When I am not writing my blog, I am researching family history. Call me Miss Marple please; I am rarely happier than tracking a trail to discover more information about my family and I find Ancestry.co.uk is invaluable. Anyone who is tracing a family tree will probably have an interest in one particular member, mine is my maternal Great Grandfather Thomas Taylor, known as Tom.
I wish I had known him, I feel completely drawn to him and just want to know more and more. Life in the Victorian era was not easy, Tom lost two wives and five children during his life time, to lose one wife is heartbreaking but to go through bereavement seven times just doesn’t bare thinking about. It must have had a dramatic effect on his outlook on life, maybe it made him more stoic. He was a Catholic and perhaps he just placed his faith in God, but even that would have been tested, surely.
Born in Liverpool on 24 November 1841, 170 years ago, Tom was one of eight children born to John and Catharine Taylor. I am drawing a blank with finding out information about John Taylor, there were hundreds of them in Liverpool at that time. John Taylor was a Coal Merchant and Tom inherited the business on his father’s death. He was a Colliery Proprietor at his death aged 76 on 26 March 1918.
He looks like a typical Victorian gentleman and I like to think he had a great charm about him. It’s funny how we weave a character around just a photograph, there is no one alive to tell me what he was really like, although my Mother said she understood he was a very kind and loving man. She was born a year after his death so didn’t know him.
Tom had three wives and fifteen children – that’s some legacy. As I said earlier, he lost five of his children; four died in childhood and the First World War claimed William, (38) in 1915.
Tom’s third wife, was Annie Mary Grimshaw (a good Lancashire name!) – she was my Great Grandmother. Annie was 31 and Tom was 52 when they married in 1893 and she inherited seven step-children. For the two oldest sons, she was their second step-mother. Tom and Annie had six children, two died in childhood, Gerard died aged 7 and his brother Eric, who was only 4 died the following year. There were no antibiotics then and if children had chest infections it often turned to pneumonia which killed them.
Their fourth child and first daughter, Alice (or Alys, she changed the spelling), was my Grandmother. She is the older of the three girls in the photograph above. Looking at these photographs makes me realise how important it is to keep them safe so they can be passed down through the generations. With the digital age, and saving photos on to computers and memory sticks, I wonder if they will still be around in years to come when our children become keen to trace their history. It is only in the last ten years that I have been so interested in where I have come from, maybe its a mortality thing and I have been lucky enough to have photos that my mother has saved. In 100 years time will there be the same fascination in old photographs, I do hope so, it’s all part and parcel of social history.
I love the clothes they wore, especially the one below… it looks straight out of The Railway Children. These are the three sisters, Alice, Hilda and Marie.
Annie died when she was 77, in May 1939, before the Second World War started in September 1939 and a year before their youngest daughter, Marie, only 37, was killed during an air raid in Liverpool. My Mother remembers her Aunty Marie well and talks about her with great love and likes to tell me how Marie would sing and dance all the time. I don’t know the year the photograph below was taken, but this is Marie and Great Granny Taylor, but it probably was sometime during the 30’s. The fashions are very 30’s, straight up and down dresses with no shape.
Great Granny Taylor, must have seen some amazing changes in her lifetime, fashions, health care and lifestyles. She lived through the First World War and lost one of her step-sons in the War, I am glad she didn’t have to live through the Second and suffer the loss of a fourth child and youngest daughter.
I can’t leave this piece about my family history without sharing a wonderful photograph of my Paternal Grandmother Dorothy Sheriff-Gibbons. She was born in 1897 in Mayfair, London to Charles Sherriff, a Silversmith who came from Stonehouse in Devon but that’s another story (see the link below). I have no idea when this photo was taken and can’t even begin to judge her age. It is of her and her brother, John Oliver (always known as Tubby) who was born in 1900. What a fabulous hat!
I hope we all keep our family photographs safe so that down the generations, someone in your family, maybe a great granddaughter, will know what you looked like and the type of clothes you wore at the time.