My family

52 Ancestors: Week 49 – Handmade

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. I should have completed all 52 prompts by now, but I will do so as soon as possible.

There was never any question over who this prompt would be about. It always had to be about my Mum. She is one of the most talented needlewomen I know.

I have just had a look through her Facebook page and here are some of her makes from 2021. Many of the quilts and blankets are given to charities such as Project Linus.

All images above (c) Vera Hopkinson 2021.

I just had a quick look around our house for things Mum has made, there are the living room curtains, and two patchwork duvet covers. These are just a selection of what I found on a very quick look. I’m afraid I’ll offend her by what is left out!

I asked her how it all began. After all, she was crafting long before I was born. I remember wearing handmade clothes as a young child. There were some jumpers that were knitted in three different sizes so that I could wear them at the same time as my siblings.

Images: Photograph. Vera Hopkinson knitting. 01 July 2018. Llanrhaeadr-ym-Mochant. Max Hopkinson.

“I have been sewing all my life, since before I can remember. I say that because I remember a pot holder at my maternal grandmother’s house that was always called “Vera”. It was a pretty scruffy thing and I remember asking, when I was aged about 8 why it has my name, and the answer was that I had given it to my Grandma as a Christmas present when I was 3. I can only assume my Paternal Grandmother who lived next door to us had been the one to get me to make it.

Some of my earliest memories are of being taught to use my Grandma’s treadle sewing machine. I wasn’t tall enough to reach the pedal, so she would sit me on her knee and she would operate the treadle while I guided the fabric under the needle. When I was about 7 she started teaching me embroidery and when I was 8 I was entering competitions run by the local Methodist church. I don’t think I ever won, but when I cleared out my mother’s house I found some of the work I had done, and I had difficulty believing I had been so young when I did it.

I learnt to knit in my early teens, and to crochet while I was a student. There aren’t many yarn or fabric crafts I haven’t had a go at. When my children were small I made a lot of their clothes, and they must have felt they were OK because 3 of them asked me to make their wedding dresses. In the event I only made 2, because the 3rd was having quite a short engagement and with my mother being very ill we decided time was too short.

I used to knit for my grandchildren, but now they are older they don’t really like handknits anymore! However, a few years ago one of them insisted in saving up any damaged to toys for my visits because she was sure “Grandma can fix it”

Now there is hardly a day goes by that I don’t get at my sewing machine, usually making patchwork quilts. All the family have several, and I make them for Project Linus, who give them to “Children in need of a hug”. In the evenings while watching TV I usually have either a crochet hook or knitting needles in my hands. During lockdown I gave a number of handmade blankets to people who had lost loved ones. I called them “woolly hugs” because I couldn’t give them the hug they really needed.”

Images: Photograph. Ruth and Tony Willmore. 07 June 2008. Tan-y-Bwlch station, Ffestiniog Railway, Maentwrog. [photographer unknown] Private collection of Ruth and Tony Willmore.
Embroidered by Vera Hopkinson, aged 8.

Other posts about this family

My family

52 Ancestors: Week 42 – Sports

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. I should by now be writing week 52, but study, work and life got in the way. I’m rapidly catch up over the 12 days of Christmas.

My immediate family is some of the least sporty that I know. I hated P.E. at school. Standing around being hit by hockey balls and sticks, trudging through mud, never quite managing to catch the netball, always being the last to be picked for the team. Just not happy memories. I have always enjoyed swimming, and while never fast, I could keep going and swim a mile easily. In more recent times I was enjoying badminton pre-pandemic and really should try to get back into it.

I don’t take after my grandfather, Eric Tomlinson, in this respect. He really was a sportsman.

Here he is with a cricket team, he is in the middle row, 3rd from the right, wearing glasses. I think the team would be Oberon Athletic club.

He was an allrounder in cricket. Below are his 1937 Fielding Prize cup, his 1938 Batting average cup and 1940 Bowling average cup from the Oberon Athletic Club. Finally a tankard awarded in 1970 for, we think, umpiring, by Brettles, his workplace.

He also played table tennis. This clipping reports that all the best players in the county took part in the Derbyshire Championships in front of a large crow of spectators. Grandpa (known by his adoptive parents/uncle’s surname Hunt in his youth) was beaten 21-13 by F. Hill in the second round.[1]

I believe during his time in the army he played football too.

Other posts about this family

  1. Derby Evening Telegraph. (1938) Table Tennis Early Results in Derbyshire Championships. Derby Evening Telegraph. 08 November. p. 3g. : accessed 19 September 2020.

My family

52 Ancestors: Week 41 – Changes

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. I should by now be writing week 52, but study, work and life got in the way. I’m rapidly catch up over the 12 days of Christmas.

When I mentioned to Tony that today’s prompt is “changes” he immediately started singing David Bowie’s “Changes”. I was hoping for something more helpful to write a blog about, but there you go. Instead here are some of the changes that occurred during my Great Grandmother Clara Orme’s lifetime. My family history software, Legacy, helpfully provides some chronologies which I find very useful in setting my ancestors lives into context.

Clara Orme was born on 01 April 1880 in West Bromwich.[1] Queen Victoria was on the throne, Benjamin Disraeli was the Prime Minister, though he was about to be replaced by William Gladstone, and Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Pirates of Penzance was about to debut at the Strand in London.

When Clara died aged 92 on 29 December 1972[2] the world was a very different place. She had moved to Belper, Derbyshire in when she was less than year old[3], and married Charles Hunt in 1902.[4]


Photography had been invented before Clara was born, and there had been a studio in Derby from 1844.[5] By 1881 the family could have had pictures taken in near by Ripley by Abraham Booth. These would have been the thick card, credit card sized Carte-de-visite style pictures. In 1900 the Kodak Brownie went on sale, bringing photography to the masses for the first time. By 1972 a folding Polaroid camera was available.

News Reporting

When Clara was 2 years old one of the most deadly and destructive volcanic events in recorded history took place when Krakatoa began erupting on 20 May 1883. The news did not reach Britain for 4 days[6] and all the news reports are short unillustrated statements.

Just a few years after Clara died, Mount St Helens erupted in what has been called the most disastrous volcanic eruption in U. S. History.[7] It took 2 days for illustrations and dramatic headlines to appear in the British papers.[8]
In 2021 we would have had 24 hour news coverage across television, Twitter and much more.


When Clara was born hot air balloons had been gliding through the skies for about 100 years. But Clara and Charles had been married a year by the time the Wright Brothers achieved powered flight. I find it amazing to think that on 20 July 1969 she would have sat down with her son and daughter -in-law to watch the first moon landings.

Rights of Women

Clara’s mother, Martha Orme, was not allowed to own property. It was not until The Married Women’s Property Act 1882[9] that a married woman had control over her property. This law meant that unlike her mother Clara could earn money for herself, she could inherit and rent property.

The 1880s saw the first woman receive degrees in Britain and the beginning of the suffrage movement and finally in 1918 women voted in a general election. [10]

Clara did not live to see a female Prime Minister or free contraception, but much had changed for women in her lifetime. Not just women, the world was a very different place in 1972 to one in which Clara was born in 1880.

Other posts about this family

  1. Births. England. RD West Bromwich, Staffordshire. 01 April 1880. ORME, Clara. Vol 6b. p. 864.
  2. Testamentary records. England. 21 February 1973. HUNT, Clara. Will and grant of probate.
  3. Census Records. England. RD: Belper, Derbyshire. 03 April 181. ORME, Clara (Daur). RG11/3414. FL. 45. p. 34 SH. 20.
  4. Marriages (NCR) England. Belper, Salem Methodiist. 27 September 1902. ORME, Clara and HUNT, Charles. [Transcription]. BRO/11/008. Collection: Derbyshire Registrars Marriage Index. : accessed 02 July 2010.
  5. Payne, Brett . Photographers Photographic Studios in Derbyshire, England. : accessed 31 December 2021
  6. London Evening Standard. (1883) General Intelligence. London Evening Standard. 24 May. p. 2f : accessed 31 December 2021
  7. Wikipedia contributors. (2021) ‘1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens’ In: Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia.. : accessed 31 December 2021
  8. Connew, Paul. (1980) Two Shadows over America today The Power and the Fury. Daily Mirror. 20 May. p. 5 : accessed 31 December 2021
  9. Married Women’s Property Act 1882 (c. 75) United Kingdom. London: HMSO. : accessed 31 December 2021
  10. Twile. Timeline of The history of Women’s Rights in Britain. : accessed 31 December 2021.

My family

52 Ancestors: Week 20 – Cousin Bait

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. I am way behind with my writing …. I could blame my University course, but term finished a month ago. I have just been doing other things. Hopefully this will be the first of a flurry of blogs and I will catch up.

Cousin Bait generally means leaving information online which will lead unknown cousins to make contact. Cousins, whether first cousins, or more distant, share ancestors and will therefore be researching some of the same people. Research can then be shared and collaboration is possible. In some ways this blog, when I write about specific ancestors, is cousin bait. If you do recognise someone I’m writing about then I would love to hear from you.

Cousin bait isn’t something I have been very good at, but I am slowly starting to leave a trail for people to be able to contact me. I have a tree on Ancestry, it is not as up to date as I would like, and doesn’t show all my sources. Once I have completed a review of my offline tree I plan to upload it to Ancestry to replace what I have there currently. I do check Ancestry for messages regularly and have made contact with some cousins that way. I wrote last year about receiving copies of some letters written by my great grandfather. I would not have seen those had it not been for the tree on Ancestry.

Another technique that I use is to leave memorials on Find-A-Grave. For example my 3rd great grandmother Esther Ellis’s grave in Brassington, Derbyshire. Anyone else looking for her on the website will see that I have a connection and can make contact.

There is one website specifically designed for contacting cousins. It is simple, yet brilliant. This is the Lost Cousins website. Since I heard the founder Peter Calver speak at a Society of Genealogists event in May I have begun adding my ancestors to it and would recommend that all genealogists do so. Identifying our ancestors on the 1881 census allows us to find and collaborate with distant cousins who are researching the same people.

My family

52 Ancestors: Week 4 – Favourite Photo

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 Favourite Photo.

How is it the 4th week of 2021 already? Time seems to be flying by. The Society of Genealogists Stage 2 Skills evening course begins this week, I’m really excited to learn more.

I do not have a specific favourite photo, much depends on my mood, and what I’ve been looking at recently. However, scrolling through I found this wonderful picture of my great-grandparents Charles and Clara Hunt with their children and children-in-law.

I have no idea who took the picture, but I think it was taken for Charles and Clara’s Golden wedding celebrations in 1952. They are wearing the same clothes as in the picture in the paper.

The family are standing outside the home they had built 34 Sandbed Lane, Openwoodgate. Charles’ mother and sister lived next door, in the other half of the semi-detached house, for many years and it was then let out until my grandfather moved in.

Charles Hunt was a “thrower” for Denby pottery, working there for 54 years until his retirement aged 67. Although I knew from Mum that he had worked at Denby this was confirmed by another newspaper extract about the Golden Wedding.

His wife Clara was born in West Bromwich but moved to the Belper area with her family before she was a year old. They married in 1902 but apparently could not have children. They adopted Alice and Eric.

Eric was my grandfather, I think it is him peering over his father’s shoulder. I’ve written about him before. His mother, Martha, Clara’s younger sister died in 1922 when he was five. He lived just down the road from his aunt and uncle and regularly visited. I understand that his father asked Charles and Clara to bring him up on the condition that they did so as their own son.

Clara and Martha’s sister Annie had married Sam Wass and moved away to Wickersley, near Rotherham. Annie’s daughter Marjorie went to stay with her auntie Clara one summer, and took her best friend Bessie with her. Bessie eventually married Eric in 1943, and that is her, holding her mother-in-law’s arm and smiling at the right hand side. Grandma didn’t often smile in photos and that is one of the main reasons I chose this as one of my favourites. It also makes me smile to see her arm-in-arm with her mother-in-law, a relationship that can be awkward.

Next to Charles Hunt in the picture is his adopted daughter Alice. I’m not sure exactly when she was adopted, it was too early for official legal adoption paperwork. She was born in 1907, and in 1911 was living with her two older sisters, three uncles, mum and grandfather. By this time her father was working in New Zealand, I’ve yet to find out why. Her mother died in the early part of 1912 and it seems that Alice was then separated from her sisters and brought up by the Hunt family. I am hoping that the 1921 census released next January will shed some more light on her birth family. Alice married in 1935 and that is her husband Albert peeping between Clara and Grandma. Alice and Albert lived further along Sandbed Lane for the remainder of their lives.

Here are a few more pictures of the family.

My family

#52 Ancestors – Gratitude

Rather late to the party for 2020 I have decided to participate in Amy Johnson Crow’s 52 Ancestors Challenge and this week’s writing prompt is GRATITUDE

Like last week this subject has made me realise how little I know about most of my ancestors. I can’t think of anything that they might have been thankful for. I’m not aware of any thank you cards, though I’ve a box of paperwork that I’ve not yet managed to go through in great detail. That is very much on my “to do” list, as I know there are wedding invitations, birth announcements and all sorts of interesting things in there.

So, time to think outside the box. I’ll tell you about the ancestors to whom I’m grateful. I mean, of course, I’m grateful to all of them, if they hadn’t married they people that they did, if they hadn’t had children, I wouldn’t be here.

However, more specifically, I’m grateful to those that took photographs of each other, particularly those who labelled the photos! There is nothing more frustrating than a pile of pictures of unidentified relatives with no clues as to who they are. Please, on behalf of your future descendents, identify your pictures! These days that probably means tagging them on Facebook, or using folders for different people. I’m as guilty as anyone of this, after all, I know who the people in the pictures are!

I’m also grateful to my grandfather Eric Tomlinson, and his father Charles Hunt, both of whom I’ve written about previously. They both kept little notebooks, “books of happenings”.

Books of happenings

These little notebooks are treasure troves. From these I know for example that Alice Meakin died 3-3-1979, the greenhouse was taken down on 6/8/79 and my Grandma had new glasses on 7/8/79. There is much more detail about some events than others but it gives me lots of useful dates. Family and friends births, marriages and deaths are muddled up with wallpapering. It’s fascinating to see what was considered important.

Charles Hunt’s book of happenings 1950

So, on American Thanksgiving Day, this year I’m saying thank you to my ancestors for giving me lots of interest to research.

My family

#52Ancestors – Good Deeds

Rather late to the party for 2020 I have decided to participate in Amy Johnson Crow’s 52 Ancestors Challenge and this week’s writing prompt is GOOD DEEDS.

I stumbled across this year long series of writing prompts last week and thought it was a really good idea. I’ve discovered that it will continue next year so I’ve jumped straight in.

I’ve been mulling over what to write for a few days, and if nothing else this prompt has shown me that I know very little about my ancestors characters. I’m quite sure many of them did many good deeds, but how would I know? Some good deeds may be recorded in newspapers but many will have been lost in the mists of time.

However, a few weeks ago I stumbled across some pictures on Ancestry which led me to receive copies of a letter written by my Great Grandfather Charles Hunt to his cousin, Louisa who had emigrated to Canada. The letter was to advise that his sister Phoebe had recently died, and his mother had subsequently moved in with him, his wife and my grandfather. I wrote about my Grandfather, Eric, last week, he was adopted by his Aunt and Uncle as a young boy after his mother died. The letter is well written, and Charles Hunt comes across as a very caring compassionate man. As the lady who sent me the letter, Louisa’s descendent, said to me, most men at the time would have left writing the letter to their wife.

He sounds like a man with a lot going on, a very deaf 93 year old mother in a “bedsit” and a 21 year old son at home. A daughter with a 20 month old child living close by, new tenants next door and of course working full time as a thrower at Denby Pottery. Still he takes the time to write to his cousin to let her know what happens, and apologises that he has taken three months to pass on the news. Phoebe had lived next door, in the other half of the semi-detached house with their mother.

Clara Hunt, his wife, lived to the age of 92, dying not long before I was born. My Mum has often talked about her grandmother going out to help the “old people”, many of whom were younger than her.