My family Pentrefelin

52 Ancestors: Week 21 – At the Cemetery

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.

Most genealogists and family historians will find any excuse for a wander around a cemetery. There is a wealth of information in cemeteries. To give something back to the genealogy community I am transcribing the memorials in two local graveyards Tabor Chapel and Ynyscynhaiarn Church. I will add them to Find-A-Grave when I find time too.

I do like the Welsh tradition of putting address on gravestones, so useful to us when this information has been forgotten. I hadn’t realised it was a particularly Welsh thing to do until I was looking for a geocache in my Mum’s local churchyard in Kent. We spotted one gravestone with an address:

St Mary the Virgin churchyard High Halden, Ashford, Kent
In Loving Memory of
Catherine Poulton
the wife of
William Williams of Gates
High Halden
Born 4th April 1845 Died 5th April 1917
Also of William Williams
Born 31 July 1842 Died 23rd Oct 1931
Thank you to Mum, Vera Hopkinson, for this picture.

William Williams of Gates Farm, High Halden sounds to have Welsh connections, and the Welsh tradition of an address on the memorial inscription has been followed.

Years ago I spent some time exploring the churchyard at St Alban’s Wickersley where many of my Downes and Wadsworth ancestors were buried. My 3rd great grandparents moved to Wickersley around 1835 and had 13 children in total.

to the memory of
Son of John and
Martha Downs
Who departed this life
October 20th 1839.
Aged 2 years and 6 weeks
Also William their son
who departed this life
June 21st 1841 aged 2 years
Also Henry John Grayson
their son who departed this
life Nov 20th 1846 aged 10 years
and 10 months.
Also Caroline their daughter
who departed this life
April 14th 1848 aged 1 year and
11 months.

I find this gravestone heart-breaking. To lose one child must be horrendous. To lose four children in nine years just does not bear thinking about.

to the memory of
Benjamin Roberts
who died March 24th 1826
aged 43 years
also John son of the above
died July 27 1810
aged 1 year and 9 months
also Sarah wife of
Richard Oliver and relict of the above named
she died Nov 9th 1857 aged 72 years.

This gravestone, for my 4th great grandparents Benjamin and Sarah Roberts confused me. Benjamin Roberts was born in about 1782 and was baptised in Bramley near Wickersley, West Riding of Yorkshire. In 1806 he married Sarah Dawson, who was baptised in Tickhill in 1783. They had at least four children between 1808 and 1822, but as seen on the gravestone Benjamin died in 1826 aged 43.

Sarah married Richard Oliver on 24th December 1832 in the Cathedral Church of St Peter & St Paul, Sheffield. He was about 27 years old and she was 49 years old. Sarah died 15 years later and was buried with her first husband.

Richard Oliver went on to marry Benjamin and Sarah’s daughter Ann, his step-daughter. Ann already had an 8 year old illegitimate son, John, my 2nd great-grandfather.

I can’t help wondering what gossip there was around Richard Oliver, Sarah and Ann. Why did they both marry him? And of course, who was John Robert’s father?

You never know what you will find at the cemetery, and it is always worth looking for your ancestors gravestones.

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.