These days we are all protected at work by health and safety. As much as you all now grown, it is about protecting you. If you’ve been told how to do something safely then you should be safe. But what happened in the past. Well health and safety didn’t exist. You just crawled into the small spaces under machinery or poured molten metal with no protection. If you were hurt or worse so be it. The worse happened to 2 of my ancestors.
It was an industrial engine that took the life of Archibald Dow Jn my 3 times great grandfather. Archibald was born in Govan, just outside Glasgow, Scotland about 1811. He was one of 16 children born to Archibald Dow and Diana Harker. He married Mary Cameron and had 3 sons. He was employed as an engineman at the Newlandsfield bleach works in Pollockshaw (an area of Glasgow). On the 10th May 1848 Archibald was found in the filter of one of the engines at the works. He was 37 years old. It was initially feared that he had jumped into the machinery deliberately, but the findings of the sheriff were that he had fallen while carrying out maintenance. Archibald had been employed by the works for 24 years (since he was 13 years old). The fallout of the accident had a huge impact on his family. In 1851 his 2 surviving children were living with his parents who were in there late 60’s/early 70’s and who knows where his wife had gone. My 4 times great grandparents seemed to have loads of their grandchildren living with them.
My second ancestor who died at work was my 3 times great uncle Henry Dobby. He was employed to operate the hoist at the Tetley Brewery in Leeds. Henry was born in 1819 in Pateley Bridge, West Riding of Yorkshire to my 4 times great grandparents Henry and Mary Dobby. He was married with 7 children.
Henry died in 1878 when he was 58 years old. Henry was operating the hoist when the chain broke and the item being lifted fell 3 floors. The mechanism that was supposed to prevent falling failed. Henry was underneath at the time and was hit by the item. He died in hospital several days later. The inquest into his death recorded his death was accidental. At the time of his death Henry’s youngest son was only 9 years old. Again the impact on his family must have been huge.
Although a death at work could be devastating to a family it could actually be worse in some ways if they survived. Families could be devastated by the loss of an income with no prospect of a new source of income if the injury was bad enough. Also they could be left with a severely injured family member to care for and medical bills to pay (before 1948 when the NHS was established). But if you think beyond the family injuries could devastate a community. Coming from South Yorkshire injuries at work were common. You had the coal fields, the cutlery industry and the steel works. All were dangerous places to work. You’ve got flying sparks which could set you on file. Red hot molten metal being poured which could severely burn you or you could have the most horrible fate of all in the coal mines. You could be buried alive, die from poisonous gas or die in an explosion
The worse colliery disaster in England happened in Barnsley in 1866. 388 men and boys died in several explosions caused by exploding gas over 2 days at the Oaks Colliery. Just think of the impact on the town. Potentially 388 families lost a loved one who could potentially have been the main income provider of the family. It could have been worse and a family could have lost multiple members. This would have led to high levels of poverty in the community and could have led to businesses closing down and at the worst end of the scale could have meant families entering the workhouse.
So next time anyone complains about health and safety just remember they are keeping you alive. How many of our ancestors would have had a full and long life if health and safety existed in the past.
I’ve said before how important archives are. They are a gold mine of information and give us a fantastic view into our ancestor’s lives, and the newspaper archive is one of the best ways to connect to our past. The best thing about the newspaper archive now is that it can be viewed online and you don’t have to go the bowels of the newspaper building to see them.
OK let’s start with a little bit of history of the printed word and newspapers. Written words have been around for thousands of years and handwritten books were only for the wealthy. In the mid 15th century Johannes Guttenberg developed the printing press, possibly by adapting a wine press. In this press the type was set in the frame, inked and then a sheet of paper was placed over the top. A board was placed over this and the handle pulled. This printed the page and meant that multiples of the same pages could be printed. It also meant that the cost of books reduced and were now more accessible, well relatively speaking as most still couldn’t afford them or even read.
This printing method also lead to the rise of leaflets, pamphlets and newspapers, thus allowing the spread of information throughout the land much faster.
Newspapers were available from the 1600’s onwards and the rise of them was in the 1700’s in the UK. The first recognised newspaper was the Oxford Gazette in 1665 and still exists today as the London Gazette. Most newspapers were regional and included the important information from the area, as well as the major stories of the day. The rise of the national paper began in the 1700’s with The Times first being published in 1788. In 1842 the Illustrated London News was the world’s first illustrated newspaper and included drawings depicting the news of the day, some in colour from the 1850’s. In 1880 the first photo was reproduced in the US paper the Daily Graphic and the first colour photos began to appear in the 1970’s.
So why are the archives so important? Well it’s all well and good having these paper full of the news, but if they’re not preserved then what was the point. You effectively lose all the content that was published. Newspapers are more than just news, they are historical documents no different to old books. We have copies of historical books and documents, such as the Magna Carter signed in 1215 by King John so why not copies of our old newspapers.
They used to be stored in piles by month and year or in large books and you had to search through them being extra careful not to damage the pages. They were then scanned and put on to microfiche and you had to sit in a dark room looking through the pages. Now thanks to the t’inernet (Yorkshire for Internet) you can sit in the comfort of your own home and look at the papers. You can carry out keyword searches and find events and announcements. This is where it becomes valuable to genealogists. You can now search for your ancestors by name and it can help answer questions you have. This was great in the case of my great, great grandfather Peter Wardle. I had found Peter on the 1891 census in Knutsford jail and I had no idea how he got there. What had he done? So I went onto the newspaper archive and put his name in and tadah! Up popped Peter. He had gone to jail for contempt of court when he failed to produce papers needed for a trail. He was in for 9 months and I found an article from the Birmingham Post stating that the judge had ordered his release after he delivered the papers. Without the archive I may never have found out what he did as the records for Kuntsford jail no longer exist.
Your ancestors don’t necessarily have needed to do something newsworthy to be in the news. Families placed announcements for events. This means you may find the announcement of a birth, a marriage which may help you find a new generation of ancestors through the couples parent’s names and you can also find a death announcement which may list family members names and where they were buried.
Don’t discard the newspaper archive, they are fantastic and can help break down brick walls in your research and are also great as a historical primary source and can give you information about not only your ancestors but also what was going on in the world around them. Happy searching!
On the 11th day of the 11th month at the 11th hour the UK will come to a standstill in the remembrance of all the men and women who have died in the service of this country. This year this will be on Saturday and on Sunday the national memorial ceremony will take place at the Cenotaph in London. It will be the first time that Queen Elizabeth II does not lay her wreath, but the Queens wreath will be laid by the Prince of Wales with the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh watching on.
The wearing of poppies was started by the Royal British Legion in 1921, but the idea of the poppy came from Dr Lt Col John McCrae of the Canadian army after seeing the poppies growing at Ypes, Belgium. He had just lost a close friend to the war and it inspired him to write the poem In Flanders Fields.
Since then the poppies have been sold every year to help support those who suffered as a result of the war. Last year the legion was able to spend over £146 million helping veteran service personnel and their families.
But what does remembrance day mean for genealogists. Well for some it may just be researching someone, for others it may be their main focus, for me it means remembering my fallen ancestors.
This is 2 of the faces of the war memorial in Thorpe St Andrew, Norfolk. 3 members of my family are listed on there. 2 were brothers and the other was their cousin. I wish I had pictures of them, but alas I have no idea what they looked like.
The first to die was Corporal James Weeds on the 15 October 1914. He was in the light marine regiment serving on board HMS Hawke. The ship was off Aberdeen along with the rest of her cruiser squadron when she was struck by a torpedo fired by U-9 (U-boat 9). The ship capsized and of the nearly 600 men on board only 70 survived. His name is on the naval memorial at Chatham Naval Dock Yard as his body was never recovered. James was the cousin of my Great Grandfather George.
The next to die was Private Frederick Weeds the brother of the above James Weeds and thus my Great Grandfathers George’s cousin. Frederick was in the 7th battalion of the Norfolk regiment. He died on the 12 October 1916 on the Somme in Northern France. He is remembered on the Commonwealth War Grave Memorial at Thiepval, France along with over 72,000 other casualties. Again his body was never recovered.
The last to die was Private James Daniel Briggs and he was the cousin of James and Frederick Weeds and the brother of my Great Grandfather George. He was in the 1st Battalion of the Northamptonshire Regiment and he died on the 10 July 1917 during a battle with the German Marine-Korps Flandern alongside the river Yser near Nieuport in Belgium. 260 men died during this battle and they are remembered on the memorial in Nieuport as their bodies were never recovered.
What makes these loses even worse is the closeness of these men. On the 1891 census James and Frederick were living with their grandmother, my 3 times great grandmother along with their cousin George, my great Grandfather and their Aunt Julia my Great, Great Grandmother. I just can’t imagine what the family went through losing 3 of their own. James and Frederick had 9 living siblings and their father when they died. James Briggs left behind his parents, 4 siblings and a nephew (my Grandpa). Of the 26 grandchildren of my 3 times great Grandparents 3 died, that’s 11%. What makes it even worse is what happened in 1942. When he died in 1916 Frederick Weeds was married with 4 children. His youngest son Bertie was a member of the 1st Royal Tank Regiment, Royal Armoured Corps. He died on the 25th October 1942 during the second battle of El Alamein in Egypt. He is remembered on the Alamein Memorial as his body was never recovered. On that day the 1st Royal Tank Regiment fought the German 15th Panzer Division and Italian Littorio Division. Over 100 tanks were involved and by the end of the day over half were destroyed, including Bertie’s tank.
There has been some discussion in the media as to whether or not remembrance day and the wearing of poppies is right as some feel it glorifies war. Well in my opinion, it is vital that we hold these ceremonies and wear our poppies with pride. If we don’t then the deaths of the millions who have died in war defending our country will have been in vain. Also the money we give for our poppies helps those who have both physical and mental scares as a result of the conflicts they served in. And remember not everyone who dies as a result of war was fighting, they may have been innocent civilians who died as a result of bombings.
I’ll leave you with part of a poem by Laurence Binyon written in 1914.
“They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them.”
I know it’s not traditionally the season for weddings, especially in the UK (who wants to get married in the rain?) but for both my sets of grandparents they married out of season. Last month would have been my grandparent’s 79th wedding anniversary and December would have brought my other grandparents 70th anniversary.
Weddings aren’t something I ever really thought about much until recently. I’ve been to hundreds (I was in a church choir as a kid for a long time so weddings were great for pocket money) and never really took much notice until close family started getting married as we all grew up. Recently though I’ve found Say Yes to the Dress. I find the program so funny (I know I’m probably not supposed to but some of the things people say are hilarious, especially the bridesmaids episodes). It’s got me thinking about how weddings have changed over the years, especially for our ancestors.
It seems weddings these days are grand affairs in various venues with lavish receptions and often without involving the church in anyway. People travel abroad and the whole wedding party goes. It must cost an absolute fortune. Just the dress can cost more than fitting out a new house. All that expense for one day. Sorry I’m from Yorkshire and as the saying goes short arms and deep pockets. I’m not tight I just couldn’t spend all that money on one day. Put clean clothes on and got to the registry office. I hit the internet and found a nice wedding dress in the UK for £175, where as they pay thousands of dollars on Say Yes to the Dress, and I am yet to see one made of denim.
But what was it like in our ancestor’s time?
If you look at the photo of my grandparents wedding my grandma is not wearing a flowing dress or anything. In fact it was a pale blue (and still is as we have it). Blue throughout history has been used in wedding gowns as it symbolised purity, this is where the something blue comes from today. It may not have been until 1840 when Queen Victoria married Prince Albert that white became the norm in the UK. So all of you who want to wear colour, just say you’re only carrying on the traditions of your ancestors. Most of our ancestors will have just worn their Sunday best (if they had any) on their wedding day as they couldn’t even consider having a new outfit for one day. If they were from a wealthy family this may have been possible. In fact some people married on Christmas day as this was the only day they didn’t have to work and so their families could attend.
From 1215 in Europe marriage had to be recognised by the church. This stopped couples from using handfast as a legal form of marriage. They said a form of vows to each other and was designed “till death do us part”. It was common as although the recognised religion was common, not all had access to it and other pagan forms of worship were still used. By the 16th/17th century the church had to be involved for a marriage to be legal.
After 1836 couples could be married by a registrar in a registry office. This made life more difficult and better for couples. Vicars could refuse to marry a couple in their church. The main reason for this would be that the woman was pregnant. It was not uncommon for couples to marry if they became pregnant as it was expected of them. They probably would have anyway, but baby just moved things forward a bit. Now they could marry elsewhere and still have a fully recognised marriage. It could make things worse though as if they married in a registry office most people probably thought they were expecting a child and thus treated them differently, especially if they didn’t have a blessing in a recognised church afterwards. I’ve got ancestors who already had children before they were married and had married in a registry office. Does it really matter, as long as the children had a stable home? Registry Office weddings also made life easier for those who wanted to marry without the involvement of the church.
These days as long as a venue has a license you can marry anywhere you want and any couple no matter what their sexuality can legally marry each other and live their lives the way they want to.