Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Still Not Sure : Part 3

At the time of the 1891 census, John Burnett was 36 and his wife Phoebe was just a year older. They had five children, ranging from the eldest, Ruth-Annie who at the time was 17 to Miriam, the baby of the family at just one year old. The census also lists a boarder living in the house – one William Northrop who is listed as a “farming man”. Whilst fifty years earlier the village of Horton was surrounded by open fields, it is unlikely that this was still the situation in the 1890s, and therefore it is more likely that Northrop was one of the band of agricultural workers who had recently migrated to the city in search of work in the booming textile industry.

Ruth-Annie, the eldest of the children of John and Phoebe was born in 1874. In the 1891 census she is listed as a worsted and cotton weaver. Whether or not she was working in the same mill as her father – or indeed which mill that was – is unknown. Indeed little is known about Ruth-Annie herself, although I can recall both my father and his sister, Annie, both talking about their Aunt Ruth-Annie. She later married a man called Jim Firth who – according to family legend was a drunkard and a wastrel – and they continued to live in the Little Horton area. They had no children. With the exception of Enoch, the entire family seems unusually lacking in offspring : neither Israel nor Miriam ever married and Albert only has an adopted daughter. Ruth-Annie had, however, a considerable reputation as a fortune-teller, and as a young child I can still remember talk of visits being made to an elderly relative living near St. Luke's Hospital in order to read the tea-leaves.

Map of Little Horton in the 1890s showing the Bradford Union Workhouse which later became St Luke's Hospital.

John Burnett’s second child was christened Israel. It appears that the name had been in the family for some time, and it is likely – but not certain – that John Burnett’s father had also been called Israel. In 1891 young Israel Burnett was 14 years old and was a butchers’ apprentice. We can perhaps assume that the family had, by now, achieved an element of financial security which allowed the male children to be apprenticed into a trade. By 1906, the Bradford Post Office Directory, lists Israel Burnett as owning a butchers’ shop at 250 Bowling Old Lane and he was still at the same address in 1936 by which time he would have been nearing retirement age. According to my father, his Uncle Israel never married although there was somewhat veiled reference made to a “housekeeper”.

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