Hello! My name's Liz Plummer and I have a textile arts blog over at Dreaming Spirals. I have recently got into family history research and so I decided to start a blog about it, talking about my discoveries and journey along the way. Feel free to leave a comment, especially if you are also researching any of the same surnames.
Most of my ancestors lived in Staffordshire and the West Midlands in the UK; a few wandered over from Cheshire and perhaps Shropshire. The main surnames I'm researching are: Docksey, Meredith, Hopkins, Simpson, Cooke, Swetmore, Lunn, Cooper. I'll put a full list further down the sidebar.
I just discovered the British Library’s Sound Recordings archive and spent a couple of happy hours listening to their sound clips. They have a large collection of old voice recordings – try going to the Accents and Dialects section and putting the county of your ancestors in it, and see what comes up! They have other categories too – the oral history section and a large music collection (old country songs and that sort of thing). Definitely worth a visit to make your ancestors’ lives come alive!
To get back to the family profiles, I will now take William’s wife, Hannah, and her immediate family.
Hannah Barlow was born on 16th September 1839 in Fenton, Staffordshire. She was baptised on 6th October 1839 in Fenton, possibly in the parish church of Christchurch as it was erected in 1839 according to Genuki. She was one of 10 children, the third youngest born to Thomas Barlow (1802-1846) and Matilda Challinor (1806-1884). Thomas and Matilda were married on 31 October 1824 at St John’s, Hanley – according to the censuses Matilda was born in Shelton though we haven’t been able to find a baptism for her or know who her parents were. However, there are a family of Challinors living in Tinkers Clough, Shelton in 1851 and 1861, which is where William Hopkins was living in the census before he married Hannah, so I have made a note of them, especially as one was Josiah and another James, the same as two of Hannah’s brothers. We are not sure who the parents of Thomas are either as there are a few possible candidates and as he most inconsiderately died before the 1851 census we don’t know his place of birth.
In 1839 when Matilda was born, they were living in the Lower Lane area of Fenton. Thomas Barlow was noted as being a ‘turner in pots’ in the 1841 census – they were living in High Street, Fenton (part of which was in the Lower Lane area). He and Matilda were both noted as being 35. Hannah’s eldest brother, Joseph, was born and baptised in Hanley but after that they must have moved to Fenton. She had 4 brothers, all J’s – Joseph, Jabez, James and Josiah/Jesse (he appears as both on the censuses) and sisters Mary (x2), Martha Ellen, Myra and Harriet Elizabeth. Her father, Thomas, died in 1846; he left £100 to his wife, but if she married again or died, the money was to be shared like and like between the children. Matilda outlived him by 38 years, but did not marry again. They must have been fairly prosperous as £100 was a lot of money back then, but by the 1851 census Matilda and Hannah were shown as being laundresses so they obviously had to take washing in to make ends meet. They lived next door to Hannah’s brother Joseph and both households had boarders called Challinor – I have traced them in the censuses to Broseley in Shropshire but so far can’t find any definite family link to Matilda and the censuses didn’t say that they were related, although I have found cases in the past of extended family members being classified as boarders.
In the 1861, 1871 and 1881 censuses Matilda was living with her daughter Harriet and her husband, Thomas Jones, a blacksmith, and their family, at first in Market Street, Fenton then in Queen Street, Fenton (now Burnham Street). Thomas was a Welshman from Carmarthen. Queen Street is just off Market Street, so she wasn’t living far away from Hannah, who had the shop in Market Street by 1871.
Anyway, back to Hannah. As I already said, she was married to William Hopkins on 28 December 1857 in St Mark’s, Shelton. She must have been quite a woman, because she had 12 children in 23 years and ran a successful greengrocery business on top of that, setting up many of her children in shops of their own. I get exhausted just thinking of it! She seems to have outlived all her siblings. Her husband, William, died in 1891 and left her everything, provided she did not remarry. In the 1901 census she was still in 58 Market Street, Fenton aged 62, widow, fruit merchant, employer; 3 of her daughters worked in the shop with her. By 1911 she was still in Market Street, aged 70, fruiterer and her granddaughter Mabel Willding was living with her. She filled in the census form herself. The house and shop had 7 rooms.
By the time she signed her will in February 1918 she was living at 223 Frank Street, London Road, Stoke where she had another shop, with her daughter Mary Matilda Parsons. She died on 14 January 1923 at the above address, aged 83, of senility and asthemia. She left over £2,500.
I have been reading a blog created by Vicki Washuk which consists of the diary of her great grandmother Ruby during the London Blitz of World War II. It makes fascinating reading of her day to day activities and thoughts as the events actually happened. Especially compelling as two of her sons are in the war and we share her fears for them and, of course, don’t know the outcome of their war service….
And to complement that, today I found a collection of videos put on YouTube by the London Screen Archive, including these of the blitz.
Google Street View came out for Britain a year or two ago and I had great fun looking up various ancestors’ streets.
I spent a happy few evenings virtually walking round Stoke on Trent, where I grew up, and finding the streets (and possibly the actual houses) various ancestors lived in, with the help of the census records and a webpage on thepotteries.org site which converts old street names in Stoke to their new equivalents. In the 1950s lots of them were changed because the six towns which made up the city of Stoke on Trent had grown up independently and there were lots of duplicate street names, with resultant confusion. Lots of High Streets, Albert Streets, Church Streets, etc!
Here are a few of the streets in Fenton, not far from where I lived until I was 11. Fenton is the town that the 19th century novelist Arnold Bennett, in his novels about the Potteries, missed out: the residents never forgave him for the omission.
This is Berdmore Street where my great grandmother, Minnie Simpson, was living before she was married:
John Swetnam, my 1st cousin 4x removed, lived somewhere in this street in 1871:
The husband of the half sister of my great great grandmother, Sarah Swetnam, lived in this house (that is, if the numbering hasn’t changed) in Heron Street in 1901 (sadly Sarah died in 1883 but several of my first cousins 3x removed were there.)
William Brown, my second cousins 3x removed, lived in this street in 1891; then it was Peel Street, now Ramsey Street. He was a mineral water carter.
Hope you enjoyed this little tour round one of the Potteries towns!
It is at this point, between 1861 and 1871, that we enter the realm of speculation and family stories…
The family story is that William went to America to build a better life for himself and his family (the pottery industry being in a slump at this time), but came back because he missed the children. In the meantime, in order to make ends meet, Hannah started a greengrocers business from their front room.
I haven’t been able to find any concrete evidence for William’s trip to America, although there are several William Hopkins in passenger records of around the right age. None are listed as potters though. If it happened, it must be sometime between 1861 and 1871 because by the 1871 census, they are living at 35 High Street, Fenton, and Hannah is listed as a greengrocer. The column for occupation is blank by William’s name, although in subsequent censuses it is he who is listed as greengrocer. However, there is a line running from William’s name to ‘greengrocer’ as if the enumerator realised he had made a mistake and was correcting it.
If he did go, it must have been a fairly short visit because William and Hannah had children regularly every 2 years during that period – Elizabeth in 1863, Hannah in 1865, William in 1867, Mary Matilda in 1869 and my great grandfather, Ephraim Edward in 1871. I suppose I could narrow down the dates at least to pin down the change of occupation by sending for all the birth certificates but at nearly £10 each it is a bit of a pricey operation! I did wonder whether, if the America story is true, William’s brother Ephraim went there earlier and he went to look for him or visit him. Maybe one day we will find out the truth. He is not listed as a fruiterer/greengrocer in the 1868 Post Office Directory for Staffordshire, although his cousin Charles is listed as a shopkeeper in Well Street, Hanley.
Anyway, the end result was a change of career and a very successful one at that. William and Hannah had 12 children in total, of whom 2 died in childhood, plus several greengrocers shops in Stoke. Most of their children ended up running shops of their own or marrying traders of other descriptions.
In the 1881 census they are still at 35 High Street, Fenton; William is 48, a greengrocer. In Kelly’s Directory he is listed in 1876 and 1884 as trading at 35 High Street and also 221/223 High Street west, Fenton. In 1889 he is described as a potato dealer on his daughter Hannah’s marriage certificate. In 1891 they are at 60 Market Street and William is aged 58, fruiterer/greengrocer.
Their son Charles John was running a greengrocers shop at 7 London Road, Stoke in 1901. Their daughter Martha Ellen married Samuel Willding in 1889 and in 1891 they were running a greengrocers in Howard Place, Shelton. By 1911 Samuel is listed as a fruiterer, book dealer and general dealer! In 1884 their daughter Elizabeth married Thomas Moseley, a butcher in Fenton, then Hanley then Smallthorne. Their daughter Hannah married John Broad, a farmer from Cheshire. Their son William became a greengrocer in Liverpool Road, Stoke. Their daughter Mary Matilda helped in the family business and then married Edward Parsons, and in 1911 they were running the Old Eagle Inn in Whitchurch, Shropshire. My great grandfather Ephraim married Minnie Simpson and they ran a greengrocers in High Street, Fenton. Their daughter Asenath married John Thomas Davies in 1901 and they ran a shop in Stoke. Their daughter Matilda Rose married Samuel Higgins, a coal dealer. And their youngest son George Henry was a fruit dealer in Shelton in 1901, married to Selina Hargreaves, but in 1906 got a ship to New Zealand without her, married someone else and settled in Australia…
William died on 13 December 1891, aged 59. He left £227 5sh and 2d plus several properties to his wife Hannah provided she did not remarry. Hannah lived to be 83 and died in 1923, leaving £2,560.
It has a map of London where you can click on different locations to see photos of how they looked in the past and read about them, and if you have an Iphone you can hold the camera up to an actual street in London and it gives you historical information about it. I’ve only got an Ipod Touch so I haven’t tested this part of it but the map bit is great.
You can download it from Itunes by searching for Streetmuseum, or directly via the App Store on your device.
Wonder if other regional archive offices would consider making something similar?