uncle Frank, only second hand ones through the eyes of my siblings.

Mary Jane's eldest daughter Winifred was born in Kingston On Thames in 1903. Winifred Edith was my mother, and I have some very strong memories of her. My mother emigrated to Australia with her six children in 1949; following her husband Cecil Allery who had emigrated the year before.

In 1906 Mary Jane gave birth to triplets; Harry, Ronald and Violet. Harry only survived for one year but Ronald and Violet lived on into their eighties. I do not have any memories of Uncle Ron. My Auntie Vi emigrated to Australia in the 1940's with her husband Harold Toft and their daughter.

Mary Jane's last born daughter, Doris, also lived on into her eighties. She too emigrated to Australia with her husband George Dale and two children in the 1940's.

I wonder how Mary Jane felt about so many of her children emigrating to another country. She would have been sad and lonely without them. There was a huge migration of people from Britain to Australia from 1948 and into the 1950's, escaping from the war ravaged country after WW2, and their reasons quite clear. However, being left behind would have been difficult to bear.

I have no memories of this grandmother and will need to dig deeper into my photo troves and the memories of my own remaining siblings, for some glimpses of her as an older woman. There is a 43 year gap in my facts for Mary Jane, from 1911 to 1954. Space for another story!

Grandmother Mary Jane Cutting died in June 1954 in Surrey Northern.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

.... from the Journal of William Adrian Allery ...

An imagined piece of journalling from my Great Uncle, the first genealogist in our clan.


As I entered Uncle William’s bedroom at Larkhall Crescent I could smell the decay! His poor old body was breaking down! He had been complaining of no feeling in his legs for weeks! They say you begin to die from the feet up! Of course I didn’t say any of that, I just kissed his clammy cheek and gently smoothed his bedcovers around him. A fluttering of that paper skinned hand and then a sound from purpled lips, no more than a small exhalation. His eyes beckoned me closer!

“If I could go back … to Dartmouth … to the Church … I would die happy!” he whispered.
“Do you mean you would be buried there?” I asked.

“No I mean … if I had my time over … I might have been … I might have been right.”

“Oh not that bloody business about the parish register! Let it go Uncle!” I sighed, a bit too heavily.

“They were not truthful! You know! We are connected to the Angell Estate. I just cannot prove it again in my lifetime.” He managed these last words vehemently and fell back on his pillow gasping for breath.
“Just you never mind now, Uncle, there are some who will follow in your footsteps.”

In my mind I gathered all of those dusty docs into bundles– planning to sort them when William’s time was up. It was down to me. A long, long journey for a humble Tailor who sought to prove his inheritance.

The Journal of William Adrian Allery
December 1924
I was tired and dusty from the long train ride from London to Dartmouth. The station platform was almost empty, except for a few porters vying for business among the meagre crowd. Spotting a large white card with the word ALLERY in large letters held by a tall, thin man wearing a pinstripe suit and bowler hat; I pushed my way through the milling porters to reach my guide. Black clouds were brooding over the township and I was glad to be heading to Townstal, the countryside of my birth.
As we drove to the parish church of St. Clement, Townstal, my pin-striped guide gave the history of the old 12th Century building which had served the small village for centuries. Irritated with his diatribe, I sat silently nodding. I knew St Clement’s history already, I was back in my home town.
“After the Reformation years it is difficult to find reference to St. Clement’s beyond the list of successive Vicars and the record of Baptisms and Burials. We do know, however, that the church must have formed a valuable strong point commanding the only route down to Hardnesse, our present main road not then existing.” He continued to babble on. I wished I had not hired him at all.
“I am only interested in the parish registers and any references to marriages between my ancestors in the 18th century”, I said, rather too loud. After that, all was silent in the cab.
On arrival at St Clement’s, I hastily paid the cabbie and the guide and jumped from the cab. Rushing through the iron gates, I reached the entrance and pushed open the carved wooden doors. The feel of the wood made my fingertips tingle. I gazed down the nave to the beautiful stained glass window and walked forward to the altar, peering from left to right.
As I reached the altar, memories from my childhood came flooding back. I remembered my own cold words the last time I had stood here with Sam, and the funerals of our lost siblings and the six headstones, all in a row!
December 1854
 ‘Another cold, grey weeping day!’ ‘Mother is too weak to attend this time!’
‘Poor little bugger, never stood a chance. Just one day in this world and he’s off to another!’
My Dad and I, we heft that sad little coffin easily onto our shoulders, and together we walk the nave of St Clements, again. Down the black mile to the cemetery. It doesn’t take long to gently lay James Frances Allery in his grave! All is quiet!
Six headstones now, stand neatly in a row in the cemetery plot. Elizabeth 1847-1849; Alice 1849-1851; Louisa 1851; Henry 1852; Frances 1853 and James 1854.
Rain has gathered in puddles and the wind has whipped the tears from our faces. Young Samuel and me, we just stand and watch as our weeping Dad kneels in the mud with his head bowed. I show Sam how to throw small clods of freshly dug earth onto the coffin; and we listen as it scuds and thuds across the shining lid.
‘I’m never going to bring a child into this dreadful world!’ I whisper to Sam. He just huddles closer to me and shrugs his coat close around himself. His face is grey and he is colder than sorrow.
‘You’ll be going back to St Mary’s tomorrow!’ I say to him as I take him squarely by his thin shoulders and look hard into his reddened eyes.
‘Me, I’m going into town and find me a job!’ …

“The Altar is unique. It dates from James I and may have replaced an older one dedicated in 1318 AD by Bishop Stapledon of Exeter, on his only visit to Dartmouth”, said the Vicar
 “Are you the gentleman who wishes to view the Parish Register?”
I was startled out of my reverie. “I am indeed”, I said eagerly, turning around in surprise to see the vicar standing right behind me.

“Are you interested in the baptismal records too?” asked the vicar, pointing to the ancient stone font. By then I was beaming with great excitement.
“Come, let me show you where the ancient registers are kept, in the crypt.” Said the vicar.
Finally, back in St Clements, there’s more to the Church than I remembered. The vicar was striding ahead of me, looking over his shoulder and beckoning me to follow him down a stone staircase.
All I could do was whisper “Yes”!

My eyes grew accustomed to the gloom of the crypt as I walked all the way to the bottom. We were in a large marble pillared room in which I could see several ancient tombs and effigies of people past. I had never ventured this deep into the Church. It was like stepping back in time.
To my left, a sliver of yellow light billowed out as the vicar turned an ancient handle and opened the door to the Chapelry. I smelled the faint odour of mildew and dust; as I peered at the many shelves of old registers. The faded titles spanned the centuries; marking the passage of souls in St Clements.
In the middle of the room was a small raised dais on which was a reading lectern with a small lamp. One 1700-1710 register was already on the lectern, dusted and opened at a page with a small white bookmark.

My blood was thumping in my temples and I felt clammy and faint.

“I believe you will find what you are looking for on this page,” said the vicar leading me to the dais. 
The ancient pages were filled with rows of faded ink inscriptions; the marriage dates and names of many parishioners. I scanned the chronological list following it all with the tip of my finger, until the name ALLERY almost leapt off the page. 

The second last entry!
24/1/1710: Samuel ALLERY & Elizabeth BENADICT
The missing piece of evidence!

Requiem for Harriet Priscilla Allery

Requiem for Harriet Priscilla Allery: an assessment piece from Writing Family History eportfolio

Harriet Priscilla Allery:
Death 21 December 1953 in Mount Alveria, Stawey Rd,
Guildford, Surrey, England

Funeral service at St Saviour’s, Southwark on December 24.
Cecil was not there that day but he sent this story along with his condolences to his sister.
Dear Imee,
I weep for the loss of our mother and am in anguish that I cannot attend the funeral. My finances just won’t stretch to a journey home from Australia. Such a poignant time to say goodbye, right on Christmas. So sorry that you have to bear the brunt of it.
I have sent money to help with the funeral costs and hope that you can send me a photo of the casket and flowers. I have also put together a potted history of Harriet and I hope that you might read it out to the congregation.

Harriet buried 3 children and a husband. Now she is at rest.

Harriet was employed as a machinist in the Allery Tailoring business during the 1890s. Work as a machinist did not pay well then. Many unmarried young women had little choice of occupation in Edwardian times (domestic service, prostitution, shop work, the stage or dressmaking). Harriet continued to live at home bringing into the household her meagre income of a few shillings; making shirts at 7 pence a dozen. She worked from seven in the morning to eleven at night. My father, Walter, commissioned the construction of shirts from her for his private tailoring business, and that is how they first met.

They were married on December 27 in 1896 in West Ham, Essex. They were both hard working in the Tailoring trade, a trait passed down from their ancestors.

By 1901 Harriet and Walter were living at No. 28 Elton Parade, Kingston on Thames, Surrey. They had one child, me, Cecil Henry, then aged 11 months. Walter Frederick was an Employer and his occupation was Tailor/Journeyman – he was working from home. His younger brother Joseph was staying with them on the night of the 1901 census, a frequent occurrence for young Joseph, who much later, was to inherit the tailoring business from Grandfather Walter.

Harriet was still mourning the loss of her first child Walter Frederick Jr. and valiantly trying to raise her second born to be healthy and strong. There was no counselling for young bereaved mothers then - infant mortality was high in Edwardian times. As her own mother Elizabeth, had already passed on in 1894, at the age of 51, Harriet had no support. She needed all her strength to weather the turmoil and tragedy in her own life. She buried her pain along with her child.

Their first born son, Walter Frederick Alfred Joshua, born in 1898, died in 1900 from Gastro Enteritis. His death was extremely hard to bear for Harriet as she was pregnant with another child at that time, me. Tragically, her first son died one month to the day, prior to my birth on the 25th April 1900. April events had even more poignant significance for Harriet throughout her life.
By 1911 the family had grown and had moved again to live at London House, Coombe Lane, Norbiton. Walter was then a Master Tailor, and Harriet was now mother to four young boys. Cecil aged 10, Edward aged 9, William aged 5, Samuel aged 1, and one little girl, Imee aged 3. I remember the night of the 1911 census, it lists the number of live births for Harriet as 7 and 2 dead. Sad statistics for a mother to have recorded for her in such archives. Walter filled in these details himself in his neat and precise handwriting.

Harriet's sad story gets worse when she loses her husband Walter Frederick on the 5th of April in 1915. He had been a soldier in World War 1 and had finally succumbed to his war wounds on his return to England. In 1915, there was time prior to his death for Walter to plan for the care of his family and his Tailoring business. Uncle Joseph purchased the business premises from him and took on the running of Allery and Sons, in Coombe Lane, Norbiton. A substantial sum of money, over 2000 pounds, was left to his widow, Harriet. She was able to be self-sustained throughout her 40 plus years without him, raising her family alone – she never remarried!

In 1930 Harriet learned of the horrific death of her son Edward Lionel - it was all over the newspapers at the time - a tragic motor racing accident at the Brooklands Raceway took the life of her 28-year-old son. Another April tragedy. I cannot imagine how she felt on hearing the news. I do know how this tragic accident affected me. I blamed myself for encouraging Ted to become a mechanic and to be there, that day, at the raceway. Perhaps Harriet also blamed me for her loss. This is why I was reluctant to encourage my own twin sons to become motor mechanics or to enter the motor racing industry.

Life was not all tragic; there were the brighter aspects. Harriet passed on her dressmaking skills to her daughter Imee, who later specialised in ‘haute couture’ and earned her income by working from home. As far as I know Imee is still making dresses for the wealthy. You may like to know that my own daughter Carole has inherited Harriet’s red hair.

Harriet is now at rest, to be buried with her beloved son, Edward Lionel in the Guildford cemetery. A fitting resting place.

Farewell to Harriet Priscilla.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Elizabeth and George Day: my welsh g x 3 grandparents

Elizabeth and George Day: a little about my research

During my most recent studies at the University of Tasmania, "Introduction to Family History" I began to set out my further research plan for my Welsh ancestors in Pembrokeshire. I had located my mother's family history sprinkled throughout the Parish Registers of St Mary's in Haverfordwest. 

My aim is to build a picture of their lives in the early 1800's and to provide the background for stories about these ancestors woven from the facts and history of the times.

Let me start with Elizabeth Evans who was born in 1786 in Haverfordwest, and who married George Day in 1803. [She is the key to my fictional writing about Celtic history and you can find her storyhere.] Her story is shaped in the misty moors of the Pembrokeshire hills and farms. 

Life was simpler but so much harder for those who lived and worked on the land. Their first child, Lettice was born in Trefgarne, a farming village deriving its name from 'tref' meaning town and 'garne' meaning rock. The town of the rock.

The hillfort on top of Great Treffgarne Rocks is thought to be Iron Age and is one of the most important prehistoric sites in Pembrokeshire. She would also have been a visitor to the community of Wolfscastle.  Wolfscastle's claim to fame is that it is allegedly the place where the last wild wolf in Wales was slain. 

Farms in Trefgarne were set in the alluvial plains fed by the fens and tributaries of the River Cleddau. The tidal estuary enabled sea traffic to reach Haverfordwest. Elizabeth would have been able to see the castle in Haverfordwest in all its glory and no doubt would have been a towering presence to hold her in awe on her trips to the town. The name of the town Haverfordwest means "ford used by heifers" from Old English hæfar=heifer. The family would have need of the trade in the town, and I imagine that is where there were able to sell the wool from the sheep of their farm. 

The Day family had moved into Haverfordwest and were housed in Fountain Row, near the castle, by the year of 1811. Here they had seven more children - five girls - and two boys. Infant mortality rates were higher in the towns and sadly several of their children did not live long. Lettice, Sarah and Elizabeth did survive and marry, and their family links have now been discovered and added to my family tree.
Haverfordwest is a market town, a corporate and Parliamentary Borough and aCounty of itself, whose houses, many of which are handsome, are arranged inseveral steep streets, well-paved and gas lighted, from the top of theacclivity down to the river, and the place may be noticed as the residenceof large numbers of respectable families and independent gentry.The trade in butter and com, hops, seeds and timber is considerable.Malting, tanning, currying, lime-burning and rope making are other branchesprosperously pursued.
George Day was listed as a Ropemaker in the first census of Wales in 1841; and from this small fact I can piece together his life as the primary income earner. 
In the 1800's ropes were constructed in ropewalks, very long buildings where strands the full length of the rope were spread out and then laid up or twisted together to form the rope. The cable length was thus set by the length of the available rope walk. This is related to the unit of length termed cable length. This allowed for long ropes of up to 300 yards long or longer to be made. These long ropes were necessary in shipping as short ropes would require splicing to make them long enough to use for sheets and halyards
Rope and twine merchants would have employed George either as a production worker or an overseer and their products would have been sold primarily in the town of Haverfordwest. The ropemakers were considered a minor industry in the area at the time, according to the town history:
The list of occupations given affords interesting reading, as most of them have now disappeared, thus showing how the character of the town has radically changed during the last hundred years. It is noted that there were 6 auctioneers and appraisers; 15 blacksmiths; 3.boot and shoes makers; 3 brewers; 23 butchers, 7 of the name of White; 7 butter and cheese makers; 7cabinet makers; 5 coopers;2 cork cutters; 8 corn merchants; 7 curriers; 5 lime merchants; 5 maltsters;7 porter merchants; 9 saddlers; 2 stay makers; 9 straw bonnet makers; 3 tallow chandlers; 7 tin plate workers; 8 surgeons; 3 tanners; 2 dyers; 31fire and insurance agents (one for the London Indisputable, another called the Trafalgar), 2 flag and slate merchants and the following miscellaneous occupations - pawnbroker; rope and twine merchant; basket maker; oyster merchant; paper maker; wool merchant;' poulterer; Paymaster-Sergeant in the Pembrokeshire Militia; wheelwright; gunsmith; glover and tawer; carrier and gilder.
The children would most probably have attended one of the local schools such as Free Grammar School (Rev. James Thomas, Headmaster) in Dew Street, close to Fountain Row.

The news of the day was available in three local newspapers in circulation:
1.               "The Pembrokeshire Herald," every Friday; 
2.               "Potter's Electric News"
3.               "Haverfordwest and Milford Haven Telegraph," every Wednesday.
One piece of poignant news was discovered in Pembrokeshire Herald and General Adviser -  
March 2nd 1866.DEATHS. On the 28th ult. at Fountains Row, in this town, Mr George Day, aged 86 years.
I have imagined my great x 3 grandmother Elizabeth as a midwife in my fictional stories and I wonder now how much of that was actually true. In my research I have discovered some wonderful historical writings about Midwifery and I especially liked this one about the life of Bridget Hodgson and her will. This one about Frances Hugh as a midwife in Haverfordwest is also of keen interest.

More research is the order of the day, and I believe I will find a wealth of fact and foundation knowledge of midwifery history here in the Deviant Maternity blog.

My story of Welsh Ancestors will continue ....