Beginnings My family Pentrefelin wildlife

12 Days of Christmas #1

I’m pleased to say I have not received a Partridge in a Pear Tree, though I have received some lovely gifts, including a Harry Potter knitted jumper which I’m delighted with.

Apologies for radio silence in December. It has been an exciting and emotional month. I handed in my notice at Ffestiniog Travel. 17 years is a long time to work anywhere and I was sad to say goodbye but returning to the office after 18 months on furlough convinced me that it is time to move on. I will still be doing some tour leading, hopefully taking a group to Mallorca to explore the narrow gauge railways and trams in 2022. I have always enjoyed the job and the people, but I would always regret it if I didn’t give genealogy a try.

I’ve decided to follow the career advice of Katharine Whitehorn, a British journalist:

‘Find out what you like doing best and get someone to pay you for doing it.’
Observer, 1975

The Society of Genealogists are sharing their own 12 days of Christmas, beginning today with Partridge in a Pear Tree, or their version, a Partridge in PCC Admons. I’m looking forward to seeing what comes next.

I am joining in 12 Days Wild and I began by walking off Christmas lunch, just enjoying the peace and quiet outside today. I found some festive Pokemon as well as festive plants. The road was surprisingly busy but the sky looked amazing.

I have a Beanies Coffee 12 Days of Christmas calendar. I do enjoy a flavoured coffee, but don’t like the sweetness of syrups so these are just right. Today I have Nutty Hazelnut and Orange Chocolate flavoured coffees.

As well as my sibling Max having their birthday today we have a surprising number of ancestors with Christmas Day birthdays.

  • 3rd great grandmother Jane Diamond was born today in 1839. She lived in Cumberland, now part of the Lake District. In 1905 she was living at Rainors Farm.
  • Her mother-in-law, my 4th great grandmother Ann Stewardson, was born today in 1810. She also spent her entire life in the Lake District.
  • On the same day my 3rd great granduncle Christopher Thomas Wadworth was born in Wickersley, West Yorkshire.

I plan to spend the rest of the 12 days of Christmas catching up with #52Ancestors and setting up Rhos Helyg Family History Services.

Beginnings My family

52 Ancestors: Week 14 – Great

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 “Great”.

This prompt reminds me of a conversation with my 7 year old nephew. I had been discussing some of our family history with him on Zoom, I think we may have just been playing family tree Bingo. He referred to our ancestors as “our greats”. It is a phrase that has stuck with me.

He had obviously heard me referring to great grandma or 2nd great grandfather. I love though the subtle reference to our ancestors being “great”. They make us who we are to some extent. They certainly have great stories to tell, when we can unpack the evidence to find them.

I continue to share snippets of family history with my young nephew and nieces. Discovering that my family tree software, Legacy, has a bingo report made for a fun afternoon. I had to check a few details with my sister, but managed to produce illustrated bingo cards with my nephews ancestors going back 4 generations. Each one identified the relationship to him and their full name.

I have seen an idea on Facebook to introduce family history research to the younger generation.

Shared in the Family Treasures Reinstated UK Facebook group

Next time I am responsible for the children for a few hours I plan to have a go at doing this. We have a graveyard within walking distance and so we can go and choose a a name for them to research. I mentioned the idea to my sister who suggested that if we visited their local graveyard they would probably know the descendants as many people have lived in the village for generations.

I am always looking for ways to interest the next generation in “their greats”.

Beginnings My family

52 Ancestors: Week 1 Beginnings

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’s prompt, “Beginnings” is of course a good place to start. I am planning that 2021 is the year I begin again with my family history research. Not to start again, but to revisit what I have done so far, tidy it up and ensure that I still believe in the the connections I have made.

I received my DNA test results from Ancestry just before Christmas and so far they appear to support the research I have done. Quite a relief!

My plan is to start with my paternal grandfather and one person at a time to check over my source citations ensuring that each one is correctly labelled, with an image where possible and that I have extracted as much information as possible from each one. I know for example that in the early days of my research I relied a lot on transcripts rather than viewing census documents. It was just too expensive. I didn’t think to look who the witnesses were on a marriage record and other mistakes.

The next job for each ancestor will be to check that I have them on all the standard, expected documents. Depending on when they were born I would want to have a birth and death certificate, each census from 1841 to 1911 plus the 1939 register for each person. I would expect to have found a marriage records where relevant. I will look for a baptism and burial record for each person, as well as a tombstone if possible.

I read about a suggestion of creating a Google map list showing the location of significant events in each person’s life. This seems a good way of following how my family moved around.

I plan to go through the images I have for each person checking that they are correctly labelled.

The next step will be to check my Ancestry tree for each person to ensure that the information and sources I have correlate. I know there have been times in the past that I accepted hints on Ancestry without adding the information to my main database.

For each person I plan a quick search of the main genealogy websites to see if there is anything else thrown up that I haven’t already learned. I’ll also check to see if they appeared in any newspapers. Then finally I will make notes of things to follow up, can I learn more about their occupation for example.

This feels like a really important step in getting my files in order, and I aim to have an accurate, well sourced family tree on my website and Ancestry. I will then be able to upload this to other websites, with my DNA information in order to make further connections and hopefully collaborate with cousins on getting further back in my research.

I have begun the process with my paternal grandfather. Robert Humphrey Hopkinson, and will follow his line back.

Bob Hopkinson was born in the Derby registration district at the end of June 1923. He was the eldest child of Thomas Humphrey Hopkinson and his wife Adelaide May nee Stewardson. His father ran a grocery and confectionary shop. Four years later his younger sister Adelaide Myrtle Hopkinson was born but when she was just 10 years old their mother died of throat cancer.

Bob was then brought up by his father, at the outbreak of world war two they lived at The Common, in Crich. Bob was working as a farm labourer, but once he turned 18 he joined the RAF. We believe the majority of his service was in Britain, though he did travel overseas shortly after VE Day.

After the war my Grandfather worked for Richard Johnson & Nephew Ltd, a wire producing company with a factory at Ambergate. I believe he was a die grinder. In 1947 he married my Grandmother, Norah May Bowler and the following year my father was born. They lived in Foundary Lane, Belper by this time.

In 1950 his arm became stuck in machinery, fortunately another employee turned it off quickly, but bone had to be grafted from his leg to repair his arm.

Derby Daily Telegraph, 28/8/1950 p12 played down the accident somewhat.

My grandparents had three more children. He died at home in 1986.

Bob and Norah Hopkinson with me.

I know that there is information about his wartime service which I need to follow up. I would also like to learn more about his work at Richard Johnson & Nephew Ltd, and especially the accident that badly damaged his arm. I would love to learn more about his early life and schooling.

Beginnings My family

The Ring! The real beginning.

My first serious attempt at family history research came in the mid nineties, round about the time that I was graduating and beginning a career as a teacher. My grandmother inherited “the diamond ring” from her older sister who had recently passed away. 15 years later it is all a bit hazy, but I remember Grandma describing it as a widows ring, and that it had been passed from mother to oldest daughter to reach her. As she was the youngest of three sisters this story unravelled straightaway. However Great Auntie Kathleen didn’t have any daughters so the ring was kept on the female line.

I was determined to find out what I could about the origins to tell my Grandma. The inscription reads “Ann Dawson ob 24 feb 1755 aet 22” Which I understand means that Ann Dawson died on that date aged 22. A little research back then told me that this was a mourning ring rather than widows ring and that more than one may have been made. From what I read it was the custom to leave money and instructions in a will for the rings to be made and distributed. Ann Dawson was in good company, Shakespeare left around 26 shillings for his wife and daughter to have rings made, while Samuel Pepys bequeathed over a hundred. This ring seems to be entirely typical of its time, and the black inlay suggests that Ann Dawson was probably married.

The inscription on the mourning ring.

Finding out who Ann Dawson was, proved much harder than I’d realised. I was on a steep learning curve of census returns, parish records and GRO indexes, at a time when transcriptions on the internet were still in their infancy, and I had little money for buying birth, marriage and death certificates or for travelling to archive offices. As you can see on my Tribal Pages I have found a connection to a Dawson family. Let’s work backwards, my Mum was left the ring by her Mum, my Grandma, Bessie Tomlinson, nee Wadsworth.
Grandma received it from her older sister Kathleen. It was passed to Kathleen by her mother Florence Wadsworth, nee Roberts. Now, assuming that I have the right Dawson family, Florence probably received the ring from her mother-in-law, Ann Roberts who had just one son.
Ann probably received the ring from her mother Sarah Roberts, nee Dawson. Sarah’s christening shows her parents were John and Elizabeth Dawson, and going through the baptism book in Doncaster archives I found that she was probably the eldest of 6 children. And that was where my research came to and end. Over the years I’ve looked at other lines and developed a real love of family history, but I’ve become distracted from the purpose of finding out who Ann Dawson who died aged 22 on 24th February 1755 was, and how she is connected to me. Grandma passed away in 2013 and so I’ll never be able to tell her, but hopefully one day I’ll find out enough to tell my niece when she receives the ring.

Many thanks to Vera Hopkinson for taking the pictures for me.


How it all began

Well this is scary…. I’ve never written a blog before, and writing text was never my strong point in school and university. Please bear with me while I figure out how all this works.

I thought I remembered that I had starting tracing my family history when my Grandmother inherited a widow’s ring, but while searching for something else I realised that it goes back further than that. I can tell you the exact date I began, 13th October 1984, thanks to a book I discovered buried in the bottom of my “family history box”. I’m surprised by how much of the book 10 year old me filled in. Another item added to my ever growing to-do list is to work through the book ensuring that all the information I gathered back then, when I could actually speak to my grandparents, is included in my family history.

Front page of Trace Your Family Tree by Margaret Crush completed by Ruth.

I had a copy of Trace Your Family Tree by Margaret Crush for my initial foray into family history research. It was all completed by interviewing family members, back then there was no Ancestry website, and I certainly didn’t visit any archive offices, I doubt I even knew what a census return was.

Here is 10 year old me, sitting on Hadrian’s Wall. Back then I wrote in the book that I lived in Macclesfield, had two sisters, brown hair and blue eyes, that I didn’t like spellings, but did like maths and trains. Well some of that has changed. I now have three siblings and have more or less mastered spelling. I did a degree in maths and education before moving to North Wales, where through the Ffestiniog Railway I met my husband, Tony. Trains are still very much part of our lives, he runs Rhos Helyg Locomotive Works a garden railway specialist and my full time job is as a tour consultant for Ffestiniog Travel, booking holidays for rail enthusiasts.
My other loves include Harry Potter, Jane Austen novels and fanfiction and our cats. During furlough I’ve been walking regularly, visiting the graveyards in Pentrefelin to transcribe the headstones, finding geocaches and Pokemon.

10 year old Ruth at Hadrians Wall
10 year old Ruth at Hadrian’s Wall