Monday, 22 August 2016

Wedding Fashions - Part Two : Sepia Saturday 4

Wedding Fashions (1941-1971) is the theme of my latest post in  Sepia Saturday's August theme of Love and Marriage,  with photographs from England, Scotland, New Zealand and the United States, including grateful contributions from my two (third)  cousins who first made contact through my blog.

Dorothy Lilla Oldham (1915-1989) married  Desmond Stacey in New Zealand in 1941. A branch of the Oldham family had emigrated to the country in 1906.   Look at the fancy flounces, ribbons and rosettes on the bridesmaids' skirts, echoed in the frilled puff sleeves.   Dorothy and Desmond had seven children, the eldest son, Peter, born in Fiji.


A magnificent array of dresses for the  wartime  wedding in New Jersey of Ruth A. Urtstadt  and Edward J. LInke -  the parents of my American third cousin Bonny - descendants from my Lancashire Rawcliffe family.  I doubt if you would see anything like this in Britain then,  when clothing was rationed.

A wintry austerity Britain in December 1946 when my uncle Charles Weston married his bride Vera.  I am the tiny shivering bridesmaid, dressed, so I was told,  in dusky pink, and holding a big posy, with my elegant mother standing  behind.   My mother often used to relate how difficult it was to get shoes to match and she ended up dyeing them - clothes rationing continued in Britain until 1949.  This was a happy day for the family as Charles had suffered harsh experiences as  a prisoner of war in the Far East. 


The wedding of my mother's cousin Irene Danson  to  Raymond Pickup in Blackpool. A typical 60's look for the bridesmaids with princess-line dresses, short  skirts, and bouffant hair styles.  

Neil and I married in Edinburgh at St. Peter's Episcopal Church.   Here is the family group with my parents on the  right, Neil's parents  on the left and my aunt and uncle (my mother's sister and brother) at each end.  My dressmaker mother made my dress and her own outfit.   

The omens were not good on our wedding day on 24th July 1971. It poured down and we have no photographs taken outside; my husband Neil looks a bit shell shocked in this informal picture; and with the Tudor monarchs all the rage on film and TV at the time, I chose to wear an Ann Boleyn style headdress - she suffered the fate of being beheaded by Henry VIII.   

A few nights before,  I had this awful dream where I turned up at the church in all my finery to discover it all shut up  and there had been some mix up over the date.  Was this an awful  portent? 

Then the evening  before,  we had a wedding rehearsal at the churchOn the way, with my mother and aunt in Neil's car, we had a blow out on the main A1 road into Edinburgh.  We managed to get a taxi and left Neil to change the wheel.  He arrived late at the church with oil over his cream Arran sweater.  He had to spend the morning of his wedding getting the tyre repaired ahead of us driving  north to the Highlands for our honeymoon.

Wedding day dawned and I was with my mother and bridesmaid fitting my headdress on,  when the phone rang  It was the car hire firm to say in the heavy rain one of their cars had broken down on its way.   It seemed to be left to me to suggest that the one car would have to do a double journey for the wedding party and of course I was late at the church.  We never did get any money back on that missing car.

As for photographs, all taken at the reception - do you notice somebody's trouser legs above our heads in the group picture?  The legs came from   a portrait of Edinburgh writer Robert Louis Stevenson.   Not quite the composition you expect from a professional photographer who had been recommended to us.  

Still we survived - and have just celebrated our 45th wedding anniversary - and it rained again! 

 In Case You Missed in this August series

Friday, 12 August 2016

Wedding Fashions - Part One: Sepia Saturday Week 3

Wedding Fashions (1865-1938) is the theme of my latest post in  Sepia Saturday's August theme of Love and Marriage,  with photographs from England, Scotland, New Zealand and the United States, including grateful contributions from my two (third) cousins who first made contact through my blog. 


My cousin Stuart's great grandmother was Isabel Edward of Banchory, Aberdeenshire, Scotland.  Her sister Jessie married William Dower and they are pictured here with their respective parents.  William   was appointed by the London Missionary Society as a Wesleyan Missionary in South Africa and he and his new wife Jesse sailed  there  shortly after their wedding.   In March 1870, William and Jesse set out on an ox wagon journey to East Griqualand and the town of  Kokstad, where he was asked to take on the role of pastor.  The original of this photograph is in the Kokstad Museum. 

Unless the bride came from a wealthy family, it was generally not the custom to  have a special dress for the wedding, but to wear  the finest the bride owned.  For her wedding to Price Albert in 1840, Queen Victoria wore a white dress and the early photographs taken of the occasion helped to popularize the custom of a white bridal gown.   

An elegant portrait of Sarah Alice Oldham on her wedding to George Butler in Blackpool, Lancashire  and what a magnificent hat!    Sarah came from a family of carters and coalmen down three generations and George also worked in the business. 

Another Oldham wedding, but this time in New Zealand as James William Oldham married Edith Keymer.  I do like the simple classic lines of Edith's dress, but here is the style for magnificent bouquets. 

James'  parents Alfred and Sarah Oldham emigrated to  New Zealand in 1906, where they ran a wholesale tobacconists and stationery business on Karangahape Road,  Auckland Following James death the family moved to Sydney Australia where his descendants still live today. 

A simpler style for the wartime wedding for my husband's great aunt Violet Hibbert, daughter of a miner. She  married Frank King in South Shields, County Durham.


The wedding of Florence Adelaide Mason to Charles Urstadt in New Jersey, USA.  
She is wearing  such a distinctive  headdress that I wondered if it had any links to Charles' German background. And again what huge bouquets! 

 Florence (1898-1963)  was the eleventh  child of James Mason and Alice Rawcliffe - my great grandmother's sister.  They emigrated, with six children  from Fleetwood,   Lancashire to New York City  in 1888, where they had a further five children, before settling in Jamesburg, Middlesex, New Jersey.  


Beatrice Oldham (sister of Sarah in the second photograph)  married Jack Clarke in 1919 in Blackpool, Lancashire.   I feel the significance of the date after the First World War is not lost in this photograph where there is a air of informality (shorter skirt, trilby hat etc.), compared with the opulence of Sarah's dress above.


A local  newspaper report gave an  over-the-top account of the dress at my great aunt Jennie Danson's wedding to Beadnell (Bi) Stemp at Poulton-le-Fylde, Lancashire. 
Jennie was " stylishly gowned in French grey georgette, veiling silk to tone. The bodice which was shaped to the figure was quite plain, with a spray of orange blossoms at the shoulder, while the skirt, which was ankle length, was composed entirely of five picot edged scalloped circular frills, and the long tight sleeves had circular picot edged frilled cuffs in harmony. Her hat was of georgette to tone with uneven pointed dropping brim, having an eye veil of silver lace and floral mount. She carried a bouquet of pink carnations with silver ribbon and horseshoe attached."

The wedding of my uncle Fred to Fanmces Green in Leicester in ghe English Midlands.  My father is the rather stern looking man on the far left, carrying the trilby (or panama?) hat, with,  I think,  his brother Charles behind him.  My grandmother is in the cloche hat next to the bridegroom and unfortunately I have been unable  to identify my grandfather - he could be the man hidden at the back. Fred's sister could well be one of the bridesmaids and I have no idea who the young boy is.  I presume the older couple on the right of the photograph are the bride's parents.   This is one of very few  photographs  I have of  the Weston family, prior to my parent's own marriage. 

The wedding of Albert Leslie Williams and Hilda Florence Coombs in London, the parents ff my cousin's Stuart's wife.  It is two year's after my great aunt's wedding above and in another part of the country, but Dutch style hats for the little bridesmaids are still in fashion. 
The wedding of Henry Robinson and Florence Riddell in Blackpool Lancashir,  with Elsie Oldham (niece of Sarah and Beatrice above)  the second figure on the left - I presume as chief bridesmaid.   I feel rather sorrow for the girl on the right on  her own, looking rather spare.  
 A low key April wedding for my parents John Weston and Kathleen Danson  at St. Chad's Church, Poulton-le-Fylde, Lancashire. My grandmother Weston  is weeing her fox fur a popular accessory in the 1920's-1950's

 A telegram sent to my parents on their wedding day.  

Part Two of the Love and Marriage series will look at Wedding Fashions 1941-1971 

In Case You Missed

Wednesday, 10 August 2016

A Society Wedding 1913 - with a Poignant End: Sepia Saturday Week 2

Looking through old newspapers gives us such a picture of another age,  and here is a poignant tale of a wedding in 1913 - with a sad ending.  

In the "Berwckshire News" of 4th March 1913,  I  came across a full page account of a society wedding,   and great detail given on the guests,  the costumes worn, and the lavish  gifts.

The bride wore "a Princess robe of ivory velvet, with falling sleeves of applique, with pearl tassled ends.   The square decolletage being embroidered with pearls and Rhinestones.  The skirt drapery was caught up at one side showing an underskirt of lace. The train entirely of Brussels lace was lined with ivory chiffon.  The bridesmaids wore frocks of daffodil yellow satin, with soft ruffles of chiffon and sashes of blue to match blue suede shoes worn with shite silk stockings.  The costumes were comnpleted by white mob caps  tied with blue ribbons and they carried posies of daffodils." 

The list of presents  painted a portrait of the age, ranging  from an opulent platinum and diamond watch,and crystal cigarette case set with rubies, to the slightly more mundane - a pair of cartridge pepper pots, an ivory tusk corkscrew (now very  environmentally incorrect!),  a fitted motor valise,  an  Irish bog oak carved inkstand, a dark green Russian leather blotter. a mounted antelope  horn cigarette lighter, purple silk cushions embroidered in gold, a mauve parasol, a silver egg stand and  silver filigree  fan.  Of a more utilitarian nature were an umbrella, set of waistcoat buttons. a biscuit warmer, set of thimbles, paste shoe buckles,  and a dog's biscuit tin. 

Like many newly married couples, the bride and groom ended up with lots of duplicate  gifts -  blotters, inkstands, photo frames, cut glass bowls, and butter dishes with knives. 

The marriage had been delayed a few weeks, because the groom had suffered appendicitis. 

Perhaps this could be regarded as a portent.  For given the date of 1913,   further research gave this happy occasion a  poignancy in marking the end of an era.  Within three years the groom had been killed in Flanders, leaving a young widow and child. 

 Click HERE to see how other Sepia Saturday bloggers
are celebrating this months's prompt of  Love and Marriage



Friday, 5 August 2016

Dreaming of Love & Marriage - Sepia Saturday Week 1

We have had two prompts (see below) for this week's Sepia Saturday post. The first of a young girl with her hands framing her face. It is rather difficult to pinpoint her age.   She  is looking pensive  - is she dreaming of her prince charming, perhaps or her wedding day?  For a second theme running  throughout August focuses on Love & Marriage. 

What struck me about the young girl's portrait were her hands. 

Hands and Heart - Here is  my grandmother Alice English (1884-1945) who married William Danson in 1907.  Looking happy and poised, she is wearing a corsage in this photograph and I have always thought it must be a wedding picture with copies held by different members of the Danson family. 
     Anther photograph of Alice, taken c.1916 as her husband prepared to go to war. 

My great grandmother Maria Rawcliffe (1859-1919) who married James Danson in 1877.  She has featured frequently on my blog - the seventh of eight daughters (five surviving infancy) and with an extended family of three step-siblings and five half- siblings.   Maria and James had ten sons followed by their only daughter Jennie. 

Continuing Love & Marriage for the Danson family - with arms  intertwined are Annie Danson and her new  husband Harry Ditchfield, after their wedding in  1928.  

The local press report provided a colourful and evocative description of Annie's dress - a fascinating commentary on the fashion of the day.  
"The bride, who was given away by her uncle Mr R. Danson, was gowned in delphinium blue georgette, the sleeveless bodice being plain, while the circular skirt was side slashed and bordered all round with deep silver lace.  Her hat was ruched georgette to tone and she wore silver shoes and hose to tone.  Her bouquet was of pale pink chrysanthemums." 

Look out for more of my family wedding photographs from the early 1900's onwards 
to be featured throughout August in this Sepia Saturday series. 


 Each week Sepia Saturday, provides an opportunity for genealogy bloggers to share their family history through photographs.  


Click HERE to see this week's tales of Love and Marriage 
from Sepia Saturday Bloggers. 

Wednesday, 3 August 2016

Bringing My Female Ancestors Out of the Shadows

An invitation HERE from   Randy Seaver of Genea–Musing  distracted me this week. He asked us to look at the age of death of our female ancestors. 

It proved more challenging than I first thought, highlighted major gaps in my research, and made me ponder on two questions:

Below - my paternal grandmother Mary Barbara Matthews.


    The further we go back in family history, the more shadowy our ancestors can appear - especially on the female side, where we don't often have the knowledge of an occupation to define the person.

    In 2014 I was prompted to review my research on my great, great, great grandmother Elizabeth Danson, nee Brown, who was little more than a name to me as the wife of Henry Danson, yeoman farmer. I came across this short but beautiful testimony to Elizabeth (Betty) almost by chance in the death announcements. during a quite casual browslng of British Newspapers Online 1710-1953 on the website Find My Past. -
    "Blackburn Standard Wednesday 20 May 1840: 
    Betty, widow of the late Mr. Henry Danson, yeoman, Trap Estate, Carleton, near Poulton-le-Fylde. She was much esteemed, and will be greatly regretted by a large circle of acquaintances".
    These few lines somehow brought Elizabeth (or the more familiar Betty) alive for me, as no other record had done. So I set out to see how I could bring her more to the fore of my family history by revisiting the records. I wrote Bringing Betty Out of the Shadows looking at her role as a daughter, wife, mother, widow, and friend. It was a very satisfying post to bring together and a template to undertake similar research with my other elusive female ancestors. But nature being what it is, I must admit I have made little progress to date - as the list below will show! 
    My blog has concentrated very much on my mother's Danson and Rawcliffe family in Lancashire, largely I think because I grew up with my mother's relatives and regard Poulton-le-Fylde as my spiritual home. Also the collection of old photographs at my grandfather's house was a great stimulus to finding out more about the people who featured in them.

    In contrast we lived some distance away from my father's family (Weston and Matthews) in the English Midlands and only saw my grandmother, aunt and uncles once or twice a year. Although my father regularly corresponded with them, and talked about his childhood, anything further back was very nebulous. Sadly there was hardly any family memorabilia, which had been thrown out on the death of his eldest brother.

    Many years ago, as a birthday present for my father, I did write up his family history, making use of a professional researcher in Shropshire to come up with the basic facts - this was the days before the Internet. But looking back at it, I admit it is pretty superficial and leaves me quite cold. I find it hard to identify with most of the people featured and have not felt motivated to find out more

    By coincidence I came across this quote:  
         "The best family histories are rich in detail"  **

    That is what my Weston/Matthews family history lacks, particularly when it comes to the female lines - again as you will see from the list below.

    ** "Women Writing On Family: Tips on Writing, Teaching and Publishing", edited by Carol Smallwood & Suzanne Holland, and published by The Key Publishing House, Inc. of Toronto, Canada (
So here is my list of my female ancestors, their dates and ages on death.

My major brick wall is tracing the background of my maternal grandmother,   as I have not even been able to find a  birth certificate.    So that immediately reduced the number of female ancestors that I could list:  

Kathleen Weston, nee Danson (1908-1999) - aged 91.

Alice Danson, nee English (1884-1945) - aged 60.
Mary Barbara Weston, nee Matthews (1876-1958) - aged 82.
Great Grandmothers
? English - ?
Maria Danson, nee Rawcliffe (1859-1919) - aged 60.
Sarah Ann Weston, nee Jones (c.1852- ?)
Matilda  Matthews, nee  Simpson (1849-?) 

Great Great Grandmothers 
Jane Rawcliffe, nee Carr (1819-1865) - aged 46.
Elizabeth Danson, nee Calvert (1811-1879) aged 68
Anne Weston, nee Walker (1829-1881), aged 52. 
? Jones  - ?
? Matthews - ?  
? Simpson - ?

Great Great Great Grandmothers

Jane Carr, nee  Crane  - ?
Anne (Nanny) Rawcliffe, nee Moon (1789-1822) - aged 33     

Elizabeth Danson, nee Brown (1766-1840) - aged 74
Grace Calvert, nee Harrison - ?    
Elizabeth Walker, nee ?

Great Great Great Great Grandmothers 
Jane Crane - ?
Alice Moon, nee Carter - ?

Margaret Danson, nee Fayle. (1730-1815), aged  85 
Alice Brown, nee Clegg  - ? 

  • There were no surprises from the analysis of the ages of death of my female ancestors.   My mother at the age of 91  had the longest life, followed nearly two centuries previously  by my g.g.g.g.grandmother Margaret Danson nee Fayle who died aged 85 = a great age for the times (1815).
  • G g.g.grandmother Anne (Nanny) Moon had the shortest life, dying at the age of 33.
  • But the biggest lesson learned is:

    I need to do far more in "Bringing My Female Ancestors Out of the Shadows". 

My mother  - Kathleen
Grandmother Mary
Grandmother Alice


Great Grandmother Matilda
Great Grandmother Maria