I am taking part in the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks challenge for 2021. The challenge is organised by Amy Johnson Crow who provides a weekly writing prompt. This week the prompt is Unusual Source.
About ten years ago I found my 3rd Great Grandparents, Matthew and Jane Stewardson, on the 1901 Census. They were living at Rainors Farm in Gosforth in what was then Cumberland. The household was made up of the couple in their sixties, their two youngest children and one of their many grandsons. Ten years later widowed Matthew was at the same address, but in the intervening years his youngest daughter Adelaide had married, and her husband Henry Tyson was now listed as the head of the household. Matthew, now 74 years old was listed as a retired farmer.
I did what I often do when I come across an exact address for an ancestor, and looked it up on Google. Usually I will be able to see if the road still exists and if the houses are likely those that my ancestor occupied. Sometimes I can find a little more about the actual house.
Rainors Farm turned out to be an 18th century Georgian farmhouse, now operating as a bed and breakfast. I bookmarked it and promised myself that if we ever decided to visit the Lake District that would be where we would stay. It was wonderful to be able to use the website to view not only the outside of my 3rd great grandfather’s home, but the inside too.
Time passed and I spent time researching other branches of the family or working on other hobbies. Then in 2017 the exchange rate wasn’t good and we decided to have several short breaks in the UK rather than head overseas. One of the trips we booked was a long weekend in the Lake District timed to include the steam gala at the Threlkeld Quarry and Mining Museum. While in the area we also visited the Ravenglass and Eskdale Railway and took a boat ride or two.
Of course we stayed at Rainors Farm. It was a proper goosebumps down the spine sort of moment to know I was in a house that had once been occupied by my 3rd great grandparents. The house has probably changed very little from when they were there 117 years before me.
Breakfast was great, and I can thoroughly recommend staying here even if you aren’t descended from the Stewardson or Tyson families.
As planned we also spent some time hunting for one of the usual genealogists sources – looking for gravestones in the local churchyards. Sadly we didn’t find a single one for any of my ancestors! Tony was beginning to get very fed up with the dead relative hunt.
The churches were open and inside Nether Wasdale church we found my unusual source. There were some noticeboards at the back of the church with information provided by the local history society. Amongst the pictures was one of Matthew Stewardson, identifying him as a gilly. I was so excited! Here he is:
Matthew lived to 94, having gone to live with his eldest daughter at Gap Cottage. Apparently she was concerned about her younger sister inheriting everything if her father stayed with them.
Over breakfast the next morning we mentioned why we had chosen to stay at Rainors Farm, and were delighted to hear that the house is still owned by family connected to the descendants of Matthew and Jane. We were shown this picture of their youngest daughter, Adelaide May Tyson taken in 1911.
Adelaide May Tyson nee Stewardson is my 2nd great Aunt, the youngest of Matthew and Jane’s 15 children. Some of her elder siblings stayed in the Lake District, her brothers Robert (my direct ancestor) and George moved to Derbyshire and were mole catchers. Six of the other brothers emigrated to Canada.
So, if the usual sources don’t reveal anything, if you are bored of looking at gravestones, take a look inside the church. You never know what you will find!