Thanks to the genealogy course I’m doing, my research is definitely more structured, and means that I am finding out new things almost daily. This week has been particularly productive; I’ve made contact with my great grandfathers paternal family and we are working on trying to confirm our relationships, I’ve ordered and received a copy of my great grandmothers birth certificate, and I’ve also made contact with a relative I had no idea existed as she was adopted!
These last two discoveries, as well as my mammas birthday last week, have got me to thinking about the relationship between mothers and daughters. It is often said that there is no bond quite like that of a mother and daughter, in fact it is even backed up by science. A study published in 2010 states the connection between mums and their girls remains stronger than other types of intergenerational family relationships throughout all the changes in life. Another study in the Journal of Neuroscience in 2016 says that of all parent- child bonds, mother and daughter ones are the strongest. Apparently it’s to do with empathy and emotional processing, basically your mum knows what you’re going through. I have to admit, when I got married last year, my mum was my saving grace for dealing with the stress, she can definitely read my mind sometimes.
Mothers are a special breed really, aren’t they? I know not all mums are perfect and that some people have lost their mums way too soon and thats tragic and I’m so sorry, I really do understand how lucky I am. There is a Mitch Albom quote I found online that seems to fit what I’m trying to say;
“Behind all your stories is always your mother’s story, because hers is where yours begins.”
I really am incredible lucky, my mum has the most beautiful heart. A discussion we have had numerous times when we talk about my research for our trip, is how hard life must have been for the women in our past. We come from a line of strong women, women who had girl power long before the spice girls. Mothers, whom for whatever reason found themselves in these positions against the social norm, and doing what they had to do to get by, so with that in mind, I would like to share with you the stories I discovered last week. Both of these need considerably more research, and I know I have more stories about the other ladies in my line, like my 3x great grandmother who had three illegitimate children, and my other great great grandma who once stole a chicken- but there will be time for those another day.
I have been stuck in the research regarding my great grandmothers birth for a long time now, years really. The story goes that my 2x great grandmother left Shetland and went to London to work in a house as a servant. Whilst there, she and the son of the family fell in love and had two daughters together. Of course the family could never approve of the match, (although my mum thought that there was a marriage by proxy possibly), but the girls were looked after and the family of the son even paid for the girls to go to school in Edinburgh. Selina, my great aunt went on to have a family in Shetland, and obviously my great grandma Rose went on to have a family and settled in Edinburgh.
That was literally all we knew, until I started digging a bit more. To start with, my cousin Danielle thinks that Selina and Rose had two different fathers, (which I’ve got to be honest, looking at my families history wouldn’t surprise me at all). We had no proof of anything however, and normal searches on databases couldn’t even confirm a birthday for these girls. It also seemed that there were about 3 Rose Hendersons born in London in the same year, so after eliminating two of them, I decided to bite the bullet and order the birth certificate, (thanks to the good records on Scotland People I don’t normally have this problem, but these were English records). Luckily when it arrived I had the right one and it looked like this;
Finally we had a date, and we also had some addresses. My mum said that Rose was born, ‘within the sounds of the Bow bells’ and it seems this is true, her birth address was in Poplar, right in the east end. The other address, my 2x great grandmothers residence, seemed like an interesting building to google and I was not wrong. Initially it came up as an eye hospital, as you can see from this street view capture.
I spent the whole afternoon researching and sending emails and looking for archives, and then I realised I hadn’t actually googled the exact address, so thats what I did, and this is what came up.
I have been trying to find out more about this organisation online but I’m struggling, it might actually require a trip to London. My other instinct was to look for the 1881 census to see where they were living then. My great grandmother was born in 1877, her sister in 1873. I cannot find them or their mother on the census that year, but I know in 1891 they are both living in Shetland with an aunt and uncle and apparently their mother is in London still.
As I said this all still requires so much research, perhaps I can’t find them on the 1881 census because there was a proxy marriage and they are all under a different surname, or perhaps there is no record because they are in a institute? However, when I talk about strong women, she to me is a prime example. It’s Victorian London and she is a single mother with two children, so she does what she has to do and sends them back to Shetland. Separated from her daughters she continues to work as a domestic servant in London. I can’t even imagine how hard that must have been. It is hard enough to find the time to see my parents 6 hours away by car, but at least I can call them or text them whenever I want. Unless you are lucky enough to find a direct flight from England, it takes forever to get to Shetland even today, trust me- I’ve just booked my ticket and it involves a bus, a plane, 12 hours in Aberdeen and an overnight ferry. It must have taken days, and a lot of money, to get back to the islands in the 19th century.
I cannot wait to find out more about Christina and her daughters lives.
This story is considerably shorter, and actually concerns my mothers, fathers family. In my quest to find out the identity of my great grandma Rose’s father, I spend a lot of time emailing cousins I have matched with on Ancestry DNA, in particular those that have surnames I don’t recognise. I don’t have many close cousin matches, and I have a lot of matches with no tree, it is a real headache to research. Anyway, as you know I uploaded my raw data to MyHeritage and I also hit a couple of matches there, the site reckoned 4th cousins. One lives in Canada and is probably a relative on my fathers side, but he has ignored my email so his loss really. The other match I really wasn’t sure about, but her reply came as a shock. She said she could not tell me how we might be related as she was adopted at 6 months old.
I honestly never expected to find a story like this in my tree. We have so many amazing single mothers that adoption just didn’t seem a thing my family did. This isn’t on my Shetland side though, this is on my East Anglian side. The only details she knew were their names, her biological mums age, her birth location and her birth year. I am guessing she found her birth certificate but I didn’t ask. She said that her fathers mother didn’t approve of the match and wouldn’t let them get married so she was put up for adoption. She said out of respect to her adoptive parents she didn’t dig for any information, I hope that meant she had a good life and was very loved, again a question I didn’t want to ask. I wanted to do my bit however, so I told her everything I knew about her biological family. My mothers paternal great great grandmother is her great grandma, so my grandfather is her first cousin, (I think, it all gets so confusing!). I told her how my great great grandparents had 11 children, and where my great grandmother and her grandmother lived. I told her that her grandmother married a man in 1920 and they had 9 children, so she had 8 aunts and uncles. I told her that her mum did get married, and that they had 7 children, so somewhere she had 7 half brothers and sisters. I told her that unfortunately her mother passed away in 2010. I sent her pictures of our family.
She was obviously overwhelmed by all this information, but one sentence she wrote really stuck out for me, “She must have been a strong girl to keep me for 6 months in those days.” And you know what, she really must have been, she must have fought for her little girl, and for her daughters father, what courage it must have taken to say goodbye. I am trying now to find out more information for her, I believe I have some DNA matches that will be of interest to her, if they reply.
When I started this genealogy search, I was expecting a boring family, with no skeletons in closets and no fascinating stories to tell. As more and more information came out surrounding illegitimacy and chicken theft, all my socialisation prejudices were there, was my family a ‘bad’ family? This week I realised however, my ancestors are amazing, wonderful people with fantastic stories that reflect the history and society of the time, and prove to me that women are amazing. The pre existing patriarchy and societal pressures that punished women was something these ladies faced, some less than 100 years ago, and they fought for their families, and to give their little girls the best lives that they could, something so many women still do today.
“Words are not enough to express the unconditional love that exists between a mother and her daughter.”
Edit- obviously women love their sons and would do anything for them to, but science says, it’s just not the same!