Tag Archives: Family history

A Post that took a Week to Write

I’m not sure whether to be happy or sad. Even after thinking about it for a week I’m not sure.

Last  Sunday we laid my parents’ ashes to rest in a  Lancashire churchyard. On the day I was glad that the weather was good, my knee held up and my 91-year-old uncle was well enough to be there. Since then, I have been thinking, and suffering mixed feelings.

They wanted their ashes to be together, and as they were married over sixty years that seemed fair enough. When I agreed to it, I hadn’t really assessed all the implications. My sister, for instance, has been looking after mum’s ashes for the last five years, which has always felt slightly uncomfortable. Dad died about 18 months ago and we have been waiting for a convenient time to meet, allowing for the various problems with lockdown. We were going to meet a couple of weeks ago but both my uncle and I were ill, so we postponed it.

They are in the churchyard in Chatburn. It’s next to the school where they met, and it’s the church where they married in 1952. The vicar officiated, and it felt serious enough, without being overly formal. This was particularly true when the vicar found the second set of ashes to be significantly heavier than the first and my uncle remarked, “That’ll be our Jim.”

The black stone on the right is the grave of my great-grandmother and great-grandfather. One of my aunts is also buried there and their son Bill is commemorated on the stone, although he is buried near Ypres. You can see it from the front in this post.

One day I should research the family history of the churchyard. I know I have at least three great grandparents buried there, two aunts, a cousin and now two parents. I’m sure there are more but I have to admit that I have never researched it or kept track of the fate of modern ashes.

It was a great day from the point of weather and views and the sense of a task completed. However, it was also sad, and raised some questions in my mind about the wisdom of delaying such things. I wouldn’t mind being buried with Julia, but I’m now wondering how fair it is on the people who have to carry out these wishes, as it does prolong the sadness. In the week leading up to the ceremony I did feel a lot of the same feelings that I had done in the week before the funerals.

On balance, I’m glad we did it the way we did, but times change and I’m going to have to think things through regarding my own ashes.

Julia’s dad had the right idea, I think. The neighbours planted a cherry tree as a present for Julia’s mum when she retired from volunteering in the village. One night after she died, Julia’s dad buried her ashes under the tree. Later, after several moves, he died, and the family was able to sneak out under cover of darkness and bury his ashes under the same tree. They are together, but there wasn’t the element of delayed sorrow I had with mum and dad.

Meanwhile, if you are ever in Chatburn, and you might be one day if you ever feel the urge to visit Pendle Hill, do call at the Brown Cow for lunch. I had the best steak pudding I’ve ever had and my sister’s cheese and onion pie looked excellent.

The church. Another uncle Bill is on the war memorial. He never lived in the village but my aunt did and had his name put there.  He is also listed on the West Witton war memorial, where he lived for some years with his grandparents. If you research memorials you will often find cases like this.

They are now buried in the walled off section at the bottom of the churchyard and are, as the vicar said, part of the history of the village. If you look across the Ribble Valley the hills you see in the distance are the Forest of Bowland. If you could see over the ridge you would see Slaidburn, a village we have already visited in the blog.

Random Jottings

I’m not quite ready to report on Sunday in its entirety, though I will get round to it in a day or two.

The driving went OK, helped considerably by a knee brace. I suffered a little last night, but the knee recovered as I slept and wasn’t too bad today.

Had my dressing changed this morning and progress is looking good – new skin forming and I’m hopeful that another week should see things just about healed.

Then I had a pneumonia vaccination, which was a surprise, as I didn’t think I could have one until I was 65. It’s always nice to get something for nothing.

Went to work and did another half day without a problem. Planning to do full days on Thursday and Saturday.The return to work is going quite well.

Adjusted my seating arrangements at home. I’m no longer putting my leg up, but this puts less strain on my knee, so it’s a good trade off. I have a telephone consultation booked with a physiotherapist on Friday to discuss this further.

The return to writing is not progressing quite as well as I had hoped, but it is progressing, even if it is very slow.

Asked my uncle about the day the school was bombed when I saw him on Sunday. It had occurred to me that although I knew my Mum had been there, my uncle and one of my aunts must also have been there. He was there, so I have another note to add to the family history.

Number One son reports that he is a little stiff from doing the Great North Run yesterday and that his time was in the top 5.000. As I’m a little stiff from just sitting in the car, I wouldn’t mind swapping with him. I’d be happy to be in the first 50,000.

Tried a few photos when I got home, but mostly blurred by a mix of wind and poor photography.

Teasel

 

 

Research and Responsibility

No, not a review of one of Jane Austen’s lesser-known offerings, just some thoughts on family history and similar research.

It can all be summed up by the case of my great-great-great uncle Moses. According to the Blackburn Standard of Saturday 16th February 1884 one Moses Gregson, a stone mason, was up in the Borough Police Court for using threatening language to his wife Margaret the previous day.

It may very well be a tale of domestic violence, but on the other hand it may be the story of a family man (or lovable rogue) who took an uncharacteristic drink and ended up in deep water. He was also fined 5 shillings for appearing drunk in court the previous day, so I suspect that he’d been hauled into court by the police whilst still full of the drink that had caused the original problem.

The question is whether to tell people or not.

To modern day members of the family it’s an historical curiosity, but if you tell outsiders it could be a bit embarrassing. It depends on your sensitivity to such things, and though I’m no shrinking violet I do feel a twinge when discussing the story.

The embarrassment would rise, I feel, as you go back in the generations. My mother would have been very unhappy with me revealing it, and my grandmother would have been quite upset. My great-grandmother, who may well have known Moses as a child, is an unknown quantity.

She was born in 1879 and is the oldest member of the family that I knew personally. I really don’t have a clue how she would have reacted to me telling the world her uncle had been in court for drinking and using threatening language to his wife.

If she was still alive I may have been too embarrassed to even mention it to her. She in turn may not have worried about it at all as she had grown up with many things and taken them all in her stride.

This leads on to another example.

I have a small silver medal issued in 1919 to thank a railwayman for his service in the Great War, where he had served in Mesopotamia.  He had two spells in hospital – once with fever and once with syphilis, which seems to have brought his service to an abrupt end. This article discusses venereal disease in the Great War if you are interested.

It’s slightly different to the case of Moses Gregson, as he isn’t a member of the family and I feel no embarrassment about it. I do, however, feel that family members who knew him may still be alive and it’s for them to talk about it (if they want to) rather than me. He was still alive into the 1980s and some of his old neighbours might still be around too.

It’s quite a can of worms when you start looking at it, and the choices are even harder when you’re trying to think of someone else and their reaction.

If something was mentioned in the newspapers in 1884, or in army records in 1918 should we talk about it openly, or should we worry about the possible sensitivity of other people?

 

 

 

 

Some Pictures of Slaidburn

There were plenty of sheep about, as you would guess, plus a nice car park with toilets (because it’s a great centre for walkers. There was also a large gathering of Starlings and crows – mainly Jackdaws and a Blue Tit flitting about.

 

It’s a lovely village in the right weather, though I’d hate to live here on a miserable grey day. I often think about that when thinking of my family working on farms round here, with rain and woollen clothing. They must have hated Autumn and Winter.

The pub in the pictures is the Hark to Bounty. In the late 19th century it was run by William Stead – blacksmith and innkeeper. He was there in 1871, married to my great-grandmother’s aunt, and died in 1893, leaving £808, which was good money in those days. In 1871 my grandmother was working for them, having come from Leyburn, about50 miles away. That’s presumably how she met my great-grandfather.

 

 

 

 

Clitheroe and Family History

We went to Slaidburn on Monday, taking the tree picture on the way. It’s a fascinating old village, which wouldn’t look out of place in a Harry Potter film (or a Hammer House of Horror film for those of us who remember them).

I’ll be writing about that visit in a couple of days.

Then we went to Clitheroe. It’s a pleasant small town not far from Pendle Hill, and it has cropped up a few times in recent posts, mainly as a residence for various members of my family. I used to enjoy visiting it when I was a child, though I have to say that I never noticed how hilly it was when I was younger.

It was a dullish day so I had a go with the effects on my computer – not sure if it’s worked or not. One of my early memories is of visiting the war memorial with my grandmother and being shown her father’s name on the side.

 

Like so many others he’s just a name on a memorial now, I doubt if anyone who knew him is alive now.

These are various homes of the Carus family over the years. The one with the red car is where my grandmother was living with her widowed mother in 1917, and may be the one where the family photo was taken. The view of the castle is the one they would have seen when they stepped outside.

Harry Carus and family. Clitheroe 1915.

Harry Carus and family -1915

The house with the silver car outside is the one where all the family lived in the late 19th century – all nine of them!

The other one, with the box balls in the front garden, is where Isaac Newton Carus lived, before handing it on to one of his sons.

I have a lot more to do, so this is just the tip of the iceberg. It’s a strange feeling, seeing all these places where family used to live, particularly as I must have passed within 100 yards of one of them dozens of times without realising.

Another Day Away

We stayed in Skipton last night and spent the day doing some Family History photography.  The day was bright in patches, but by the middle of the afternoon, when we were at Clitheroe Castle, it was rather dark.

The trees in the main photo were an early find, while the sun was managing to break through.

The others are slightly less than sharp, but seemed too good not to use. Julia spotted the squirrel going through the bins as we left the castle.

There will be more on this trip later, but first I want to stick my feet up and have a cup of tea.

The Carus Brothers at War (Part 1)

I just took out a subscription to an internet newspaper archive last week and the first task I set myself was searching for some family history. With one branch of the family it has come up trumps.

You may have heard some of this before as I have mentioned it and have used the photographs before. Sorry for the repetition but with new information, and it being exactly 101 years to the day since his death, I thought it was worth another post.

I have many common names in the family but am fortunate in having one branch with the name of Carus. To make things better, they come from Clitheroe – a small town with its own newspaper.

Harry Carus (1887-1916) was my great grandfather. When I started researching him I knew that he was one of a large family, that he’s on the Clitheroe war memorial and that he left a wife and three daughters when he died. He was a chapel-goer, Sunday school teacher and member of  a self-improvement club called the PSA (I believe that’s Peaceful Sunday Afternoon). He joined up as a volunteer and, on his last leave before going to France, laughed when his irate wife discovered that the three girls had found, and mostly eaten, the special cake baked for his last visit.

It had been on a top shelf in the kitchen and my grandmother had climbed up the lower shelves like a ladder before passing down to my Auntie Peggie – second in age and partner in crime.

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission gives the information that he died on 10.10.16. He was a Corporal, aged 28, belonged to “B” Battery of the 180th Brigade
Royal Field Artillery. He was the son of H. A. and Margaret Carus, of 27, West View, Clitheroe, Lancashire and husband of the late Ellenor Carus.

This was during the latter, rainy, part of the Somme battle and was probably every bit as hellish as we imagine the First World War to be.

He has no known grave and is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial, the iconic arched memorial that lists the names of  72,396 Somme casualties who also have no known grave. In a later post I may well come back to the phrase “no known grave” as it’s an interesting subject in itself.

As more details became available from the release of records I was able to learn a little more about him.  He had four brothers and two sisters, worked for a grocer and his last known address is still standing. I have visited it using Google Maps.

The army medal rolls show that he went to France on 28.11.15 and is entitled to the 1914-15 Star, War Medal and Victory Medal. They spell his name “Carns”. His family was also given a bronze commemorative plaque and a scroll. On the subject of names, his wife was Eleanor, so even CWGC aren’t perfect.

When I searched the newspapers I was able to find the memorial notices posted a year after his death, and pin down a couple more family addresses. The family was still together in those days – the remarriage and death of Eleanor  and the separation of the girls was still to come, as Harry’s death continued to affect them in the coming years.

I was also able to find a mention of his death in the “25 Years Ago” column, when it was noted that he had been in a gun pit with six others when a shell landed in it and killed five of them. Presumably this was what had been contained in a letter at the time of his death – my grandmother had always said he was hit by a shell that killed him instantly and left nothing for burial. It’s nice to have corroboration but I’m not sure it’s true, it was just what people wrote home to parents and widows to hide the truth.

That, in a nutshell, is the life and death of Harry Carus.

Poppies

Roadside Poppies

One hundred years ago

Friday 1st July 2016.

I’m sure that there will be enough written about the first day of the Battle of the Somme without me adding to it, but I can’t resist the temptation.

Sorry about the departure from normal content – I’ll get back to that soon.

Joseph Victor Plumb isn’t a famous name in military history. I first came across him on our local war memorial when we moved to a village near Peterborough. In the days before you could press a computer button and be given reams of information I read the local papers in the library to find out more about the names on the memorial (I was a very strange child). It seems that on 1st July Private Plumb stood in reserve with the rest of the 6th Northamptons and had a narrow escaped when a bullet holed his steel helmet. Having survived death by an inch he should have been saved for better things but instead, in the attack on Trones Wood 14 days later he qualified to have his name carved on a memorial.

Harry Carus worked for a grocer, and was a Sunday school teacher in his spare time when he joined up. He landed in France on 28th November 1915 and seems to have been quite a useful soldier because he was a Corporal by 1916. On 1st July he had 102 days to live.

The pictures show him with the lady referred to as “the late Ellenor Carus” by the Commonwealth War Graves details. She died of in the TB hospital at Lancaster in 1920. This sort of thing wasn’t uncommon as many widows did not live long after their husbands. The eldest of the three sisters is my grandmother. There is a bit more to the story than I’m telling here but this isn’t one of those books about miserable childhoods, and anyway, it could have been worse.

If you look at the memorial scroll sent by the government you will see that there is a line that says “Let those who come after see to it that his name be not forgotten”.

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This is ironic when you see they have misspelt his name.