I was thinking the other day how cool it was that we were having another total eclipse of the sun, and how I wish it was in the UK again. It was 1999 since we had a total eclipse and it was so eerie. It was the middle of the day but it felt like dusk and all the birds went quiet. I remember watching it on TV and out in the back garden. It was even better for me as the Dean of the Faculty I was in, Professor Parkin, who I always got on with, was on TV explaining what was happening. We had a partial eclipse in 2015 and it was as surreal as although it didn’t go quite so dusk the birds still went quiet.
It got me thinking, we have the media and they were able to tell us the eclipse was going to happen and show us pictures of it from around the world, but what happened before we had TV and radio. How did our ancestors react to an eclipse?
So for example on the 3 May 1715 Britain had a total solar eclipse (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_solar_eclipses_visible_from_the_United_Kingdom#21st_century_.28AD_2001_.E2.80.93_2100.29) but what did the people think. It would have been OK for those who could afford to purchase a newspaper and read about the forthcoming event, but what about the rest of the population. How did they react to it going dusk in the middle of the day? They would probably have had no idea as to what was happening. Did they think it was the end of the world?
Another partial eclipse that occurred was in 1485. It happened on the day the queen consort of England, Anne Neville, the wife of King Richard III died. At this time it could only mean one of two thing, the eclipse caused the death of the Queen or the eclipse was the result of her death. It must be a sign form the heavens. The people must have flocked to the church in fear when they found out. But they probably found out weeks later by the time the news filtered through to them.
I suppose what I’m getting at is how our ancestors reacted to events they had no knowledge of. We have an eclipse and it’s all over the media with live views from space and think it’s interesting. But if you don’t know what it is how do you react. I suppose it depends of your station in society. Someone higher up in society will probably have had a better education and have learned some astronomy and had knowledge of what was happening, but the farmer in the fields would wonder what the heck was going on.
This works with other major events though if you think about it. We know when something has happened as we have 24 hour rolling news and nothing can happen without a reporter there in hours bringing us all the latest news live, but how many major events happened that most of our ancestors never new anything about, or did not now about but had to wait months, if not years to find out what happened.
So for example, most people would have known about major wars as the army and navy would go around amassing the army. Men and boys would go off to war and fight for King and Country, but would their family ever find out what was happening to their loved ones or even if they were still alive. They couldn’t watch the news, they had to wait for news to get to them. This could mean they had to wait for the men of their village or town to come home to find out their family’s fate.
We may moan about how the media is affecting our lives and how technology is getting in the way of our lives but at least we know what’s going on and what’s happening that affects us directly. Our ancestors didn’t have that luxury and it must have caused a lot of heart ache and pain. So in a sense we’re luck even if the media can be annoying, but I suppose there is always the off button.
You start of researching and are happily finding past ancestors right left and centre and then you come across a living relative. Then you start thinking should I contact them. It’s a difficult question to answer. There are so many things you have to consider. Will they want to be contacted? Will contacting them cause problems in the family? You may want to get to know them, but your immediate family may not want you to as they know more about what went on than you do. How far do you want to take the contact? Do you just want to email back and forth or do you want to meet up? Just because you do doesn’t mean they will.
I know first-hand this is a difficult one to answer. My Grandma left home when she married my Grandpa and never went back. He brother had left home at 16 and she never saw him again (or so we thought until I found a photo which shows them when they were older).
When I first saw this photo the other week I assumed the man on the left was Edith Staton (in the middle) future husband. But then I thought Edith was only a young teenager. So I downloaded a piece of face recognition software and compared this gentleman with the man of Edith’s wedding and it wasn’t the same man. So I though, it must be Grandma’s brother Fred.
Fred was born in 1905 and Grandma was born in 1912. In July 1918 their mother Eva Dent died from an appendicitis and peritonitis after having a laparotomy 2 days earlier. A year later their father Percy Staton remarried. He married a 21 year old when he was 41. From what I can gather the 2 children did not like their step mother (and who can blame them from letter I have that she wrote to her step daughter). Edith was born in December 1919 and was the only child of the couple.
Now from my research I know Fred had 2 children. I know who they are but should I contact them? My dilemma is will they want to be contacted. I assume they know about their aunt, but I don’t know that for certain. It may be that if I contact them it may cause problem as they may have been told different things by their father and have a different view of the family. This brings up another dilemma as I don’t want to cause problems within the family. I can only go on how I would fell. I would like to be contacted.
In fact I have been contacted. Last year I was contacted by a lady in Australia whose mother is my late Grandma’s cousin. In 1924 when he was 16 Edward Wardle left Sheffield and moved to Australia. Here he led an interesting life to say the least as I found out from my new cousin.
I felt so wonderful to be able to email back and forth with my cousin and get to know about a family member who appeared to disappear. I fascinated me how much we were able to fill in the blanks for each other and how little each side knew about the other.
I’ve also been contacted via both my website and Ancestry by people who share common ancestors with me and they too have been able to help me fill in the blanks as I have for them.
I suppose you can only go with your gut. I never have made contact as I have to consider what others may want, but when I’m contacted I think it’s wonderful. It can take a lot of soul searching to make contact, but you have to be prepared for your contact to be ignored.
Now I know graveyards are the resting places of our ancestors and should be respected but they should also be places to enjoy.
A graveyard is a special place to visit. They can give us some much. An afternoon wandering amongst the graves learning about the people who now live there is a relaxing time. It’s a great way for kids to learn about their local history and for them to meet their ancestors. A graveyard can also attract so much wildlife and nature into a town or city. They are great places for wildlife to live and for nature to thrive.
Graveyards come in several forms. There is the cemeteries that many of us are familiar with where hundreds, if not thousands are buried.
In many places they are the traditional graveyard with the graves around the parish church.
These graveyards appear to have a hierarchy to them. It always seems to me that the nearer the church or main path to the church the more important the person was. It seems the only way a person can deem more important in death is by being buried in the church itself.
Another way a person can show they importance in life is by the grave itself. A plane grave stone can show the importance of the person by the size of it. The bigger the stone presumably the more important they are, although if there are many family members on it then this could also be the reason. Any time spent in a grave yard shows that there are some really fancy graves out there.
I suppose someone with a lot of money can afford a fancier memorial to themselves and so demonstrates their wealth in life. I wouldn’t think many, for example, farm labourers on a massive farm could afford a large gravestone, if any at all, but the farm owner may be able to. This demonstrates one of the ways graves can use symbolism.
The subject of symbolism is massive. The symbolism can range from a small portion of the grave to all of it. From example an owl on a grave shows a wise person and a broken urn can mean a person was very old when they died. If you want to know more there are 2 excellent website:
It’s amazing how much symbolism there is.
Graveyards also can be great places to view nature. There is debate as to how graveyards should be managed. Some argue that disused graveyards should be left to become overgrown and allow nature to take over, others feel the graveyard should be kept neat and tidy. I’m somewhere in between. I feel the graves themselves should be kept nice and if the grave stone has to be laid down then they should be done so the writing on the stone can be seen, but the surrounding grounds could be left more informal so that nature can move in (or be introduced. Some graveyards have sheep to keep the grass cut).
I’d like to think that nature can help those visiting their loved ones in the graveyard and those buried there can enjoy the wildlife. Just think how the songs of the birds can make you smile, and who doesn’t want to watch squirrels running about and playing. It can help make a difficult visit more pleasant. It also brings nature into places where it might otherwise not be. In the cities graveyards give a space for nature and a place where we can go and experience it.
First and foremost graveyards are the resting places of our ancestors, but they are also places where we can go not only to visit our ancestors, but also to see nature and gives us some peace in the busy towns and cities and help distress us and hopefully mean it’s longer until we ourselves reside there.
We’ve all heard the expression the black sheep of the family, but do we have any in our ancestry. The answer is probably yes depending on what you think of as a black sheep.
When someone says black sheep, what do they mean? Most probably think of the shadowy figure of mystery in the family who’s rarely mentioned and through time no one really knows what they actually did to earn the title of black sheep. But where they really a black sheep or did they in reality just not conform to what the family wanted.
Ok take for example someone who went to prison. Now I know when you say they went to prison, it’s usually because they did something bad, but surely they is a scale of bad. So killing someone is bad they really are black sheep. But others?
Let’s take the example of Peter Arnold Wardle (or 3 times Great Granddad as I call him) Peter was an auctioneer in Werneth, Cheshire. In 1890 he was a defendant in the trail of Wych v Higginbottom (what the trial was about I’ve never discovered). He did not deliver certain documents to the court so the judge sent him to prison for contempt of court. He spent 9 months in Knutsford Jail until he was released in May 1891 after he produced the documents to the court.
In some families this would make Peter a black sheep, but I don’t think he is. A bit silly for not producing the documents and going to prison leaving his wife and 4 children to fend for themselves, but not really a criminal. And in the end, did the punishment fit the crime. Peter died just over a year later of TB which he’d had for 6 months, which presumable could be linked to the conditions in jail.
Also on the prison front is the debtor’s jail. Were they really black sheep? In some cases yes they were. They borrowed money with no intention of paying it back. But others just were at a point where they had to borrow the money in order to survive or face the workhouse, and when they couldn’t pay, they went to jail where they had to pay for board and lodgings, which they couldn’t afford and so the vicious circle continued.
Some women have also been portrayed as a black sheep due to their lifestyle shall we say. It wasn’t uncommon for women who had illegitimate children to be classed as immoral and caste out of the family. They name may have been passed down the generations as a black sheep, when in reality they had done nothing wrong.
People can be classed as a black sheep due to choices they made in life. If someone left the UK to live abroad in the Victoria times they were usually classed as one of three things, a pioneer, someone looking for a better life or a black sheep running away. The family may have classed them as a black sheep just because they didn’t do what the family wanted. For example, which would you rather do stay in the UK and work on a farm, or travel to say the USA and try and find your fortune?
So it all boils down to this in the end are they really black sheep? Or were they just someone who was not conforming to what society at the time told them they should do. It’s up to you to decide, but remember no matter what they allegedly did they are your ancestors and without them you wouldn’t be reading this today.