Monday, 30 May 2011

National Family Week UK: 30 May - 5 June 2011

Hooray! Thousands of events attracting hundreds of thousands of people throughout the UK, National Family Week is all about connecting families. Perhaps we genealogists should have a lifetime membership?

From their website: "National Family Week is the largest annual celebration of families and family life in the UK.

National Family Week is unique in that it provides an ideal opportunity for brands and not for profit organisations to engage with families, showcasing the work they all do to enhance family life. Our ambition is to encourage families to spend more time together and we work with our partners to provide opportunities, events, ideas and money saving offers to achieve this.

Last year's National Family Week saw over 5,000 events take place all over the UK attracting more than 500,000 people. The campaign's research raised mass awareness of issues impacting family life in the media and highlighted the importance of family life.

National Family Week is also part of the new website, a one stop destination for families with children of all ages. The site will provide families with valuable information on what to do and where to go together in their local area and beyond. Plus with the Family Value Club there will be great money saving offers for families to save money."

Monday, 23 May 2011

Matrilineal Monday: Eliza ELLIOTT, the mantua maker

Eliza ELLIOTT (1818-1908) was my great-great-grandmother from South Pool, Devon.  A dressmaker on some censuses, on the 1841 census she is described as a "mantua maker".  Intrigued, I looked up a description of mantuas and their makers...

Mantuas were loose gowns worn over a petticoat and open down the front (what a relief, after all those stays!).  They were usually made of damask or brocade and were worn when an occasion required something a bit special.  Although they were loose and open, they were slightly fitted - they just didn't have the dreaded stays.  From

"[T]he mantua was constructed from a single length of material, with few if any cuts. Our image of dressmaking is cutting out a variety of pieces from the fabric, some small, then sewing those pieces together. Mantua-making was not at all like this.

One of the things that identifies a true mantua is that it did not have a separate skirt and top. The material was one continuous piece from shoulder to floor. Mantuas fit the figure, yet had a very full skirt. This was accomplished by shaping the material to the body with a series of deep, outward-facing stitched-down pleats that flared gracefully below the waistline.

This single-piece construction with few unreversable actions meant that gowns could be altered for changes in fashion, weight, and ownership. A skilled mantua maker could, literally, disassemble a mantua and remake it into a new garment, saving the beautiful material.

Depending on the current style and the mantua-maker's construction, the rich fabric might be longer in back, almost forming a train. The mantua was not closed at the front (usually just caught at the waist, sometimes belted), exposing the shirt of the lightweight petticoat (you will recall from the earlier article that this could refer to a dress-length garment), which was often of silk. As you can imagine, this allowed interesting and attractive contrast in color and fabric. It also permitted more freedom of movement. I can practically hear the swishing sounds as mantua-wearing women made their social calls.

A stomacher was often worn with a mantua. This was an elaborate, decorated, ornamental piece, shaped in a V to help create the illusion of a slim waist."

Monday, 16 May 2011

Annie Marian Buckingham EDGCOMBE and Transport

Annie Marian Buckingham EDGCOMBE was my great grandmother (1873-1961).  The first horse-drawn tram in Plymouth, Devon, UK, appeared the year before she was born, she went to County Mayo in Ireland in the 1890s with her coastguard husband and small children, and she travelled to Australia in 1926, where she lived in Sydney, New South Wales until she was 88 years old.

Other transport events of note:
In 1869 (four years before she was born) the Suez Canal was opened.
When she was 12, Karl Benz invented the first practical automobile to be powered by an internal-combustion engine, then Gottlieb Daimler built the world's first four-wheeled motor vehicle.
In 1894, the same year that she got married, the Manchester Ship Canal was opened.
By the time she was in Ireland (1900), the zeppelin had been invented by Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin
When she was aged 30 and had 5 small children (1903), the Wright Brothers invented the first gas motored and manned airplane
Only 4 years later in 1907, the very first piloted helicopter was invented by Paul Cornu
And of course in 1912 - the Titanic sank...

Annie Marian Buckingham EDGCOMBE
Since the small child on her knee is probably Frederick Charles, the photo was probably taken just after World War I, which ended in 1918 - she was still in the UK at this stage!

Monday, 9 May 2011

A Pinch of Salt

Bertha DAMERELL (my great grandmother) died of pneumonia.  The story goes that several of her children were ill, and she got up to tend to them in the night, even though she was ill herself...and died shortly thereafter.

Or is this all rather muddled?  She was only 51 when she died (the same age as me!), and her death certificate does indeed say that she died of pneumonia, but something just doesn't feel right.

This is an example of how stories that are passed down from generation to generation are not always 100% correct.  Several times I have been told a family legend, and then when I have done the names-and-dates research I have found that the dates mean that Person A just couldn't have married then, as they were only five years old, or Person B was dead by the time they were supposed to have completed the task described in the legend...

However, I never discount family stories.  Often, they are not complete fabrications, but do have a grain of truth in them, and these grains put together form a clue.  Clues put together can often create a research avenue - and then you find the bare-bones truth.  For instance: there was the family story of great-great-grandfather being kicked in the head by a horse, and his daughters had to be taken out of convent school because the business was ruined.  Actually, they ended up in the workhouse for another reason entirely, along with the sons - but I would never have thought of looking there, if I hadn't had the exciting story of the horse and the convent school - besides which, I had thought he only had one daughter...

Or how about the ancestor who changed his age and ran away to sea? Except he didn't: the General Register Office method of dividing a year into quarters meant that he was registered in a different quarter to his birth - and later he became a coastguard in Ireland...

So my advice to anybody new to research is: take everything with a pinch of salt, but don't discard the salt cellar.

Monday, 2 May 2011

Matrilineal Monday: What's she been up to?

I remember a story my grandma used to tell about my mother when she was small.  My mother had a beautiful "best dress"; my grandmother had a flatiron.  Can you see where this is going?

One day, as my grandmother (Minda Mary Edgcombe BALL) stood chatting with her neightbour at her kitchen window, she saw my mother (Audrey Ball HAYWOOD) rocketing past.  Immediately, my grandmother's suspicions were roused: "What's she been up to?" she wondered.  She soon found out.  My mother had seen my grandmother using the flatiron, and obviously thought there was nothing to it - so she decided to iron her "best dress" - except the iron was very hot, and she left a perfect iron-shaped print on the dress...


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