One of the saddest subjects in the photos I collect are the little lost children. When I start researching the details written on the back of the photo my heart sinks when I realise what has happened to the little child in the photo. Tragically in 1901 in England and Wales, 127,000 infants and 81,000 children aged 1 to 14 died. 200 per 1000 under fives died at this time which equals a tragic 1 in 5 children. If a large family escaped a loss they were very lucky and some families lost several children. Measles, tuberculosis, influenza and diarrhoea were all childhood killers and in poor families the death rate would be even higher.
One of the photos I bought recently was of this little boy identified as Percy Victor Sims taken in February 1912, aged 3 years 3 months.
Percy Victor Sims was born on 30th Nov 1908. He was the only child of Percy and Rosa Sims (Nee Biddle). In 1911 the family lived at 14 Beacon Street, Lichfield, Staffordshire. His father was a fishmonger. Sadly only 2 years later, in 1913, Percy died just 4 years old. His mother and father moved to 7 Brizlincote Street, Burton-upon-Trent, Staffordshire by 1939. The couple didn't appear to have had any more children.
I worry that the line of this little family has died and Percy Victor will be forgotten. Somewhere in Lichfield, Percy may have a tiny headstone in a cemetery. I hope that by sharing this photo, someone may search for details about him and his short life will always be remembered.
I found this beautiful old photo in a charity shop. On the back was written Meta Josephine Lacy (Nee Henry) Born 25th Nov 1869 Died 5th Oct 1961 Married 1892. With this starting point I was able to find out so much more.
Meta Josephine Henry was born on 25 November 1869 in Ireland to Sarah Lucy Hickson, age 33, and Thomas Shuldham Henry, age 33. She married Saumarez Dacre Lacy in October 1892 when she was 22 years old. Her son Alexander Dacre was born on 6 May 1894 in Weymouth, Dorset and her son Richard Saumarez was born on 2 December 1895 also in Weymouth, Dorset. Meta Josephine Henry died on 5 October 1961 in Royal Tunbridge Wells, Kent, when she was 91 years old.
This beautiful young woman led such a full life into old age and because someone took the time to write on the back of the photo, all these years later the photo has come to life again.
Following on from my post yesterday about the children at St Giles' School I wanted to share a photo given to my Mum and Dad 20 years ago by a man who used to live in Ashtead. Meredith Worsfold lived in Rectory Lane in Ashtead and apart from a short spell living in Effingham, was born and spent his whole life in Ashtead. When my Dad and I wrote a book on Ashtead in 2000 Meredith was an enormous help. He had written a book himself called Ashtead The Street In The 1920s, which is a lovely book, full of anecdotes and information that only a person who had been there would be able to tell so beautifully. Not only did he have such interesting tales to tell about the local area, he was really good company. A genuinely kind man we greatly enjoyed the time spent in his company. He gave my Mum and Dad this lovely photo of his Mother, Alice Jackman, sitting at the window of their house when she was a little girl.
Meredith's mother Alice Maud Mary Jackman was born in 1892 in Totten Hampshire. Her father William, a railway porter at Lyndhurst, was tragically killed in an accident being hit by a train when Alice was only a few weeks old. Her Mother Fanny remarried Arthur Dibben a train driver, and the family moved to Rectory Lane Ashtead, Alice attended St Giles School Ashtead and was one of the pupils who took turns to sit in the window of West Lodge Ashtead Park and open the gates for approaching carriages. The headmaster of St Giles School made this agreement with Thomas Lucas, the owner of Ashtead Park in exchange for renting the lodge at the cost of £40 per annum.
Alice married a local man Jack Worsfold in 1920 and gave birth to two sons, Howard and Meredith. She lived locally all her life until her death in 1974 aged 82.
Meredith walked a mile every day until well into his 80s, to keep active after a hip operation, and regularly stopped on his walk to chat with my Mum and Dad. We were all so upset to hear he had died, aged 90, in October 2012. I have included this photo of him taken as a child, as I feel if Ashtead residents are being remembered he should certainly be included.
In 1852 the original part of the present St Giles' School was built on land given by Mrs Mary Howard and erected at her expense. The school was then conveyed to the Rector of the parish and his successors for ever. This lovely old photo, taken around 1880, shows children leaving the school.
I find that both Find My Past and Ancestry.co.uk are excellent resources for researching family history. Infact it is virtually impossible to manage without sites like these. I remember spending days at public records offices and libraries in my early years of researching but now it is nearly all online. I can't help but miss those days out though. I have such fond memories of eating a sandwich in the sunshine, watching the signets on the pond outside the Public Records Office at Kew. Everyone was so chatty and you could build up quite a freindship with other regulars in those days. We offered each other advice and compared notes. The "help" section on a family history website doesn't quite seem the same. I suppose that is the price for technology!
Without the internet, I doubt I would have been able to find out anything about the family in a collection of recent photos I purchased. There were very few clues, but a magazine cutting gave me a starting point.
One of the men in the photo is in other photos of a couple identified as Mum and Dad, but how to find which is his name as they are not identified individually in the photo. Another of the photos was of two young women in the back yard of a house with the caption Doreen and Lilian 308 Boundary Road, St Helens 1952.
With this information I could search the 1939 register on Find My Past which has a really useful address search option. I scrolled to number 308 and the family who lived where the Brownbill family. I had found the family so quickly. William and his wife Elizabeth with their daughters Doreen and Lily. Without the internet I'm sure it would have been days of trawling through files at The Public Records Office. For anyone who is trying to research family around that time I have found the 1939 register to be one of the most useful resources. I can now add photos of the Brownbill family to the website in the hope that one day a family member may find them.