Posts about genealogy research and my experiences

52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy & History – Disasters

This is the tenth challenge in a weekly series from GeneaBloggers called 52 weeks of personal genealogy and  history, suggested  by Amy Coffin,  that invite genealogists to record memories and insights about their own lives for future descendants.  Week 10 – Disasters

Today, 9th March 2011 my home town of Sutton-on-Sea will be taking part in Operation Watermark. Funded by Defra and taking place all over the country it is an exercise designed to test both local and national preparations in the event of a flood.  Volunteers will be evacuated from their homes during the day, taken to a rest centre then returned  home in the evening.

I wasn’t born at the time of the flood in 1953 but my mother, father and brother (Ian), who was only five at the time, lived through the disaster.  My mum never really got over it.  In my youth I would love to go onto the promenade on a rough night and watch the waves crashing over the sea wall but for mum the fear was just too great.

My parents ran a glass and china business about 300 yards inland, but down the same street, from The Bacchus Hotel: the white building featured in this picture.  The hotel is still there looking much the same as is the building which housed our shop although we moved out in the early seventies.

Army Duck

Dad, Mum and Ian were rescued by Army ‘duck’ on 1February 1953 the day after the sea had breached the defenses.  By this time the water level had receded but they still had to be reached through an upstairs window.  They were taken up to Hannah Hill.  This is hardly a hill but the very flat landscape of Lincolnshire means we clutch at any incline we can.  It was obviously steep enough to stem the tide as this is as far as it reached – about 2.5 miles inland.

From here the family was moved to Alford.  I’m not sure how long they were here.  Ian went on to stay with an Aunt near Grimsby whilst mum and dad returned to Sutton to start the clean up of their own shop and that of my grandparents who ran their own business from the neighbouring town of Mablethorpe.

Of course for a five year old lad this was all a bit of an exciting adventure.  Ian doesn’t remember being scared even when he saw one of the beach chalets floating down the street or witnessed our dad, chest deep in sea water, bringing two of my brother’s young friends from over the road to his first floor refuge.  Their mum apparently wouldn’t follow so the three of them waved to her from Ian’s bedroom window.

It’d difficult to imagine how terrifying it must have been.  Over 2100 people died, many in Holland which was hardest hit.  There’s more here

In the following years Sutton-on-Sea, which had been protected by only sandhills for most of it’s coast line, was treated to a sea wall along with much of the rest of the east coast.  The first plans for the Thames Barrier started at this time.

The sea defenses have been updated at least twice since.  Most recently sand dredged from the sea bed has been piped to the edge of the beach creating a man made slope This prevents the sea ever reaching the sea wall.  Not so much fun but definitely safer.

Here’s a link to some Pathe news clips

Postcard Fair

I recently decided I wanted to add some postcards to my collection of family history material.  We saw a postcard fair advertised at Pudsey Civic Hall so went along this morning to see what we could find.  I had been looking on eBay for a while but hadn’t bought anything so was quite excited at the prospect of coming home with some purchases.

I was pleasantly surprised at the number of traders there and the huge selection of postcards available.  There was no trouble finding what we were looking for as they were all arranged either geographically or by subject.  I was looking for postcards of Cowling, West Yorkshire and Jayne was looking for postcards of Sutton on Sea and Mablethorpe in Lincolnshire.

I came home with five purchases and Jayne came back empty handed.  My search was somewhat easier as I was looking for any village scenes but Jayne was searching for more specific images.  Her parents and grandparents had shops in Sutton on Sea and Mablethorpe so she was hoping to find some pictures featuring the premises.

I’m happy with the postcards I found and will get them scanned and posted in my blog over the next few weeks.  There are a couple still on eBay that I didn’t see at the fair today so I might invest a bit more money in those.  This is an interesting change of direction for me – away from just researching individual ancestors and looking more at where they lived.

The postcard fairs in Pudsey are every couple of months and I’m sure we will be going again and spending more money.

52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy & History – Sounds

This is the ninth challenge in a weekly series from GeneaBloggers called 52 weeks of personal genealogy and  history, suggested  by Amy Coffin,  that invite genealogists to record memories and insights about their own lives for future descendants.  Week 9 – Sounds

I have always been awake early for as long as I can remember.  My dad worked shifts and I recall lying awake after the alarm clock had sounded and shouting from my bedroom to make sure he got up and off to work on time.  So the sound of a ringing alarm clock brings back good memories.

When I was old enough I got a paper round – first delivering evening papers then eventually doing mornings, evenings and Sundays.  I used to share the early hours with the milk man making his rounds.  In those days in the mid 1960′s the local milk man had a hand pulled cart stacked with milk crates and you could hear the milk bottles rattle and clink as the cart was pulled along the cobbled streets of Leeds.

The local park where we spent many an hour playing football was next to a railway track and I can remember the sound of the steam trains chugging and whistling as they headed to or from Leeds railway station.  I used to watch them and wonder if my granddad was driving or stoking the engine.

Another long lost sound is that of the rag-and-bone man walking the streets with his horse and cart.  They always seemed to shout out in some really incoherent way but basically they were calling something like “any rag and bones”.

Espley Hall

I mentioned in a recent Espley One Name study update that I was hoping to buy an aerial view of Espley Hall from eBay.  Well here it is.

Espley Hall is located near Morpeth in Northumberland.  According to the text in the top right of the image the photograph was taken on 19 August 1918.  I have no idea why the photograph would have been taken and I have no information from the eBay seller.

The building now seems to be used as a hotel, meeting and wedding venue.  I can’t find a website so it looks like we will have to make a trip there before too long and see if we can find any information about the history of the place.

52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy & History – Toys

This is the seventh challenge in a weekly series from GeneaBloggers called 52 weeks of personal genealogy and  history, suggested  by Amy Coffin,  that invite genealogists to record memories and insights about their own lives for future descendants.  Week 7 – Toys

Probably like alot of boys in the UK in the 1950‘s and early 1960‘s my toy box included Dinky and other model cars.  I didn’t have anything rare or unusual – although if I had kept them and still had the original packaging I guess that they might be quite rare and even valuable today.

I remember visiting my grandparents in Leeds and playing on the floor with my cars.  They had a carpet with a design of squares and quite wide tram lines between the squares.  These tram lines were perfect for roads and junctions.

I also had soldiers, cowboys and indians, horses and farmyard animals.  They were more interesting to play with when I got my wooden fort and a wooden farmyard complete with farmhouse, stable, cowshed and pigsty.

Over the years playing with toy soldiers has become big business and there are now online forums and battle re-enactment associations.

I remember having a small train set and a Scalextric track with racing cars.

However I can’t do a post about toys without mentioning the one thing that provided me and my brother with so much entertainment and drove my mother mad.  The good old Subbuteo table football – although in our case we played it on the floor.

We had our own mini league – just the two of us.  We had maybe four teams each, I just can’t remember exactly, and had a fixture list and kept league tables after each round of games.  We set up our Subbuteo football pitch on the floor behind the sofa and we would play for hours.  We didn’t always play to the rules – we bent them a bit.  Instead of flicking the players we might shove them towards the ball.  We shouted and argued with each other – all in the name of winning of course.

On one occasion our mam must have been having a bad day!!  Me and my brother were having our usual heated discussions about whether there was a foul, an off side or whether one or the other of us had cheated in some way.  Suddenly, out of nowhere, our mam appears complaining about our shouting and arguing.  It had obviously got too much for her and she stamped all over our football pitch breaking and severely injuring many of our star players.  Luckily we had other teams of players that we could use.

This incident has gone down in our family folklore and is now recorded for all to see.

52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy & History – Radio and Television

This is the sixth challenge in a weekly series from GeneaBloggers called 52 weeks of personal genealogy and  history, suggested  by Amy Coffin,  that invite genealogists to record memories and insights about their own lives for future descendants.  Week 6 – Radio and Television

I have two very early memories of watching TV as a young child.  The first, like many people my age, is the Watch With Mother programmes.  I don’t recall having a television set at home until the early 1960’s but we may well have done – I just can’t remember.  So my memories of Watch With Mother are from spending time with my grandparents.

The classic line up of shows was

Monday – Picture Book

Tuesday – Andy Pandy

Wednesday – The Flower Pot Men

Thursday – Rag, Tag and Bobtail

Friday – The Woodentops

If I have to choose then I will say that my favourite was Rag, Tag ad Bobtail.

One other programme I remember was Four Feather Falls.  This was a Gerry Anderson puppet show set in the late 19th Century Western town of the same name, and featured the adventures of its Sheriff Tex Tucker who was given four magic feathers by Indian Chief Kalamakooya as a reward for saving the life of Makooya, the chief’s son. Two of these feathers allowed his guns to swivel and fire automatically and the other two allowed his horse (Rocky) and his dog (Dusty) to speak English.

My other very clear TV memory is from the early 1960’s and watching a “western” with my dad.  He liked cowboy programmes and films.  The TV series was Have Gun – Will Travel and starred Richard Boone as a professional gunfighter.

In my teen years the after school TV choice was really between Blue Peter and Magpie.  I was a Magpie watcher.

There are a host of other 1960’s programmes that I used to watch including

Till Death Us Do Part – Warren Mitchell as Alf Garnett.

Monty Pythons Flying Circus

The Prisoner – Patrick McGoohan as Number Six

The Lone Ranger – another western – the masked man and Tonto

Coronation Street – I don’t recall watching the very first episode but have seen it since on various tribute programmes to the long running “soap”.

Top Of The Pops – the weekly pop music fix every Thursday

The Man From Uncle

Match Of The Day – something for the weekend on a Saturday night

Dixon of Dock Green – early police series, aired I think early Saturday evening

Z Cars and Softly Softly – two more police series

The family entertainment and variety programmes included

Take Your Pick – with Michael Miles and the “Yes-No Interlude”

Opportunity Knocks – hosted by Hughie Green

Saturday Night at the London Palladium

My parents didn’t listen to very much radio at all.  So my interest really started by listening to Radio Luxembourg.  I used to share a bedroom with my younger brother so I would have the radio on really low if we had both gone to bed.  The disc jockeys I remember listening to were Tony Brandon, Paul Burnett, Dave Cash and Tommy Vance.  The reception was notoriously bad but I felt “cool” listening all the same.

Of course Radio One came along in 1967 and that was the start of a new era of pop music on the BBC.  Before that listening to music on the BBC was Children’s Favourites with Lesley Crowther and later Ed “Stewpot” Stewart – on a Saturday if my memory is correct.  Also on a Sunday was Two-Way Family Favourites – a request show designed to link families at home in the UK with British Forces serving in West Germany or elsewhere overseas.

If any of my readers share some of these memories please leave a comment for others to see.

52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy & History – Home

This is the fourth challenge in a weekly series from GeneaBloggers called 52 weeks of personal genealogy and  history, suggested  by Amy Coffin,  that invite genealogists to record memories and insights about their own lives for future descendants.  Week 4 – Home

I was born in 1953 and by the time I left home twenty years later I had lived in five different houses.

I was lucky my parents moved to Yorkshire shortly before I was born – if they had left it much later I would have been born in Lancashire.  They moved to Leeds and rented a house in the same street as my dad’s parents.

Stipendiary Street

We lived in the Burmantofts area of the city in a small back-to-back terrace house, number 26 Stipendiary Street.  There was one room and a kitchen downstairs and two bedrooms upstairs.  There was no bathroom or indoor toilet.  In the photograph our house was number 26 – the house on the very right of the picture.

Just next to the house is a small gate which leads to a shared toilet.  I was too young to really remember this house but my mum tells me that there were two toilets in the small yard.  Each toilet was used by two homes.

Stipendiary Street is no longer there.  The area was cleared and some high rise local authority flats (apartments) were built in place of the terraced houses.

Sometime around late 1957 or early 1958 we moved closer to the city centre.  My dad became manager of the Wellington Inn public house on Wellington Road.  We lived here for about 18 months.  My brother was born in the pub in November 1958.  Rumour has it that at the tender age of five or six I used to sneak behind the bar and steal bottles of Babycham.  Sadly the pub was demolished during the time when Leeds was undergoing major redevelopment and the building was in the way of a new road layout.

Dickens Street

We left the pub and moved about a mile up the road to the suburb of Wortley.  Number 8 Dickens Street was another back-to-back terrace house.  There was one room downstairs and two bedrooms upstairs and no bathroom.  Again the toilet facilities were down the street.  My mum says that she didn’t like living in this house at all – in fact I would probably say she hated it.  So this was only ever going to be a temporary stop along the way.  Dickens Street and the surrounding area was flattened by the bulldozers and new homes were built there.

Roseneath Place

Around 1961 / 1962 we moved to 13 Roseneath Place – probably about another mile away and still in Wortley.  This house was a bit bigger – still a back-to-back terrace and the toilet was still down the street – but we had further to walk this time.  The house had one room and a kitchen downstairs and two bedrooms upstairs.  But we also had a cellar and a large attic room.  We lived here until the summer of 1965.  As with all the previous homes this one was also demolished for a new housing development.

Our next house was 39 Benson Gardens in the suburb of Wortley.  This was the first house my parents bought, all the previous ones were rented.  Things were looking up for us by now and we had an indoor toilet and bathroom.  There was one room and a large kitchen downstairs and three bedrooms.  We also had gardens to the front and back of the house.  We also got our first telephone and car while living here.

I left home in 1973 and moved to Bradford about nine miles from Leeds.

My parents moved house again in 1980.  They bought a semi-detached home in Wortley and settled down at last.  My mother still lives in the house and my brother and sister also live in the same suburb with their families.

I moved back to Leeds in 1992 and live in another suburb about four miles from the rest of the family.

Ancestor Approved Award

I was thrilled recently when I discovered that two fellow genealogy bloggers had given me an Ancestor Approved award.  Thank you very much Katie (From Little Acorns) and Sue at (Family History Fun)

I only started blogging about my family history in October 2010 and quickly discovered the Geneabloggers community.  I wanted to write and record details about my family history for me – but it’s a real bonus if others find it interesting too.  So thanks to all who stop by every now and then.  I hope you will keep visiting my blog and please feel free to leave comments.

The Ancestor Approved Award was created by Leslie Ann Ballou of the Ancestors Live Here blog who asks two things of those who receive the award:

  • list ten things you have learned about any of your ancestors that has surprised, humbled or enlightened you
  • pass it along to ten other bloggers who you feel are doing their ancestors proud

So here’s my top ten things that I have discovered:-

  1. I thought my Dawson roots originated in Yorkshire – but it now seems my ancestors are from Lancashire.
  2. My ancestor John Gawthrop was a Wesleyan minister in the 19th century and preached  all over the country.
  3. I have a tenuous link by marriage to Viscount Philip Snowden, the first Labour Party Chancellor of the Exchequer.
  4. Three generations of John Dawson’s (father, son and grandson) tended the water wheel and engine at Ickornshaw Mill  at Cowling in West Yorkshire for over a hundred years.
  5. I still can’t find my great grandma’s birth record.
  6. Don’t accept information on birth, marriage and death certificates to be true.
  7. How hard life must have been for my ancestors in Victorian England.
  8. How much in awe I am of my ancestors who gave their lives in the various conflicts.
  9. How sad I felt to learn that some of my ancestors ended their lives in the Workshouse.
  10. I still have a lot more to discover.

I would like to present this award to the following people:-

John at The Wandering Genealogist

Census Junkie

Pete at A Brummie Family Tree

Vicki at The Thompson Family

Judy at Yorkshire Genealogy

Julie at Anglers Rest

Lynda at Digging Up The Ancients

Alex at Winging It

Annie at Hibbitt Family History Blog

Andrew at History Repeating

52 Weeks To Better Genealogy – Challenge #45 – Family History Resources

Craven’s Part In The Great War

I’ve just discovered this great website when I was looking for stories and information about my relatives who were in the Great War. The website is “respectfully and humbly dedicated to the memories of the men and women from the Craven district who gave their lives for king and country in the First World War, 1914 -1919”.

The site has lots of information and photographs of monuments.

Keighley & District Family History Society

This is the FHS that covers the area where my Dawson ancestors are from.

Keighley and District Family History Society was created in 1986 by a small group of individuals interested in researching Family History. They have a wide network of members from all around the globe and communicate with them regularly via the Journal, the Internet and the Exchange Journals we receive from other Societies. Family history is the focus of the society research, helping members to find out details of their own families.

A fantastic resource.

Wharfedale Family History Group

This is another useful family history group covering some of the area of Yorkshire that I am interested in researching. The group was founded in 1980 and is open to anyone interested in tracing their ancestry.

Craven Indexes

I have purchased copies of the Craven Indexes from this site. They have proved extremely helpful in my research. Definitely check this out if you have roots in the Craven district of Yorkshire and Lancashire.


Cowling Web is a free website dedicated to Cowling Village, it’s inhabitants, history and the surrounding area known as Cowling Parish. This is the home of my Dawson ancestors and this website is my favourite resource for information about the local area.

There is current news and information but most important for genealogists and local historians there is a huge amount of information, stories and photographs.

Cowling Moonrakers

Another great website run by a group of friends interested in local history.

52 Weeks To Better Genealogy – Challenge #44 – Giving Back

I got my Facebook invitation from Geneablogger to take part in this week’s challenge. Being new to this genealogy blogging thing I wasn’t sure what it was all about apart from I guessed giving something back to the genealogy community.

So I clicked on the links in the Facebook message.

Like most other researchers I have used Family Search for many years – especially for IGI information. I must admit that I hadn’t given much thought to all the work that goes in to the indexing of the various records. Just grateful that someone has done it.

However today I signed up to be an indexer for Family Search and completed my first five batches. I intend to make this a regular task. It didn’t take long – only perhaps and hour or so. That’s not much time to give to such vital work for genealogists now and in the future.

If you haven’t signed up then go to the Family Search website and have a look.

I also clicked on another link to Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness.

RAOGK is a global volunteer organisation with over 4000 volunteers in every US state and many international locations. Volunteers take time to do everything from looking up local records to taking pictures of tombstones for other researchers who are unable to get to a particular place – perhaps because it’s in another country.

So I’ve volunteered to take photographs of tombstones in cemeteries in West Yorkshire (England).

I feel as though I have done something really worthwhile today – must reward myself with a glass or two of something alcoholic tonight. Maybe best not to do any indexing afterwards.