My uncle is continuing to regale me with his accounts of my maternal ancestors. Last time was my grandfather. This week is the turn of my great grandmother Ethel (my grandma's mother). It seems she had an interesting background.... (PS: I hope that he has all his dates correct).....
At some point in the mid 16th century a group of 30 siblings and cousins from a Jewish family trekked from Portugal to Devon. The Portuguese name was somehow eventually changed to an anglicised version, and my uncle has traced a record of an ancestor, Thomas, in that blood line appearing in 1859.
Thomas lived in London and met and married Winnifred, who was born in 1866. My great grandmother Ethel was the second of their 4 children, but a cousin thinks they might have lost twins between their first born and my great grandma. They then had a 4th child before Winnifred sadly passed away, at the age of 33, when my great grandma was 3 years old.
Thomas remarried a widow, who had a daughter, also 3 years old. Sadly, as not uncommon back then, this child passed away at the age of 6 years.
My uncle recounts that his grandmother Ethel (my great grandma) told him that she felt unwanted, and when they went to lay flowers when the child's grave was finished with a headstone she was leaning over the grave, possibly to lay a flower, when her stepmother pushed her onto the grave and remarked, "It’s you who should be down there you little ***". Eventually, at the turn of the century, living in Chelsea, great grandma Ethel found employment with a live-in situation, as a chamber-maid in a middle-class household.
Meanwhile, going back again to the mid 16th. century, in Wiltshire lived Edward. Later in 1857 his descendent Charles moved from Dorset to Chelsea. Ethel was now a Housemaid/Cook and met Charles’ son, George in 1905. They married in 1906 . They had five children and my uncle thinks there was a sixth who didn’t survive.
Ethel's husband, George, was a Hansom Cab driver who sat out in the open, in all weathers, causing him to eventually develop Tuberculosis [TB] . He died from it in 1915. She was then a widow with 5 children, at age 29, during WW1 - quite daunting one would think..
It is reported that Ethel then met an Irish chap called Jack Smith and they married. In 1919 they had a daughter Clair, then in 1921, Winnifred It is not known what Jack did for wages, but a great aunt told my uncle that Ethel would prepare the girls' lunch, before she went to work but it seems that Jack took both lunches every day. Eventually Clair told her mother who confronted her husband who became rather violent. Fearing she and both little girls were in imminent danger, Ethel grabbed a chair, and whilst telling him what she thought of him, put him in hospital for 3 weeks. No charges were laid, and he was never seen again.
Later, during WW2, Ethel was Cook at the Munitions Plant on Hounslow Heath and was known to supply her extended family with her cakes, taking them down to the air raid shelter . At various times, she volunteered to put up family members needing immediate shelter. and rarely had the opportunity to live alone and in peace
Crikey! What a woman!
What a daunting life she led. She must have been a remarkable woman. Genealogy is a fascinating subject. I have traced some branches of my family back to the 18th century.ReplyDelete
I also find it fascinating, but haven't had the patience to carry out the research myself. Good old uncle is doing all the legwork.Delete
Exactly, crikey, what a woman. Glad her story was passed on to you. She should be remembered. What a lifeReplyDelete
I vaguely remember her as she would have been in her fifties or early sixties when I was born. Mum took us on the bus to visit her for tea and sandwiches and I played with my little sister underneath her kitchen table.Delete
I love reading of these lives - it was tough for women in those days befoe any kind of rel iable birth control. But they struggled on and seemed to conjure up food at the drop of a hat.ReplyDelete
She was a tough old bird by all accounts.Delete
There were many unsung herones in those days, but they wouldn't see themselves as such - just gettng on with whatever life threw at them. There is a long history on my Mum's side of car men or brewer's dreymen and I have come across one who also died through waiting outside in the pouring rain for a passenger in his hansom cab. He left a young wife and family and like your ancestor mine also married again.ReplyDelete
Some sad stories back then. We are quite cosseted these days.Delete
Your uncle has done some brilliant research there - breathing life into what had previously only been names. It is great that you appreciate the fruits of your uncle's hard work.ReplyDelete
I enjoy hearing about our family history and am now intrigued by the Portuguese Jewish connection.Delete
Family history can be fascinating, and often disturbing. That graveside tale is horrific, and I'm sure lived with the little girl for ever.ReplyDelete
Quite. My uncle said that Ethel told him the story and that she had never forgotten it.Delete
We have things easy these days.ReplyDelete
We certainly do.Delete
Your family would make a fascinating family history book.ReplyDelete
There certainly seems to have been a few characters back there.Delete
I am glad your uncle has been able to track down this information. What a determined woman your great-grandmother was! I can't imagine what she would think of our current lives - with all of our technology and conveniences! and still we find things to moan about!?! :)ReplyDelete
She would probably be quite bemused.Delete
Indeed! So many sad stories from that time. My great-great grandmother was married off to a much older man by her father. He was a drinker, mean, and violent. She began to hold back part of her household money, squirreling it away until she had the money to file for a divorce, which was quite a scandalous thing, back in the day. But her mind was made up, she filed and held her head up as people talked. The divorce was finalized and then he dropped over dead within days. She never forgave him for that, for waiting to die until after she'd spent all that money, until after she was seen as a pariah in our little town.ReplyDelete
How inconsiderate of him!Delete
Did you know that Portugal is restoring citizenship to descendants of Jews who were driven out. You might be eligible for a Portuguese passport!ReplyDelete
Do we get a house as well?Delete
My maternal great grandmother have birth to !y grand father in the Workhouse. She was quite a firebrand by all official accounts, being brought to Court for being drunk and disorderly, breaking windows in the Workhouse, and taking part in prostitution! My grandfather became religious, then died aged only 44 in an RTA. Some of the family have carried.on with the religion (not me!) and others have gone the opposite way. Such is life. The family is scattered over four different countries, we keep in touch via social media. ☺ReplyDelete
Goodness me. Our families can be quite surprising!Delete