I found this funeral card in a box of odds and ends at a boot sale. I thought it looked interesting so I bought it and took it home. Later that evening I sat down to see what I could find out about Samuel. This is where my troubles started. I began by looking on the census for Samuel, and I was really lucky to find him aged just 7 days old on the 1861 census. This doesn’t happen too often to be honest, usually I find people that are born in a census year are born just after it was taken, so I have to miss out a whole 10 years of their lives until I can find them on the next one. Even more annoying is when people pass away in a census year just before a census is taken- especially if this is the 1911 census which is oh sooo interesting, although now I am thinking about it perhaps the most
thoughtless unhelpful people are those who are widowed but marry again just before a census so have a different name as well as changing the surname of all their children to their new spouses name ( I can hear Kristoff now … you got engaged to someone you JUST met?!*) anyway I digress…
Back to Samuel, born in Hackney, East London he was the son of Fanny and Charles Billson and he was one of 11 children. His dad Charles was a Pianoforte Maker, and when I saw this I thought oh that sounds interesting. So I began reading up on Victorian piano makers thinking Mr Billson probably had his own factory, maybe had his name engraved on metal plaques inside each of his pianos etc etc when I discovered that just because someone has the job title pianoforte maker doesn’t necessarily mean he actually made the piano. He could have just made part of it. He could have put the strings inside or put the legs on or polished the lid. But what I did discover a census or two later was his eldest son was a Pianoforte Maker Journeyman, i.e he had made it to the top of his trade and probably did a lot more than fit the keys. And it may be that his dad did too but I had spent so long reading up on the piano business that I hadn’t found out.
Back to Samuel. Again. In April 1871 Samuel’s father died and by December 1872 his mother had married again. I found the family living together in 1881 and noticed a small addition to the household. A 5 year old girl named Minnie, and although she had the same surname as the head of household she was listed as an orphan. So I wondered where she had come from, I searched for her birth, I looked for her parents, her christening, I tried to find her in a workhouse. I found nothing to help me trace her start in life. I found her in 2 more censuses the 1891 with the once again widowed Fanny and a last glimpse of her in 1911, aged 34 and alone in the workhouse. I could have cried for her.
I think this has been a good example of how fascinating researching the past can be, and how easy it is to go off on a tangent and totally forget what you were trying to do in the first place.
I feel bad for Samuel. I had all good intentions of researching him, and I suppose to some extent I have done. He grew up, got married and had 9 or 10 children. He lived and died in East London. He became a Bootmaker and later on in life a window cleaner. But in a way by having a peek into his life we have learnt a little about some of the people around him so I thank you for that Samuel.
I would still like to know more about the little orphan though……
*For those fortunate enough not to have seen the movie Frozen this is a quote from it. To those of you have seen Frozen apologies for starting THAT song off in your head. Again.
This is the remains of Giew, a former tin mine just outside St Ives in Cornwall, England. I visited it recently with my family while on holiday. My story today is about a similar mine close by, Consols Mine in St Ives. I was unable to locate any remains during my short stay so I have taken this photo to give you an idea of what it may have looked like.
Edwin Trevollow, husband to Johanna and father of 10 children, was born in 1845 to William and Elizabeth. He was one of 9 surviving children and, like his father before him, grew up to be a Tin Miner. It was a hard job, working underground for many hours at a time in dark, damp and claustrophobic conditions. It was also a very dangerous job. Many hundreds of men died when mine walls or ceilings collapsed, men could be trapped underground for days awaiting rescue, perhaps a rescue that could never come. But despite the risks it was a profession that was undertaken by many men (and children) at the time. Even women were part of the industry, although more often they worked on the surface as ‘Bal Maidens’.
On the afternoon of Tuesday 15th of March 1887 Edwin and his son were finishing their shift and making their way back along the mine. A few days earlier they had been in another part of the mine when it had collapsed and blocked the normal way out, so it had been decided by some of the men that they could continue working by way of using a large bucket to get into and out of the mine despite this being against the rules.
Of course the men wouldn’t have been paid if they didn’t work and large families need feeding, rules or no rules.
Edwin waited for his turn to be pulled up to the surface, he stepped into the bucket, and was hauled upwards towards the fresh Cornish air. He was almost level with the outside world when the rope snapped. Edwin tumbled down 30 fathoms (180 feet to you and me!) to the bottom of the mine. A fellow worker heard him shriek as he fell. Edwin died instantly. The inquest into his death gave a verdict of accidental death and a stern reminder to the Mine Owner of the rules and regulations of tin mining. And that was that.
Johanna his widow was left with several young children still living at home to support. The 1891 census tells us she was being maintained by her 21 year old son William. He was a Tin Miner. Johanna’s life must have been one of worry, just like many of her neighbours.
Johanna died in 1900 aged just 53.
The couple share a grave on a hillside looking out to sea.
Like many people I like a quiet walk through a churchyard, I like to explore the old stones and sometimes take note of a name or two and see what I can find out about them. About 15 years ago I was walking around a Sussex churchyard with my mum and the thought occurred to us …why not record some of these stones? many of the memorials were from the early 1800s and were rapidly falling victim to weather – the soft sandstone losing the lettering once carved into it. So we began to spend our spare time there, on hands and knees with paper and pens (yes it was in the days before Tablets!) and in all weathers, desperately trying to read inscriptions that were terribly faint and almost illegible.
In the end we recorded well over a thousand headstones. It was a very difficult project, we didn’t get it right in some cases but we tried our best, visiting local archives to try and get as many names and dates right as possible. We purchased death certificates, read obituaries in local papers dating back to Victorian times. But it was great, and we had fun doing it. When complete we felt we had achieved something, and many people who had long since gone were remembered and now have become like old friends to us, albeit some of them probably have the odd chuckle at my expense about that ant incident.
One nice part of our project was the people we met, both in person and online. We received photos of Edwardians now residing in our churchyard whose families had since emigrated, we were able to help people find long lost ancestors buried in a church miles away from where they should have been and we learnt a lot about the history of the area and its people.
So back to the name of the blog…. One of the oldest headstones we recorded had the rather sad inscription ‘Seized by death and prisoners made, three infant children’ and I was intrigued……..