52 Ancestors Winifred Willis Airey/Jackson

My Grandmother Winifred Willis Airey was born on January 11th 1896 in Darlington, County Durham. Her parents were Frederick Airey and Nellie (Eleanor) Eaton Willis. By her own account Winnie was a sickly child and missed a lot of school. I have never been able to fathom out what was wrong with her, she said she had no strength because she didn’t eat much, and she didn’t eat much because she had no appetite, maybe it was simply a vicious circle that she couldn’t get out of? Well, if it was, she did eventually break the circle, so much so she lived a healthy 99 years and always enjoyed her food and took an interest in nutrition.

Winnie with her mother and Aunts and Uncles. I think the older lady is Auntie “Tan” Sarah Ann and the lady front left is Auntie Lena.

By her own account she was quite a precocious child (in a nice sense), she was found wandering the streets one day by a well meaning lady, who asked her where she was going. “I’m going to Uncle, Aunties” Winnie replied. The lady then asked her where they lived, to which Winnie correctly replied “Lansdowne Street” which was interpreted by the lady as “lay down sheep”, but all was well in the end as her mother turned up. I have checked the address and the Aireys Sarah Anne, Joseph and Selina did live at Lansdowne Street, in fact it was probably “Airey built”. On another occasion when very small Winnie sat with her mother on a park bench reading out loud, she was most put out that an elderly man sitting near by refused to believe she was really reading as she was so tiny. I am not sure where Winnie had her primary education but am pretty sure her secondary education was at a school connected to Darlington Ladies Training College, it was certainly connected to an institute for teacher training, as they had “student” teachers all the time, she was there until she was 14. Winnie had a good command of English and a knowledge of grammar that passed me by.

Winnie had a lifelong interest in astronomy and as a young child was given the opportunity to look through a telescope in Darlington (at the college I think), she got very excited at seeing a sunspot and was also a little nervous at climbing up high to look through the viewer, so she put out her hand and grabbed hold of something to steady herself. It was only afterwards that she discovered to her embarrassment that she was holding the Principal’s tie.

Unusually for the times, but luckily for me there are several photographs of Winnie, her home and family as father Fred was a keen amateur photographer. A photograph of Winnie standing in front of the bandstand in North Lodge Park, Darlington has been included in a book about bandstands.

Winnie in front of the bandstand at North Lodge Park, Darlington.

A cycling trip, Winnie is the little girl centre front, her mother is directly behind her and next to her is Auntie Kitty, her mother’s sister.

Winnie had extremely long hair as a child.

Winnie learnt the piano and played for dancing classes, she was also accomplished at embroidery, crochet and dress making. I still have pillow cases and table cloths that she made and she made me many outfits as a child, I didn’t always appreciate them at the time.

Dressed as a gypsy for a photography competition.


Winnie about 1913


Winnie married William Andrew Jackson in 1925, she was an only child and he was the second of seven, Winnie got on well with his sisters, brothers and their husbands and wives, she enjoyed being part of a larger family.

William Andrew Jackson marries Winifred Willis Airey

In 1926 Winnie gave birth to her only child Frederic Norman named after her father who died during her early pregnancy and her cousin Norman whom she had also named but who died when just a baby. Winnie was short in height, she claimed to have been 5ft 3 at her tallest and insisted that she had only shrunk to 5ft 2, in my opinion she barely reached 5ft. Norman (the Frederic was soon dropped) however grew apace. One day when a gypsy came to the door Winnie’s mother brought her in to see Winnie because she had never seen a gypsy! The woman took one look at the baby in his pram and said “Lord love you, he’s bigger than you are.”

When Norman was one year old Winnie, Billy, Norman and Nellie moved to Widnes with Billy’s work for the asbestos company J W Roberts. Winnie did not care for Widnes, missing the greenery of the Yorkshire Dales and Durham, but enjoyed trips to Liverpool shopping, something she was to go back to in the later years of her life. After six years Billy was moved again, this time to Leeds where they lived first in Inglewood Terrace, then later at Brookfield Road, Meanwood which was the first (and only) home they owned. The war years came and many of the children  were evacuated but Norman didn’t want to leave home, so Winnie home educated him and a neighbour’s child for a short while before the school reopened. During this time Winnie went to night school classes and studied nutrition, she worked in the canteen of the department store Marshall and Snellgrove where Norman worked in the gentlemen’s outfitters department. Winnie also studied botany at night school and could tell you the Latin name of many plants. She went to the pictures every week and was interested in amateur dramatics. She sent Norman for Speech and Drama lessons from a young age and encouraged him to enter poetry festivals where he won a few awards. Despite being an over protective mother she was happy for Norman to join the cubs and scouts and let him go away to camp. Billy worked overseas for several years, so there was often just Norman, Winnie and Nellie at home.

After the war Billy bought a small general “corner shop” which Winnie ran for a couple of years, but it wasn’t financially viable and Winnie was no “Arkwright”. The children used to steal the empty bottles from near the door and then return them for money only to resteal them. Billy died in his early 60s from Pulmonary Asbestosis caused by his occupation. Winnie had the house in Brookfield Road split into two flats and rented out the lower half of the house. By this stage Norman had married and settled in Maghull near Liverpool and in 1961 just a year after Billy’s death Winnie became a grandmother to Joanna Margaret.


Winnie on the right with sister in law Lena Smith (nee Jackson), daughter in law Mollie and Granddaughter Joanna, in Lena’s garden in Darlington.

Winnie made little delay in renting out the entire house and moving to a small flat in the Central Square, Maghull.  Maghull was where Winnie spent the last 30 plus years of her life, firstly in the flat in the Square and then in a Granny flat which was built for her at 2,Hickson Avenue.


All dressed up for a family wedding, but she always was, wedding or not.


During this time she read hundreds of books, did hundreds of crosswords and played scrabble with a range of partners most of whom she outlived. She kept up her interest in astronomy and was a great Patrick Moore fan, she even auditioned for The Sky’s the Limit (a quiz show with Hughie Green) but didn’t get on the programme. She watched Countdown every day, pencil at the ready for both words and numbers. She liked snooker, particularly if Steve Davis was playing. She had a big party for her 90th birthday and made a speech and wrote a poem for Mollie and Norman’s Ruby wedding. Having been convinced she would never by a grandparent, Winnie eventually had two great grandchildren Isobel and Olivia. She spent the last few months of her life in a nursing home and was still quite bright and active until the last few weeks of her life, she died just a few months short of her 100th birthday.


With Joanna, John Heath, Mollie Jackson, Paul Heath, Janice Heath and son Norman in the garden in Maghull.


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Posted by on March 16, 2015 in Uncategorized


52 ancestors – Rachel Halden/Willis

Rachel Halden is my Great Great Grandmother, she was baptised on 2 September in Milwich, Staffordshire. On the 1841 census she is living with her parents Edward, a school master and Jemima, she also has older sisters Elizabeth, Mary and Jemima.

The family move to the USA sometime between 1841 and 1850 she is living in Chicago with her widowed mother Jemima, brother Edward a butcher and sister Mary.

Rachel married Thomas Willis in 1852 and went on to have eight children, sadly only two survived Katie Elizabeth (my Dad’s Great Auntie Kitty) and his Grandmother Eleanor Eaton (Nellie).  In 1860 she is living with her mother and husband Thomas Willis a carpenter.  By 1870 Jemima has died but there is the addition of Kitty aged 7 to the family and they have a visitor, Thomas’s half sister Katherina aged 17 is staying with them.

I understand that Rachel died in childbirth when she was about 44 and Thomas returned to his native Yorkshire with Kitty and Nellie.


Nellie Eaton was born on the corner of Clarke and Laselle Street, so Rachel must have live there, this is a picture of that area in Chicago

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Posted by on January 25, 2015 in Uncategorized


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52 ancestors – Sarah Pickard/Sellars

Sarah Pickard is my Great Great Great Grandmother, all I know about Sarah is that she married Joseph Sellars in 1827 in Middlesmoor North Yorkshire, Joseph was a school master but Sarah couldn’t write so “left her mark” on the entry. Witnesses were Thomas Pickard and James Rayner. She had one daughter Sarah who was born on 17th October 1829 the date of Sarah Pickard’s death in Lofthouse, North Yorkshire.



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Posted by on January 25, 2015 in family history, genealogy, Wensley


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52 ancestors – Mary Hyslop/Stevenson


Swanland, Urr Mary Hyslop’s birthplace

I know little about Mary Hyslop as she only lived until she was 19 years old when she died giving birth to my Great Grandmother Mary Hyslop Stevenson. Mary was the daughter of Andrew Hyslop and Flora Swan. We find her in the Scottish census in Urr Kirkcudbrightshire in 1851 just 8 days old, she must have been her parents’ eldest child. By 1861 she has been joined by siblings James, Flora and Henrietta and is living in Tinwald Dumfriesshire. She married William Gibson Stevenson (Red Rob) in 1868 and died on 10 July 1870 at Kirkbean Kirkcudbrightshire.

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Posted by on January 25, 2015 in Uncategorized


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52 ancestors – Kezia Parker/Kenyon


Annesley Church

Kezia Parker is my Great Great Grandmother, she was born in Anneseley, Nottinghamshire in 1839. It appears that her mother Sarah, a washer woman was a single mother, although on her marriage certificate Kezia lists a deceased father, William Parker a gardener.

In 1841 she is living with her mother, Grandmother and Uncle Joseph.

Kezia appears twice in the 1851 census, I can only presume there was some confusion as to where she was on that particular night. On one return she is listed with her married sister Martha Osbourne Martha’s husband Luke and their children John, Elizabeth and another Kezia. On another census she appears again with her mother Sarah, Grandmother Kezia and Uncle Joseph but with the addition of younger children, Elizabeth and John, John is Kezia’s brother and I presume Elizabeth is her sister but on the census she is simply listed as Granddaughter to Kezia so I can’t be certain.

In 1861 Kezia now aged 21 has left home and is working as a general servant for a William Hardstaff and his family.

Kezia married George Kenyon on 24th December 1868 at St John’s Church, Sheffield, witnesses were William Hand and Mary Fox.

In 1871 we find Kezia married to George Kenyon and they are parents to one year old Annie and are living in Dinnington, Yorkshire.

Kezia died in 1878 giving birth to her fourth daughter another Kezia, or Auntie Kezzie as my mother remembers her. The other daughters were Ada (who ended up living in London after a period as lady’s maid to Lady Leontine Sassoon in Brighton) and Alice my Great Grandmother.

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Posted by on January 25, 2015 in Uncategorized


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Times have changed, thank goodness

The next four women in my blog are all direct ancestors who died in childbirth, we have much to be thankful for in modern medicine or even not so modern, things got so much better when you could call the midwife.


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Posted by on January 25, 2015 in Uncategorized


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52 Ancestors – William Booth, fancy weaver, weaver or bobbin winder

William Booth is my 4 x Great Grandfather, he was christened at Cumberworth St Nicholas, near Huddersfield 23 September 1792 son of John Booth and Charlotte Lockwood.

St Nicholas Cumberworth

He married Mary Barrowclough on 3 January 1819 at Kirkburton All Hallows witnesses were JI (?) Booth, John Shaw and Jonathan Barrowclough.


By 1841 he is widowed (Mary died in 1838) and he is living with sons Jabez and William plus married daughter Elizabeth and her husband Seth Shaw (my G x 3 Grandparents, he is described as a Fancy Weaver and living in Lower Cumberworth.

A fancy weaver as the name suggests would be skilled enough to weave patterns in colour. They worked on looms fitted with a Jacquard system.

The purpose of the Jacquard was to bring the selected colour to the surface of the cloth during the weaving process, to produce patterns which the Jacquard slats did by means of programmed pins. The Fancy Weavers were better paid but it seems that they suffered more during financial crises and were involved in industrial action.

In 1846 William Booth marries widow Sarah Crossland (nee Gill) at Kirkburton All Hallows, his occupation is given as weaver (maybe he gave up the fancy work), witnesses at the wedding were William Fitton and Jonathan Gill (Sarah’s brother).

By 1851 William is again widowed and with an addition to his family, son John Gill aged 1 (I think Sarah died in childbirth). This census is confusing as the “ditto” marks imply that he (and most of the street) are bobbin winders. I am not sure if this means his career has gone further downhill.

By the 1861 census William has died, I am not sure when, there are several William Booths in the area that died between 1851 and 1861.

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Posted by on January 4, 2015 in family history, Gasworks, genealogy


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