Precious legacy given with love

My great grandmother’s watch was bequeathed to me in the will of my Granny, Doris Gill.

I first became acquainted with the watch when it was handed to me to take along to the Antiques Roadshow in March 1996 -“you never know it might be worth something” said Granny.

Unfortunately Geoffrey Munn was not impressed with my offering and asked who on earth had decided to clean it?  I said that I didn’t know.  He pointed out that someone had cleaned so hard that the numerals had come off of the face thus limiting its value to approximately £100.

I dutifully reported back to Granny, whom I think was a little disappointed.  However she soon recovered and sat me down and told me how it had been given to her mother Gertrude Harrison for her 21st birthday by her parents Eliza and Henry Harrison and so to her the watch was priceless.

It was at this point of the proceedings that Granny informed me that she would be leaving the watch to me in her will and asked if I wanted to know what else she had left me, I replied that “that was not my business Granny!” – she just laughed.  Looking back she wanted me to understand and appreciate how important this watch was to her and that it was a precious link her mother and that this link was to be passed down to me.

I’ve recently done a little research into the watch as I had forgotten all the wise words Geoffrey had spoken.  The watch was made by the French makers Guivre, in 18 carat gold.  The case is marked with Mercury, the French export small guarantee hallmark.  The case also bears the number 19170 which I believe indicates the case design.

Etched faintly on the inside rim of the case are a series of numbers ‘26297 mk’ – I can only presume at the moment that this may be the mark of the watchmaker who assembled the watch or perhaps of the jeweller who sold the piece – who knows.

I’ve talked so much about my Granny in recent blogs that I feel I really ought to introduce her to you all properly – so with love I give you Doris Gill nee Star, my Granny.


3 January, 2012. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , . Family History. 7 comments.

Family Jewels – part trois

Here is the third post of my mini series Family Jewels or in this case the family silver!

These pencils are not so much jewels but instead represent a way of life which has largely disappeared – these are the elegant but practical jewels of bygone days.

As with a few of the objects included in this series these pencils were found in the belonginings of Ethel Star my Great Aunt and because of where and who last owned these items, there can only be two possible candidates.

These two ladies, I believe, would be either Agnes Downham or Eliza Hopkins – my 2 x great grandmothers on my mum’s side.  They both came from comfortable backgrounds – Agnes from Chippenham and Eliza from Leighton Buzzard.

Agnes married George Henry Star and moved to Mansfield and as my Granny (Agnes’ granddaughter) remembered, “was not the sort of person who shouted her children in for tea – they had a bell for that”.

Eliza grew up in Leighton Buzzard and moved to Mansfield for reasons unknown  – at this moment in time.  Granny remembered that her grandmother’s front parlour was “like a palace” and that “no-one was allowed to sit down in there” unless “Granny [Eliza] was with you”.

The first mark shows that F. Webb of Birmingham was the maker; the Lion indicates that it is indeed sterling  silver .925.  The next mark is the date stamp indicating that the pencil was made in 1897; finally the anchor confirms that the pencil was manufactured in Birmingham.

The amazing thing about these pencils was that they still had lead in them – just think perhaps the last person to use these pencils was one of the ladies above.


16 December, 2011. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , . Family History. Leave a comment.

Family Jewels – family Star

In the second part of my Family Jewels series I’d like to introduce you to my ‘star’.

I first became aware of the story of ‘the star’ from Doris Star (aka Granny), whilst she was recuperating at home after a long stint in hospital, I was sat keeping her company as she reminisced about the family’s past characters and events.

Doris explained that ‘the star’ had belonged to her father Cecil Star and was designed to hang from his watch chain, she remembered it well.

Cecil died at the relatively young age of 53 and reading between the lines I would say that Doris was the apple of his eye, she had certainly felt his death keenly at the tender ago of 19.

After Doris’ death 2010 there was some speculation that the blue stone in the middle was a sapphire but on a recent visit to the  BBC’s Antiques Road Show I was reliably informed by Geoffrey Munn that it was in fact blue glass.  The hallmark is difficult to read but Geoffery felt that it had been made in Birmingham in approximately 1897.

15 November, 2011. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , . Family History. 2 comments.

Family Jewels – Granny’s Watch

Many apologies for not posting as frequently as I should – I have no excuses …

To compensate for my lax ways in my blogging duties I have decided to do a series of posts on the family jewels and the stories behind them …

There is no better person to start the series with than my Granny, Doris Star.  Here she is on the occasion of her Confirmation in 1926.

The photo was taken by her uncle Albert Train who had a photographic studio on Market Street, Sutton-in-Ashfield.

Doris’ dress was made by her mother, Gertrude Harrison (nee Hopkins, originally of Leighton Buzzard).

Doris’ watch was a gift from her mother to mark this important occasion.

Doris treasured and wore the watch for many years.

After her death in June 2010 I brought the watch home to photograph and Darren (my husband) managed to get it working again. It was lovely to hear the tick tick tick of the mechanism and to think that the last person to hear that sound was my Granny.

12 November, 2011. Tags: , , , , , , , . Family History. Leave a comment.

The Jeal Mystery

A few years ago I received a photograph from my cousin and friend Bill Heasman, written on the back was the following :-

“This is my mother’s and uncle, Mr. and Mrs. Jeal.  They lived in a cottage by the ‘Brewery Tap’ in Lakedale Road, Plumstead.  I used to go and see them and meet my mother there when I came from school and we would walk home together.  My mother died suddenly of a heart attach when I was 13.  I was in the Ext 7th and left school then. My sisters Dolly then 17 and Kate 14 were mother’s helps.”        Lizzie Heasman

You would think that would be enough to work out who the couple were, wouldn’t you? Wrong!!!

The Jeal family are not an easy one to track down – they need to be teased out rather than tracked down in 10 minutes (metaphorically speaking).

Their name can be spelt on a variety of ways Gel, Geal, Heal etc.  Add into this mix the name Jewiss and you’ve got a minefield – Huss, Jervis you get the picture [but that’s for later].

I don’t find the London aspect of my family history very easy to get my head around – I have never been to Plumstead or walked its streets and acquainted myself with its finer points – this connection I feel is important to us, ‘the seekers’.

To overcome this problem I consulted and then transcribed Charles Booth‘s poverty account of Plumstead.

His descriptions are frank and to the point with none of the rose-tinting that one might get from memories.

“… all the houses practically brothels, used by sailors, loafers, waterside labourers and by the lowest grade soldiers … “

“… All these roads are 2st [storey], clean, fairly broad, built about 40 years ago : poor : have the look of tenants who earn money but don’t spend it well.  Clyne gives them all a bad character for drink …”

A thought suddenly occurred to me and I went off at a tangent and posted an ‘APB’ on a RootsChat forum and lo and behold an angel answered my call and it transpired that perhaps this wasn’t Mr. and Mrs. Jeal after all.

To be honest try as I might I’ve never be able to slot this photo into the Jeal / Heasman timeline – they are either dead; not born; not old enough for school; or simply in the wrong part of town.

With Rog’s help (of RootsChat) I started to think perhaps Lizzie had got it slightly wrong yes, the couple were her mother’s aunt and uncle but could it be one of her mother’s married aunts instead of a married uncle?  Only one could fit the bill – Elizabeth born 1826, three years older than her sister Emma (Lizzie’s grandmother, my 4x grandmother).

Elizabeth and her husband John lived on Cage Lane/Lakedale Road for much of their married lives and they didn’t die before Lizzie reached school age – hurray!

All in all I think ‘Rog’ cracked it for me, a fresh pair of eyes – thanks Rog.

So here is the photo in all its glory, I give you Elizabeth and John Jewiss.

2 June, 2011. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Family History. Leave a comment.


In less than a year both my Granny and her sister, my Great Aunt have died – not unusual I know,  after all I’m 41 – ‘they must have been clocking on a little bit’, I hear you say and you’d be right.  But to live to 99 in the case of my granny and 98 in the case of Ethel her sister, by anyone’s imagination is a long time.

Granny only had one husband – my granddad – who sadly died in 1973.  Ethel on the other hand had two husbands and a partner all of whom pre-deceased her.

Granny had two children; Ethel had several dogs, handbags, shoes, clothes … …

You get the drift, their lives were on the surface so different, they were their own person with their own personalities, but they must have shared something?

Their excellent skin, their longevity, their quest to out do each other, their absolute stubbornness, this list of their similarities just goes on and on!

I’ve thought on and off about DNA in genealogy for sometime.   There’s the Star ‘old’ gene; the Densham ‘skin tone’; the Sutcliffe ‘ginger’ hair and so one and I wonder what benefit I would really gain from knowing what my DNA looked like – could it really answer these most fundamental questions?

I suppose the answer is no, not really.  Yes, it can say whether or not you are definitely related to the cousin you found unexpectedly in Australia or if one is of European or African descent – but to me, although those answers are important and yes, if I had the money I’d like to find out; they are not the most pressing of questions.

So I suppose I’ll just have to see if the ginger gene continues down our line through my sister’s soon to be born twins or if both my sister and I live to 100 – we’ll just have to see.


20 March, 2011. Tags: , , , . Family History. Leave a comment.

It’s almost as though I was there …

Firstly, I’m sorry I’ve not posted for a while only I’ve been a little busy what with one thing and another.

Mainly my spare time has been taken up scanning, sorting, arranging and finally mounting my wonderful mother-in-law’s many photos.  During this process I have been able to immerse myself in the young lives of the Vernon family – not in a stalking type of way you understand but in an almost split screen version of life.

These thoughts hadn’t really formed fully in my mind – they’d drifted in and out like the remembrances of a pleasant but shadowy dream – until last Saturday night whilst I was sharing a rather lovely evening at the local Indian restaurant: The Naaz with Darren, Chris, Caron, Deb, Dave, Neil and their respective partners as a consolation prize for not going to the 60’s night at The Grand Hotel, Scarborough – the snow was to blame!

As the drink flowed and the food was finished so began a rather lively conversation between Chris, Alan, Darren and Dave who were recounting the events of a family wedding in 1975 and whether or not Neil had worn his school blazer to this wedding or another one.

The photos began to pop into my mind, the dress; the flowers; the guests – some of whom I never had the pleasure of meeting – all were there large as life – a little like one of those Harry Potter photo in my mind.

It’s almost as though I was there; a bystander in the events of my husband’s early life.

The conversation quickly moved to the reception – now I could see the couple cutting the cake; Viv enjoying a fag, Deb in her long purple dress.  Darren remembered the traumatic event of his Auntie Viv loudly proclaiming this to the rest of the guests that he’d started his starter before the speaches.

Now I know that it’s not always the case that fighting breaks out at wedding receptions (we didn’t have one at ours, as far as I know!) but, this particular wedding featured a spectacular one with gatecrashers!  Of course, there are no photos of this (pheweeee).  I’m surprised really; Darren was always taking photos even then.  The finer details of who did what to whom was enjoyed once again but all were unanimous in who had finished it – Dad.

It’s strange to think that I was 6 years old and was probably playing in the house with Mary Jane and Tiny Tears, unaware that my future husband was suited and booted and enjoying a rather eventful wedding and reception down at St. Augustine’s Church and Armstrong Hall half a mile away.

The family talk and I see – its rather nice.

Dot’s family photos span more than half a century and show a growing Vernon family who enjoy nothing better than their own company – the wedding in 1975 and the evening in 2010 were no exception.


5 December, 2010. Tags: , , , , , . Family History. 1 comment.

Herbert Tagg

Herbert is my husband’s great-grandfather and something of a Spanish hero.  How I hear you cry can a hard-working Nottinghamshire miner, born in 1893 in Mansfield be a Spanish hero?

From talking to members of the family and putting the pieces together it would seem that as a young man Herbert spent some of his youth in Argentina immersing himself in the language and culture reluctantly returning home before he married his first wife Annie Evans.  Herbert married twice, had six children and eventually moved to Doncaster but when Spain needed him he went to her aid and paid the ultimate price.

The Spanish Civil War is not my area of expertise and to be honest I do not fully understand the ins and outs of the situation but the main objective of the ordinary Spanish man was the fight against the fascist movement.

There are many websites that can explain much better than I the full story but for me and of course Herbert, the Battle of Jarama is its beginning and end.

Herbert lost his life on the 27 February 1937 on what has become known as ‘suicide hill‘ along with approximately 400 of his comrades.   If you follow the ‘suicide hill’ link you’ll get a feeling through John Corcoran’s site what they were up against.

I knew little of the British involvement in this often forgotten war before I found out about Herbert and from the reading I’ve done the war was not an easy one, ultimately Franco came to power.


17 October, 2010. Tags: , , , , , , , , . Family History. 25 comments.

Always learning, well mainly …

In my relatively short career I’ve had a fairly easy time, of it.  Yes I’ve come across the old puzzle – why have half of Hannah Gill’s children got Roadhouse as their surname and the other half got Gill?  This became increasingly confusing because alternatively they were Gill and Roadhouse.

Well that was easy to sort out!  Hannah’s husband Joseph Roadhouse was at times ‘absent’ and Hannah seems to have had another fella on the side William Gill!  Then Joseph just seems to fallen off the face of the earth and can I heck as like find him after the death of William Gill – I’m sure they are not the same person.  Are they?

That’s why I love blogging as I’m writing I’m thinking of other avenues which I’ve not considered before, always learning.

It was thanks to a very helpful vicar who seems to have taken great joy in annotating the margins of his parish registers that the above Roadhouse/Gill saga was explained without the need for some serious imaginative thinking.

I have got one puzzle that I have absolutely no idea how to resolve, so would welcome any helpful suggestions that you, web world may have to offer.  My direct ancestor Peter Dillon was born in Dublin in approximately 1809 and at some point before he was 45 travelled to England.  The first time I find him in England is when he marries his second wife Annis Wallace in 1854 in Kendal.  So for a start somewhere out there in the past, Peter has a wife and possibly other children, we are his ‘second’ family.

Now my Great Aunt Nan said in her fabulous video that he came over from Ireland for work but where did he go?  Who did he work for?  His occupation was carpenter so he was skilled, did he work for a large family, where does Scotland come into it, because I’m sure Nan mentions Scotland – I really must get that video put onto DVD.

In next to no time Peter and Annis moved down south and settled in Plumstead, Kent.  I have all the official records from then on, but I just cannot find him before 1854 – what do I do?

I’ve posted on rootsweb for any help that can be suggested by the wonderful Dublin researchers but so far nothing.

I searched until I could think of no other avenue – the good old web; ancestry and findmypast but to no avail – it’s the same with Joseph R.

Help can someone please help?  My learning curve has stopped and I’m stuck with nowhere to go!


18 September, 2010. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , . Family History. 2 comments.

Wordless Wednesday

To start myself off in the world of family history blogging, I joined the good people at Geneabloggers.   There are themes for each day to help us bloggers with posts; so I thought I’d join in today.  The main focus of Wordless Wednesday is to post a photo or an image.

So without further ado – the photo I’ve chosen this foggy Wednesday is of my Great Grandmother Gertrude Harrison (1875 to 1948) with her Grandfather (my 3 x Great Grandfather) Henry Harrison (1828 to 1890).


8 September, 2010. Tags: , , , . Family History. Leave a comment.

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