Writing about the past… sometimes it seems impossible that we could tell our ancestors stories, particularly those of whom we only have a blurry photo and a few details, gleaned from a genealogical website.
Here Lois Elsden writes about her great-grandmother, using a photo as a starting point:
If you look at the picture below you will see an elderly lady, on a picnic, surrounded by her four smiling sons, her daughter, daughters-in-law and grandchildren. This elderly lady is my great-grandmother after whom I’m named
It’s not a very good picture, and I think the ‘original’ I have is a copy. I’m so pleased the old lady is smiling; although I don’t know much about her as a child and young woman, I do know that as a mother of these five people she had a very, very difficult time when they were young.
She was born into a large family, her father was a basket maker – but basket in the 1850’s weren’t the ornamental things we have today; in the days before plastics and light alloys, having a strong yet robust lightweight container for goods of all shapes and sizes must have been an important, and almost intrinsic part of life, commerce and the transport of goods. She was the seventh child in the family of ten children; her mother may have died when she was only eight years old, but at the moment I’m not sure about the date.
Her life between the 1861 census and the 1881 census is a mystery, for the moment, but somehow she met the man she fell in love with and who was the father of her children – the five children you see as adults in this picture. He died when the oldest child was still a teenager, and his youngest child was only three. The most difficult time for his bereaved ‘wife’, must have been bringing up the children, as she was not legally his wife at all, they had never married.
So here, in this photo, over thirty years after she was ‘widowed’, here she is with her happy, successful family; all married, all have or went on to have children, and although I wasn’t born until almost a hundred years after she was, and obviously never knew her, I and my cousins felt her influence – particularly in the way we should behave, in manners, courtesy and behaviour.
Her family name was Penney, her mothers name was Quenby, and her children were all Walfords… if any of these names appear in your family, who knows, we maybe cousins!
© Lois Elsden 2017