Thursday, 1 March 2012


I recently left a comment  on a post on one of my favourite blogs  about both my grandmothers being 'in service' when they were young.  I suspect that the words 'in service' imply a rather grand establishment.  A large town house like the one in the recent 'Upstairs, Downstairs'  television series or a large country house on an estate like the one in 'Downton Abbey'.  I think the residences that both my grandmothers worked in were much smaller affairs probably not much bigger than their own homes. I've been looking back at the census returns that I found some time ago to try to find out more about the type of place and family they worked for.

Photo taken inside a house at Blists Hill Museum, Ironbridge
The first of my ancestors I found 'living in' as a servant was my paternal great grandmother Sarah Ann Hodgetts (known as Sally).  She was born in Birmingham in 1854. On the 1871 Census she is living as a domestic servant, aged 17, in St Frederick Villa, Oliver Road, Ladywood, Birmingham  which was the home of a Mr T Faulks an architect and his wife Rose.  There were no children in the house and she was the only servant.

In the 1901 Census for Nottingham I found my maternal grandmother Florence Mary Stubbs working as a housemaid at 311 Mansfield Road for Samuel Arthur Hill and his wife Rose, both 37 years of age.  Samuel was a Wine Merchant's Secretary.  There were no children in the house and no other servants.  My grandmother was just 17 years old.  I remember my mother pointing out the house to me once as we passed by on the bus on one of our occasional shopping trips to Nottingham.  The house then had a black and white frontage and was quite close to the big cemetery on Mansfield road.  Years later when I was travelling backwards and forwards to work everyday I used to look out for the house.

Florence Mary Stubbs later Limb with my Aunt Gladys who was born in 1907
My paternal grandmother Rose Edwards was also in service in 1901, aged 22 and to be married later that same year.  Her household, where like my other grandmother she was the only servant, was full of children from the age of 20 down to a 9 year old.  The head of the household was Charles Wright a builder and carpenter and his home and workshop was at 177 Fosse Road North, Leicester.  Granny's  eldest daughter, Millicent Mabel (my aunt Millie) was born in 1902 and she also became a domestic servant at the home of  John Campbell Boot in Nottingham.  He was the only son of Jesse and Florence Boot founders of Boots the Chemist.  She once told me the tale of when she was married from there in 1925,  Mrs Margaret Boot loaned her shoes and gloves for the ceremony,  Aunt Millie was mortified that she lost one of the gloves. 

Aunt Millie as I remember her in her flowery pinny

Wednesday, 9 November 2011


I have very few memories of my father who died from leukaemia when I was five years old.  Some of  those I have I've written about on a separate page on this blog which you may have time to read.  I am remembering my father this week because he was born on November 10th and also because he served his country in the second World War.

Harry Lawrence Gough
1909 - 1955

He married my mother on Boxing Day 1938 - the photo above was taken a couple of years later.  There are no wedding photos,  apparently they asked a friend to take them but something went wrong with the film and they were all lost.

When war broke out they lived in Leicester where my father was a baker and confectioner.  As he was a little older he wasn't immediately called up for duty and so joined the home guard in Leicester.  My mother had written on the back of the photo 'Harry and friends at the outset of war.  Home guard 1940'  I wonder who the other three are?  They look a lot younger than my father.

Later he served with the RAMC (Royal Army Medical Corps) firstly in the very north of Scotland and then in the Middle East.  Apparently he was a cook; the logistics of keeping the troops fed must have been quite a responsibility.

There is nothing on the back of the photo below to say when and where it was taken or who the two men on either side of my father may be.

I call my father 'father' because I always called my step-father 'Dad'.  He too did service during the war in REME (Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers) maintaining guns along the south coast in places like Portsmouth and Weymouth before being sent to the Middle East and Italy.

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

A Visit to Lichfield

Still on a quest to determine if the Edward Limb born in 1793 at Shipley, Derbyshire was my 3x great grandfather (see my previous post) I booked in at the Archives office at Lichfield where they keep the Bishop's Transcripts (BTs) for Derbyshire as well as Staffordshire.  They have a very comprehensive website and online catalogue (link) so I knew that I would be able to view the transcripts for St Lawrence, Heanor and hoped that they would be easier to read than the parish registers.

I checked the baptism of Edward, son of William and Anne Limb of Shipley it was indeed 29th September 1793.  I also found the baptism of another Edward, son of Joseph and Elizabeth Limb of Shipley Wood on 4th August 1793 but found his burial  two years later on 25th December 1795.  Thus confirming I'd found the right Edward Limb born c. 1793.

At this point I searched back through the records for the birth of a William Limb in Shipley and found one baptised on 17th September 1753 - son of Ann Limb.

It was rather strange but most satisfying to be looking at the original documents, even though I was worried about opening them up and the plastic gloves we had to wear were making my hands feel uncomfortable - it reminded me of when I first started researching my family history over 20 years ago.  Those were the days before many records had been filmed and the originals plus cotton gloves were presented for our research.

Another interesting find was the burial of a Bonnit (sic) Limb on January 16th 1764.  I had also found the baptism and burial of a Bennet (sic) Limb to William and Ann  born in 1795 and buried in 1796.  Given that the spelling of names wasn't always consistent I thought that this sounded like a family name.  The earliest reference to Limbs in Heanor and Shipley I found was 1755 but I didn't have time to look at any earlier records,  I may go back to investigate but I think that I can now safely say that my 3x great grandfather Edward Limb was the son of William and Ann Limb of Shipley, Derbyshire.

Saturday, 14 August 2010

Is it or isn't it?

My 3x great grandfather Edward Limb was, according to the 1851 Census, born in Shipley, Derbyshire and he died there on 18th June 1857 aged 63. The names of his parents have always been a puzzle and I still haven't really found out for sure who they were.

Earlier this week we took a trip to the Local Studies Office at Matlock to look at the parish registers. Paul had his own research to do in the Hope Valley area and I looked at the parish registers for St Lawrence, Heanor which was the church used for Shipley during the 18th century. I found references to quite a few Limms and Limbs in the area and there were at least three couples producing children at the time of Edward's birth which was some time in the last ten years of the 18th century. However, many of the pages were illegible so I may have missed one or two entries as I struggled to read the micro-film; after a while I began to feel slightly queasy - much like motion sickness whilst travelling - so I had to give up and look at other records.

In the 1841 Census Edward's family name is spelt Limm but by the 1851 census it is spelt Limb. In the earlier register the name seems to be spelt Limm more often than Limb although later into the 19th century Limb becomes the most common spelling. I also found some Lyms, too.

I had always wondered about some details sent to me from New Zealand about Edward Limb's possible parents - a William and Ann Limb of Shipley. On the 1841 census it states that Edward was born in the county of Derbyshire and I found what could be his baptism in September 1793. This Edward was the son of William and Ann Limm of Shipley Wood. I found several other children born to the same couple namely twins Mary and Martha baptised 18th June 1779, Ann baptised May 25th 1783, Richard baptised 19th May 1788, William baptised 24th July 1790, another William - the first must have died in infancy - baptised 22nd May 1792 and Edward September 29th 1793.

Given that Edward Limb's age on his death certificate was 63 and also given that William and Ann seemed to have their children baptised soon after they were born - I mention this as there were instances of whole families of three. four and even more children being baptised at the same time - that this Edward could have been born in say July or August 1793 and that he could have been nearly 64 when he died thus he could have been born in 1793 and therefore could be the Edward I am looking for - my 3x great grandfather.

What a quandary! Have I found the right Edward at last or did I miss any other possibles due to the illegibility of the records? It feels right - but I'm still not sure.

Friday, 9 July 2010


In the churchyard of the pretty South Derbyshire village of Aston-on-Trent, under a shady tree, is a grave stone with the following inscription

To the Memory of Keturah wife of John Webb/who died May 10th 1826 in the 78th year of her age/John Webb died April 30th 1830 aged 80 years/in peace they lived and died/ John Webb their son/ died June 5th 1839/aged 58 years.

John and Keturah Webb (nee Addams) were the parents of my 3x great grandfather Francis Webb who was born at Aston-on-Trent in 1789. As well as Francis and John, mentioned above, the couple had other children - Dorothy, Anne, Kitturah, Fransisco, Ulissa and Celia. It was when I saw the name Celia that I knew I had found the right family as this name has been carried through each generation right to the present in my cousin's second name. Here is a - link- to a post I wrote a while ago about my great grandmother Celia.

Francis Webb eventually moved to Nottingham where he married Mary Palmer on the 31st March 1816. By the time of the 1841 Census Francis and Mary are living at Park Square in the St Nicholas district of Nottingham his occupation is Lace Maker as is that of their eldest son, Robert. The also have other children Celia, Amos, Frank and Rebecca. Rebecca is my great great grandmother who married my great great grandfather Alexander Young in 1834.

Mary Webb died in 1845 and Francis was married for a second time in 1846 to Hannah Robinson. On the 1851 Census Francis and Hannah are living at Walker Street, Sneinton, Nottingham with the two younger children Frank and Rebecca - all four are working in the lace industry. Francis's second wife Hannah died in 1851 and Francis was married for a third time to Sarah Wilson. By the time of the 1861 Census, Francis, now 71 years old is still working in the lace industry as a warper. He died later that year.

I think what struck me most about John and Keturah and indeed Francis was that they lived into their 70s and 80s - quite a feat in the 19th century. I also wondered about the fact that an inscribed slate head stone existed as this implies that the family had enough money to purchase it.

Monday, 7 June 2010

Where Now?

I've hit another of those unsolvable brick-walls that family historians tend to run headlong into! I have one or two 'knotty problems' I've been unable to solve over the last twenty years or more that I have been doing research.

After my last post about searching in Birmingham and acquiring the birth certificate of my great-grandmother Sarah Hodgetts I followed up with sending for the marriage certificate of her parents Robert Hodgetts and Mary Ann Bennett in the hope that this would give me the names of the couple's fathers. In Robert's case this information had been left blank so I am none the wiser! I guess he was illegitimate and that the fact that he is called Robert Scott Hodgetts stems from this, now would his father have been a Scott or a Hodgetts? I'm guessing that Hodgetts was probably his mother's name.

Mary Ann Bennett gives her birthplace as Birmingham on the 1851 census but London on the 1861 census. On the marriage certificate her father's occupation is 'traveller' so she may well have been born in London. I can't find her on the 1841 census in Birmingham so the family could have been anywhere in the country - I have come to a standstill on this one, I think!

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Searching in Birmingham

I knew from the Census returns that my great-grandmother Sarah Ann Hodgetts came from Birmingham. She married my great-grandfather Thomas Edwards on 14th February 1875 in Newhall, near Burton-on-Trent. I've always wondered why both she and her brother Robert moved from Birmingham to Newhall. I expect as with most people then it was for work; there were two other brothers John Scott and Joseph who seemed to stay in Birmingham although I've never been able to find any trace of Joseph after the 1861 census.

Sarah Ann was the daughter of Robert Scott Hodgetts and Mary Ann Bennett. I recently sent for Sarah's birth certificate so that I could confirm the maiden name of her mother. Sarah was born in the St Paul's District of Birmingham and at the time of her birth the family were living at No 13 Court, Little Charles Street. By the 1861 Census the family had moved to the St Martin's District of Birmingham and are living at House 3, Court 10, Alleston Street. I think the St Paul's district is around the Jewellery Quarter and St Martin's is the area around the Bull Ring.

I was fascinated to learn this because in October 2004 we had visited the newly opened 'Back to Backs' not far from St Martin's Church and the Bullring. This is a restored courtyard of houses each one showing how the houses would have been lived in through the 19th and 20th centuries.

One of the earlier houses showed how people lived and worked in the same house doing small jobs for the larger industries around. In 1861 the Hodgetts family were all working (except the two younger children) in different industries and I expect some of them would do this work within the home.

The elder Robert, aged 37, was a gun implement maker and Mary his wife was a brass hitcher. Eldest son John was a cork cutter whilst the younger Robert was an umbrella ferrule maker. Perhaps they lived and worked in just such a courtyard as the one above. No cycles in 1861 of course and I expect it would have been a lot shabbier and dirtier but you can get the idea from the photos. The work would have been hard and the hours long. Sanitation in these courtyards would have been minimal and diseases like Cholera and TB were rife.

By 1871 both Robert (the elder) and Mary had died and Sarah is working as a domestic servant in the house of an architect in Ladywood in Birmingham. By 1875 she had made her move to Newhall and was married to my great-grandfather.

Sarah died in February 1939 aged 84 and is buried in the churchyard of St John's Church, Newhall, Derbyshire.