Friday, 31 July 2020

57 Years a Widow!

In October or November of 1967 - about the time when I was getting to grips with my A-level studies and wondering about life after Grammar School - a few miles away from my home, in the neighbouring county, a lady was coming to the end of her long life after being a widow for more than half of it.  What she must have seen in almost 96 years on this earth!

Sarah Derham was born Sarah Elizabeth Calton on 23rd November 1871 at Hinderclay, the same village where my mother was born 45 years later. She was the third child of a labourer, Thomas Calton and his wife Charlotte, who had been married just over four years by then.  As more children arrived in the following years, their little cottage on the green became quite crowded.  By 1881 Alice, the oldest daughter, was found 'visiting' (while 12 and still a scholar) with Charlotte's friend Alice Smith (possibly her godmother) some miles away in Larling, Norfolk.  Sarah, only 9, was living with a retired grocer, 73-year-old Rose Cracknell in the village.  This early experience doubtless prepared her in her turn to live away from her parents.

Sarah's life in the next few years has remained undiscovered until, in Hampstead, she married William George Derham towards the end of 1896; their son was born the following summer.  The 1901 census shows her named Elizabeth, living with her son in Spye Park, near Devizes in Wiltshire.  There is no sign of William, but he clearly re-appeared from time to time, for ten years later, she appears with three sons, living in the same place, but now a 39-year-old widow, her husband having died the previous year.

In Suffolk, meanwhile, Sarah's sister Fanny, two-and-a-half years younger, had also left home.   By 1891 she had moved to the neighbouring village of Rickinghall, where she was servant to Augusta Larsen, born in Hanover, and living 'on her own means' with a nephew and niece, both born in London but with the obviously German name of Gumprecht.  From this interesting beginning to her working life, Fanny then moved to London, where she was married in 1897 to James Waymark, a railway clerk.  They first lived in Hampstead, where their first daughter was born the following year; but later settled in Ilford.  Here another daughter and a son were added to their family and all looked well until, towards the end of 1910, her husband died ... at about the same time as William Derham.

Fanny moved with her children to Willesden, where she took in needlework to support them.  After a while, however, she became ill and was unable to look after herself and the children.  She decided to move back to Suffolk where that little cottage on the green now housed (according to the 1911 census) her parents, four adult sons and their 20-year-old sister Florence.  1913 was a sad year for the Calton family.  In the spring Charlotte died, aged only 64, then in August, as the local paper reported, "The death took place ... after a long and painful illness of Mrs Fanny Waymark ... at the residence of her father Mr Thomas Calton of Hinderclay.  The deceased leaves three young children."  Fanny was 39.

Although not mentioned among the mourners, and presumably unable to get to the funeral, was another who had experience of being a widowed mother of three at 39.  It isn't known who immediately took care of Fanny's children, then aged 15, 13 and 11, but at some stage it seems likely that Sarah offered them a place in her Wiltshire home.  The 1939 Register lists Sarah, living at a different house, but still on Spye Park, with two 'housemaids', none other than Fanny's two daughters.  Rose, the younger daughter moved away and married in Bromley in 1942, and when her sister, Lily, married in Chippenham ten years later, Sarah - by then almost 81 - probably decided that it was time to go back to her Suffolk roots.

My interest in this family stems from the fact that Rose's second marriage was to one of my mother's uncles.

Friday, 24 July 2020

The Sixth Age ... or is it the Seventh?

Among many treasured possessions on my bookshelves is a dull green volume that was given to me by a former girlfriend.  I say 'given to me by', but that implies that it was akin to a Christmas or birthday present; it would be more accurate to say 'begged by me from', for I rescued it from a collection of books that had belonged to her father-in-law and were at that moment on their way to landfill (this was long before recycling became a way of life).  This book is, I suggest, next after the Bible as one containing life's wisdom writ large.  It was here, to the complete works of Shakespeare, that I turned last evening to substantiate my theme for this blog.

"All the world's a stage, | And all the men and women merely players; | They have their exits and their entrances; | And one man in his time plays many parts, | His acts being seven ages."  So said Jaques in Act II, scene vii of As You Like It.  Particularly relevant to me at this time are the last two that the bard described in this speech, providing as it does such an accurate pen-picture of the phases of human life.  I see in myself aspects of both the sixth - 'spectacles on nose', manly voice turning again toward childish treble' - and seventh - 'second childishness', 'sans teeth' - of these ages.  I would suggest that gradually, over the last ten years and more, I've begun the transition from one to the other.

I found myself questioning this week why it is that, as we get older, we muse more and more about our earliest years.  I remember my father - at a younger age than I am now - remarking that he could remember much more clearly events of his childhood than things that happened only a year or two previously.  Shakespeare hasn't answered that question but, in some measure, this speech is reassuring for it tells me that this phenomenon is common to all mankind and not just a failing in me.  Many times when my cousin and I are chatting - as we were one afternoon this week, thanks to Zoom - our talk is of childhood and family members long dead.  'Do you remember when ...?'  'Who was it that said ...?' and so on.

Maybe we talk like that because, having been brought up rather as brother and sister, each of us is the only one to whom the other can talk knowingly about such things.  We have one or two friends from our primary school years with whom we are in contact intermittently, and perhaps a few more from the next ten years, but I don't think it's a great stretch of the truth to say that all the rest of our friends and contacts date from within the last thirty years or fewer.  This general human characteristic has been fostered by Facebook, with its many pages and groups for town memories of places where we grew up or that we knew quite intimately in the past.

Another aspect of this sixth/seventh age is the 'rose-tinted spectacles' through which we view certain technologies or ways of life of the past.  Through the advance of science or simply the progress of social development, these are no longer to be found 'in nature' as it were, and can only be seen now in picture books or museums, or in contrived preservations that, by their very nature, can be only a pale imitation of their former glory.  

It's now nearly twenty years since I paid my only ever visit to Burnham-on-Sea and walked around the town, passing with sadness a number of places of amusement that had closed down and endless boarding houses with barely hopeful 'Vacancies' signs in the windows.  I remembered with a wave of nostalgia holidays spent at Great Yarmouth year after year in my schooldays.

The format would be the same each year.  There would be a mad panic on the first day of our week to book up for all the shows, where pop stars and TV celebrities appeared live for the season.  And we had to go to see the circus, usually at a matinee.  Of course, we didn't realise then that this is one of only two permanent circus buildings still in use in the country, and certainly had no idea that the ring could be flooded for water shows ... only two other such facilities still exist in the world!  Our week would not be complete without a walk around the docks, another to each end of the seafront promenade and visits to acquaintances from former years.  And, of course, there were endless quantities (or so it seemed to me) of ice cream and fish-and-chips.  

Looking back from my own late middle age, I realise just how important that week was to my parents each year.  Right from the early days of autumn, it must have been something to look forward to, the goal that made all the drudgery of normal work worthwhile.  Just as marvellous, but taken for granted at the time, was the financial scheming and sacrifice that, on a mere labourer's wage, carved out sufficient to pay for the travel, our accommodation and all the entertainment and enjoyment for a whole week.

How very different life is these days.  A week away is as nothing; even Europe is an 'extra' for many people for whom Iceland, Cuba and Thailand are possible and regular trips to family who have emigrated to Canada, Australia or the USA can be managed by some.

Friday, 17 July 2020

It's a Square World!

Towards the end of last week, there were distinct feelings of tidiness chez moi.  I'd written my (longer than usual) blog about great-aunt Mary Jane being the link between the generations and incorporated into it my latest discoveries.  There were a dozen or so characters that I then had to properly absorb into my - perhaps overly-complex - data records and beyond that my desk seemed to be just about clear.

How could I dare to think such a thing?  I do realise that, in my little world, a clear desk is tantamount to blasphemy but I dream sometimes about being able to sit down and look at some of the books on my shelves without being prompted by the need to research some obscure detail of meaning, source or location.

I suppose it's true to say that this week's feeling of overload began two or three weeks ago, when two totally independent events occurred.  Firstly, in order to support my humble and by no means extravagant lifestyle, I had decided to sell some of my investments, a move that I knew would necessitate the deletion of several lines from the spreadsheets that I use to monitor these things.  And secondly, I responded to an appeal for administrative help from a political organisation with a purple, green and white emblem (Let the reader understand, for the avoidance of any doubt, that I've not slipped back a century and joined the Women's Social & Political Union!).

Now, these three tasks have one thing in common - and here I have to confess the geometric inaccuracy of my title - Excel, where the shape is (usually, at any rate) the rectangle and not the square.  As many will be aware, I love spreadsheets; more than once I've said that I think in spreadsheets.  Much of my home life for the last twenty years has been spent looking at a computer screen and, for a large part of that, at a spreadsheet ... or several.  I dread to think what life would be like if they became illegal or suddenly stopped working!

Over the years I've gained considerable experience in making use of the remarkable capabilities of Excel, although I'm regularly reminded of the vastness of that power of which I have no knowledge at all.  But, as with anything powerful, be it electronic or mechanical, if it's used wrongly it can prove very damaging.  Take, for example, the removal of those investments I'd sold.  What should have been the work of an hour or so, given the way a dozen or so spreadsheets are linked together, actually absorbed the whole of Tuesday!  And all because of the fundamental, but much repeated, misuse of one character in a formula.

The work I'm doing for 'not-the-WSPU' is totally spreadsheet based, too.  It involves combining data from many sources into one new 'product'.  However, some of the sources are not identically aligned with the others, so much shuffling and subsidiary transfer of information is involved, all of which takes time and care if it is to give the right solution.  The completion of one phase of this work took up another day and a half of my week.

Then back to the domestic life.  At the start of the present lock-down (that pesky virus gets everywhere!) I discovered that involving a third party in my weekly food shopping gets complicated.  It made me realise just how much of that function depended on my own mental processes.  Enter Excel!  During those early weeks I devised an application to convert a weekly stock-take of my food cupboards into a shopping list.  This worked well, and I'm in the process of extending that so I can incorporate the delay between obtaining an online-shopping delivery slot and the delivery of that order.  Again is revealed the need for logical thinking - not always present at the outset of a project - and constant refinement, but I know it will save time and mental energy once it is set up.

And now, thanks to last week's post here, I've got some new information to explore and incorporate into my family tree ... an Excel-user's work is never done!

Friday, 10 July 2020

Three Men, Four Wives and ...

Almost exactly three years ago, I wrote a post here entitled 'What did Emma Think?'.  Often when I write these family stories, I find myself in sympathy with one or other character in them.  On that occasion it was my grandmother, left with three small children when her husband enlisted for the Royal Flying Corps.  In this story, there are two key female 'leads', and I'm undecided where my sympathies lie. I'm torn between them.  So I'm going to begin from the point of view of a third, a young woman who was, in effect, my great aunt and wasn't really involved.

Mary Jane Sturgeon was just 26 and her daughter Heather coming up to her 4th birthday when their happy life in the quiet Suffolk village of Botesdale was shattered by the news that their husband/father had been killed on the Somme.  That memory would never have died, of course, but some degree of recovery would have come over the years and, towards the end of 1934 Heather was married.  Her husband was one Richard Jacob Bartrum, and I wonder how much Mary Jane knew of him and his family, and the story that I've uncovered in these last few weeks ... and whether what she knew caused her comfort or fear.  

(I have to break off just now to say that I've never been able to find anything about Mary Jane's life after the death of her husband.  I've no idea whether she re-married, where she lived or for how long.)

Now, back to 1865, and the birth of Richard's father.  Among a larger family in Wortham, Jacob Bartrum had two sisters, Gertrude, three years older, and Clara, three years younger.  In 1882, Gertrude married George Smith, the fishmonger in Botesdale; thirteen years later, Clara married Joseph Uriah Ponting, a hay trusser from Wiltshire.  By 1901, Clara and Joseph were living in Hertfordshire, where Joseph employed his Smith nephew to help in this work, but with two young children, he aimed for better things, and ten years later he was a railway shunter in Grantham.

George Smith, the fishmonger, died in 1908 and, as it happens, the previous year Eliza Sturgeon - aunt by marriage to the man who would become Mary Jane's husband in 1911 - had also died, each of them leaving their spouse with two small children.  Widow and widower came to a very satisfactory arrangement, married in 1910 and, by the time of the census the following year, were comfortably settled in neighbouring Rickinghall Superior, with a 'made-up family' of six, comprising four children 11 and under and two older boys, one of whom was now running his late father's fish business.  Meanwhile Clara's and Joseph's family in Grantham had expanded to embrace two nephews, a Smith who was a groom and fish merchant, and a Sturgeon who was a railway engine cleaner.

But what of Jacob Bartrum, the brother of these two obliging sisters?  In 1885, he married 19-year-old Sarah Ann Francis from Thorndon.  In 1891 they were living in Burgate, the next village to his native Wortham, with three small children; shortly after they moved to Surrey where, at the next census in 1901, we find them established in Horley.  Jacob had become a cattleman (he had formerly been a mere farm labourer), and their eldest son was a telegraph messenger.  They now had a total of seven children, the youngest being Daisy, just six months old.  All seemed to be going well ... until one day Jacob met Ada.

Ada Budgen's origins might seem sad to us, but were probably not that unusual.  She was born in East Grinstead in the summer of 1878 and appears on the 1881 census as the youngest of a family of six children living with widowed father 47-year-old Michael.  Ten years later she was listed in a family headed by a 56-year-old widower, same birthplace, same occupation; that's where the similarity ends, however, for this man is called Richard and there are now two more, younger, children.  Investigation revealed the full story; well, almost, for why Richard Budgen gave his name as Michael in 1881 remains a mystery  Maybe it was simply a second name but, since he was born before civil registration began and baptismal records for the area are not available to search, I can't tell.

Richard married Harriett Stiles in 1859 and settled in their home village of West Hoathly, where they raised a total of eight children, of whom Ada was the last, for Harriett died, aged only 42, towards the end of 1880.  Richard married Mary Ann E Hinde early in 1886; she had already borne one child (who appeared on the 1891 census as 'grandson') in 1884.  Richard and Mary Ann went on to have three more children, the youngest of whom was named after her mother and died just before the 1891 census.  Her mother had already died during the spring of 1890, leaving Richard a widower for the second time.  His older children had left home and, at 12 years old, Ada took on the role of housekeeper to her father and the three younger children, while still a scholar herself.

Little wonder, then, that she soon left home to make a life for herself.  What life-skills she learned in the next ten years we can only guess.  When the next census was taken on 31st March 1901, she was a scullery maid at Brooks's, a gentlemen's club in St James's Street in the heart of London.  In the next two years, Ada gave birth to two illegitimate boys, one early in 1902, the other late in 1903. How she managed to maintain herself and them is not known.  Likewise, where and when Jacob and Ada met at some point in the next four years may never be known, but the effect was devastating.  I can do no better than let the 1911 census tell the story.

Sarah and five children were living in Lumley Road, Horley.  The two eldest girls were no longer at home; the census form was completed by William, her eldest son, who was working as a rural postman.  His writing is immaculate, but shows corrections where he'd paused to ask his mother for her details.  His brother Russell was working as a machine hand in a monotype factory and the three youngest children were still at school.  Against Sarah's name was entered, 'married 25 years, 7 children, 6 still living, 1 died'.

Less than ten miles away, Jacob was was working as a farm labourer and living at Warwicks Wold, Bletchingley - close to where today M23 and M25 meet.  Ada was his housekeeper and with them were her two boys, aged 10 and 8, and two they'd added, Richard Jacob, 3, and Daisy, 1.  Jacob had entered against his name, 'married 26 years' and against Ada's, a dash for married and '4 children, 4 still living'.  

It was this Richard Jacob Bartrum who married Mary Jane's daughter in 1934.

Friday, 3 July 2020

The Written Word

What have you written lately?  I'm not suggesting that all my readers are authors, playwrights or poets ... or even creators of short stories ... but let me begin at the beginning.  It occurred to me the other day that I can't actually remember when I last penned my signature.  For those below a certain age, I have to define what a signature is, I suppose.  It's a way of imposing your personal authority on a paper document; I once heard it explained as 'your own name in your own handwriting'.  But I realise that both of those definitions leave lots of loopholes.

Signatures are funny things.  Many that I've seen clearly begin as the name of the writer, but appear to take on a degree of impatience half-way through and tail off into an illegible squiggle.  I can still picture, after nearly 40 years, of that of one of my former bosses: I wouldn't know exactly where to begin if I were to try to recreate it now, but I can see that essentially it was built of his three initials MJR.  Just considering those two examples illustrate the essential quality of a signature.  While every one is slightly different, the general shape of each example of the same person's signature is sufficiently constant to ensure that it was his or her own hand that crafted it.

My father wrote very little.  Not given at all to things artistic, there were no flourishes to his signature.  It was written slowly and painstakingly, and I would suggest that when I watched that process in the 1960s the result was very little different from the broad copperplate that he was taught at school before the First World War.  His father's hand was very similar, but slightly neater and with a marginally greater slope from the vertical.  As a farm bailiff, he would have had more occasion to write things than my father.  For the most part, the extent of dad's writing would be the words 'Full week' that preceded his signature on his weekly time-sheet.

One regular item of handwriting that has, in large measure, disappeared from modern life is the writing of a cheque.  It was in the early eighteenth century when the printed cheque form first appeared and a further hundred years or more before they were imprinted with the customer's name and stitched into books of 50 or more with counterfoils.  The cheque is, of course, a descendant of the Letter of Credit that had been part of business for centuries before and is, in effect, a written instruction from the account holder (the drawer) to the bank to pass funds to a certain party (the payee) when the instruction is presented to the drawer's bank.

The oldest handwritten cheque still believed to be in existence dates from 1659 and reads, "Mr Morris & Mr Clayton (these were the bankers) I pray pay the bearer hereof Mr Delboe or order Fower hundred poundes, I say £400:-:-, for yours Nicholas Vanacker. London the 16th of February, 1659".

The advent of the printed cheque eliminated all the standard wording and required the user simply to insert the payee's name, the amount in words and figures and the date, before adding his signature to authorise the payment to be made.  The amount of actual writing was therefore considerably reduced, in addition to ensuring that it was formally correct.  Some readers will remember the television adaptation, if not the written original of,  A P Herbert's 'misleading case' of the Negotiable Cow, when the mischevous taxpayer Mr Albert Haddock wrote his cheque on the side of a cow and presented it to the Collector of Taxes.  The story explored the legitimacy of a handwritten cheque in the twentieth century.

I recently discovered a short video describing letters that used to be part of our alphabet, but that have long since disappeared.  My three favourites are the two different characters that represented the hard and soft sounds of 'th', eth and thorn respectively, and the one that is most familiar to readers today, the long 's' that resembles an 'f' without the crossing.  There were, I learn, definite rules when the long 's' would be used and when the short letter that we're familiar with today should take its place.  

Writing is certainly much easier these days. Whether it is more legible the less we use it, I leave my reader to decide.

Friday, 26 June 2020

The Bare Bones of it!

Whatever you might think of our current Government - and I imagine my readers will vary in their opinions from 'utter rubbish' to 'doing a fine job' - the range of styles through which our government has swung down the years is very broad indeed.  For a short while in 1653, this country was ruled by a nominated assembly that became known collectively as Barebone's Parliament.

It was named after one of London's appointees, Praise-God Barebone (or Barbon), and first sat on 4th July of that year. It consisted of 140 men selected by Cromwell and his Army Council and couldn't be described as remotely representative, being mostly drawn from the rich and famous with a sprinkling of tradespeople and members of an extreme puritan sect called Fifth Monarchists.  Apart from half a dozen each from Ireland, Scotland and Wales, the rest were all from the English counties.  On 12th December - just 161 days later - it broke up in disarray, being unable to agree on anything.  

Having explained my title, I'll now move on to something more relevant to today.  If our present lock-down in one form or another lasts until the end of August, it will have existed for the same length of time as Barebone's Parliament and, in some ways, it has - at the outset, at least - brought us back to the bare bones of life.  We've come to realise just what is - and what is not - essential to our existence.  

This is different for each of us, of course, and its definition has morphed as the weeks have passed.  After securing a reliable source for food, medication and other necessities, one thing after another has been added to that early definition of 'essential to life'.  Disciplines, vital and well-heeded at the beginning, have slipped.  We've exchanged ideas with our friends and neighbours; isolation has been relieved by Zoom and other technologies.  Social media and the more widespread news channels have made us aware of what else is possible and - for good or ill - following the principle of 'if they can do that, then so can we' has become commonplace.

The challenge presented by the Covid-19 pandemic has often been described as a war; the strategies advised and imposed to overcome it as 'weapons to fight this unseen enemy' and so on.  While it's not the sort of war that can be fought by armies on a battlefield, there is, I suggest, a similarity to the privations of daily life on the home front.  I'm not old enough to remember the Second World War but I've just finished reading a novel set in 1942 that has, in some measure, made real for me many of the restrictions that had by then become part of everyday life.

Then as now ways were found, some legal and some not, to get around the constraints of the time.  Substitutes were developed and discovered for foodstuffs no longer available; a black market grew up to overcome the strict rationing that had to be imposed and make-do-and-mend became a way of life.  In one poignant scene, an old man, who had been involved in a dramatic rescue from a bombed hotel, arrived home in the small hours, raided the larder and enjoyed a slap-up meal before collapsing still dressed and exhausted onto his bed, falling into a deep and well-earned sleep.  His daughter-in-law, whose house it was, discovered the debris in the kitchen the next morning, found half the week's rations gone, and was understandably furious.

Our present situation is by no means so severe but at times, and perhaps especially so in such fine weather as we have enjoyed this week, there is a need - a desperation, almost - to break out of the restrictions, to let loose and make whoopee, whatever the cost.  But there is a cost, of course.  It might be as simple as going without for a while longer until the larder is refilled, or it could be an unwanted disease, or worse.  And the cost is not always paid by those who have broken free.  Our newsreels this week have shown the tonnes of rubbish that was left on Bournemouth beach and the declaration of a 'major incident' by the local authority so that more help can be engaged to prevent a recurrence.

Yes, this is partly the result of the need people have found to defy the restrictions placed upon them, to stretch to the limit and beyond the bounds on their activities.  But even these could have been carried out responsibly.  Where has our sense of responsibility gone?  When I grew up, there was a saying "What did your last servant die of?"  It wasn't an expression of concern for the well-being of the lower classes; it was an attempt to instil awareness that such people as servants were not part of our lifestyle and that, to an ever-increasing level as we grew older, we had to look after ourselves.  This didn't so much mean providing for our own needs - that would come later - but that if we made mess, strewed things about, then it was down to us to clear up, put away and make tidy, not just for our own comfort and benefit, but for that of others around us too.

Friday, 19 June 2020

Digging up a Soldier

The 1911 census is the first one for which the individual householders' schedules have been preserved ... as opposed to the information that enumerators extracted from them in previous censuses.  It's clear from his entry that Patrick Robert Howard Henry was a man to whom other information was more important than his own name.  He referred to himself as 'Robert' (the other names came from other records), but provided two forenames for his wife and sons.  He was born in Leitrim in about 1849 but he was keen for all to know that this wasn't just anywhere within that county, but in Leitrim town itself, for the name was written twice on the form, to indicate both 'town' and 'county'.   

He was also meticulous in declaring his 'occupation', stating that he was 'Pensioner Sergt. Major, 4th Suffolk Regt.'.  In previous censuses he had rounded his age up: 42 in 1891 and 52 in 1901, but was he sensitive about being eleven or twelve years older than his wife when he rounded it down this time to 61 years?  The '4th Suffolk Regt.' was actually the 4th Battalion of the Suffolk Regiment.  It was formed, when the army was re-organised in 1881, by the amalgamation and absorption into the Suffolk Regiment of the Cambridgeshire Militia, which was based in Ely, and the Cambridgeshire Rifle Corps.  These two units became the 4th ('Cambridge University') Volunteer Battalion of the newly-formed regiment.  Robert was an instructor of musketry and in 1891, he was awarded a 'long service and good conduct' medal.  It isn't clear just when he enlisted, but it was almost certainly before 1880, for in that year he married Mahala Marjorem in the garrison city of Colchester.

Sadly, Mahala died in Ely at, or shortly after, the birth of their son in the summer of 1883.  She was only 24 and the son was named Robert Marjorem Henry in her honour.  Towards the end of the next year, Robert married again.  His bride was Mary Esther Rignal, who had been born in the Fenland city in 1860.  Their first two children, Mabel and Albert, were born in Ely, where the battalion was based, in 1892 and 1894.  It may have been about then that Robert retired, for their third child, John, was born in 1896 at Hopton in north Suffolk.

Mabel was married in the spring of 1909 to Charles Boggis.  Charles was the youngest surviving son out of eleven children born to Benjamin and Harriet Boggis.  These two were both from Norfolk; Benjamin was from Fersfield and Harriet from Garboldisham, where they had been married in 1866.  They settled in Barningham, where all their children were born, but then moved to Market Weston in that same northern corner of Suffolk.

Charles was a blacksmith and the occupations of the rest of the Boggis family were all in that general mechanical and production sector: carpenter, mechanical engineer, engineering apprentice, and so on. It was no surprise, then, to discover that the son of Charles's brother Arthur was the William Arthur Boggis who founded the famous organ building firm of W A Boggis, based at Roydon next door to my own native town of Diss.

Robert died in 1929, but it was actually Mary who led me into this story, for she appeared as a widow - described almost casually as a 'visitor' - at the home of her granddaughter on the 1939 Register.  Unlike the censuses, the Register contains no indication of the relationships within a household, and I was curious to prove or disprove whether she was in fact the grandmother of Mrs Jerrold in the household at Felsham where she was registered.

And why, you may ask, was I led to be looking at this family in the first place?  Simply that in 1917, when they were both widowed, my great-great-aunt, Sarah Francis née Sturgeon married Charles Boggis's eldest brother John.