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52 Ancestors: Week 9 – Multiples

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 Multiples.

As a young girl I really wanted a big brother and a twin sister. That to me seemed like the ideal family set up., though I really can’t remember why. I think I was quite disappointed when I realised that this was not going to be an option. Instead I have 3 younger siblings, looking back I wouldn’t have it any other way. There are definite advantages to being the eldest, and I love them all dearly!

Me with my siblings in the mid 1990s

For a while it seemed possible that I might have twin siblings. When a doctor initially confirmed one of Mum’s pregnancies the doctor said he thought that either Mum was further on than she thought, or she was expecting twins. Later on one midwife thought she could hear two heartbeats and another thought she could feel two heads. Scans were not as commonplace back in the 1970s, and as we moved from Durham to Derbyshire during the pregnancy neither area offered a scan. The day before my sister was born the doctor (not the same one) said he wanted to be at the birth because he suspected twins. As Mum told me a few days ago, “To crown it all, my womb didn’t contract very quickly and a midwife said, “I wonder if there is another baby!!””

There wasn’t another baby, and no multiple births in my immediate family. Apparently though, when it was thought possible that Mum was expecting twins her mother-in-law mentioned that there were twins in her family. I haven’t done much research into my paternal grandmother (my Nanna’s) line, mainly because Dad’s cousin has researched quite extensively. Back in 2003 Bet sent me details of her shared lines, which I studied in great detail at the time. Time and life got in the way and I have not had the opportunity to really follow up my Bowler ancestors. This blog prompt has given me the push I needed to look further.

From what Mum remembered at least one of Nanna’s sisters or cousins had twins, so I spent some time this week trying to find out. Norah Bowler had three sisters, Elsie, Kit and Gladys. Of course, Bet had passed me plenty of information about her Mum and aunts.

Nanna (Norah Bowler), centre, with her sisters Gladys and Kit

Kit (Catherine Esther) Bowler married Frank Hopkinson. We have not found a connection between Frank Hopkinson and my grandfather Bob Hopkinson though I am convinced there must be. Kit and Frank had one daughter Glenda Hopkinson.

Gladys Bowler married Charles Curtis in 1941, and from the information that her niece Bet provided me it would seem that she had two daughters in 1943. This could be the twins in the family. I searched on FreeBMD for births with the surname Curtis and mothers maiden name Bowler, born after 1943 and sure enough the two girls are both listed as registered in the March quarter (i.e January, February or March) of 1943 in Derby. As far as I can tell both are still alive and so I will not say any more here, it wouldn’t be fair. However, if you are reading and recognise yourselves I would love to hear from you!

Elsie Bowler first had my Dad’s cousin Bet, and then married Richard Peake with whom she had four more children, but a year or more between each.

So amongst Nanna’s sisters one birth in eleven was twins, the NHS say that about 1 in 65 births is twins, but one set is not statistically significant. However, having non-identical twins can be a more likely if “non-identical twins run on the mother’s side of the family”. So the next step is to have a look at Nanna’s maternal cousins to see if any of them have multiple births. Of course as Nanna is my paternal grandmother this would not have affected whether I was to have twin siblings, only my maternal grandmother would have influenced this.

Nanna’s siblings were all individual births, no twins there. She had two maternal aunts, about whom I knew very little.

One of the maternal aunts was Minnie Green but it did not take me long at all to realise that she died in infancy. According to Bet, Nanna’s only other maternal aunt was Alice Green, born in 1901 who married Harry Foot. I found Alice on the 1939 register, single and living on her own in Belper, but then found her marriage to Harry I. Foot in the September quarter of 1948 on the GRO index. However as far as I can tell Alice and Harry did not have any children.

As far as I can tell then, just one set of twins, my first cousins once removed.

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