Thursday, 26 May 2011

Coming Full Circle

My great-grandmother was British.

My mom's dad's mom, to be specific.  When she was a little girl (9 years old, I think) she and her father took a boat from Newcastle over the sea to America.  They went through Ellis Island and Mary Jane Lee stayed and lived with cousins of hers.  Her father returned to England.  She never saw him again.  She did go back to England eventually, but not for 40 years.

No one in the family seems to know too much about her life in England.  Apparently she didn't like to talk about it.  Perhaps she was homesick and it made her too sad to talk about.  I can't imagine being that young and separated from your family.  Especially then when there was no internet, Facebook, or Skype to make keeping in touch easy.  The story is that she was sent over after her mother died, but it's not clear why she was sent, but not her siblings.

I don't have any idea how she and my great-grandfather met.  They raised a large family in Erie, PA.  My grandma and papa lived with them when they were first married when my papa had come home from the war.  They had a little attic bedroom.  Can you imagine being a newlywed and having the only access to your bedroom being through your in-laws bedroom?  Yikes!

I don't have any pictures of her with me here, but she was a redhead.  Originally, my mom was going to be named after her 2 grandmothers.  Mary Emily.  But when she was born, with such thick red hair that the nurses brought her to my grandma with a bow in her hair, my grandma's mom said she should be named after her red-headed grandmother.  So my mom was Mary Jane as well.

At our rehearsal dinner, my papa made a lovely speech about how my moving to England was bringing the family full-circle.  I wore my great-grandmother's gold bracelet on my wedding day as my "something old".

My wedding day jewellery.  You can see a bit how old and beat up the bracelet is.
I love it!

So why am I telling you all this now?  Well my mom is coming for a visit next week.  She's going to Scotland for a work thing and is tacking on a visit with us at the end.  After all, it would be silly to be so close and not see us, right?  So, we're driving up to Glasgow to pick her up.  Then my darling husband suggested that we should come back home (semi-circuitously) via Newcastle.  What a brilliant idea!

So we started doing a little research to see if we could figure out where exactly my great-grandmother and her family lived.  Ross did a little searching and found this, from the 1901 census.  It appears someone just went door-to-door with this sheet and wrote the answers the questions.

The handwritten census form that lists my family!  So cool.

Here's a close-up of the relevant people (Ignore the top line. She's not part of the family, but I had to include her because the page was scanned in crooked.):

You can click to make it bigger.  There's some old-timey shorthand like "do" for ditto.

The handwriting is fairly hard to read, so I'll make it easier for you.  It says that at 8 Garden Terrace, occupying 3 rooms, lived:

John Lee, 29, Head of the Household and a Coal Miner (Hewer) worker
Jane Lee, 36 (!), wife  (an older woman!)
Florence Lee, 3, daughter
Mary J. Lee, 2, daughter- My great-grandmother
Elizabeth L. Lee, 6 mos, daughter
Mary A. Lee, 63, mother

I know that Mary Jane also had a brother named John, so he must have been younger and born after this census.  Oh those crazy days before birth control!

I did a little googling and found that a hewer is a mine worker who uses a pick axe to undercut coal- a pretty menial job.  Google street view seems to indicate that the house they lived in is still there.  So, we've got plans to visit the "ancestral homeland" with my mom.  It should be neat to see!

Have you ever found out anything interesting about your family history?
Who knew geneology was so fun!

1 comment:

  1. oh, what a great post! I love those old census records, and it's so exhilarating to find a familiar name on them, isn't it?! My great grandmother was also English and went on a boat to America in 1912. I love finding out everything I can about her. I did a blog post about it on my blog: