Thursday, December 13, 2007

A Tale Of Two Granddaughters

I am still a little obsessed by all this family history. Today, in amongst sending the Christmas cards and helping to prepare for Xan's Christmas Dinner, I have been taking another look at the Berry's. If you investigate family history from the perspective of your child, there are four significant quadrants of investigation - your fathers' family, your mothers' family, your spouse's fathers' family and their mothers' family. In terms of Alexander that means the Burnetts, the Beanlands, the Ushers and the Berrys. Having four quite separate lines of investigation is quite useful - when you get bogged down with one you can turn to another.


Isobels' father was Raymond Holroyd Berry (many of us will remember him with great fondness) who was born in Elland, West Yorkshire in 1917. He was the only son of Kaye Holroyd Berry, a chimney sweep, also of Elland who was born in 1882. In 1905, when he was 23, Kaye married Sarah Ann Shaw who had been born in Soyland (near Halifax) in 1878. They had two children : Florence, and Raymond (Isobels' father). However, Isobel also had an Aunty Mary who was Raymonds' half sister. Few details of where Aunty Mary fitted into the family tree were ever available, she was a sad figure who spent all her adult life institutionalised. If she had been born 30 or 40 years later than she was she would have been one of those people who the much-maligned move to "care in the community" could have helped. There was also talk of another half-sister who nobody ever knew anything about.

The 1901 Census has by far the best on-line resources and this provided a good starting point for investigating the Berry-Shaw connections. In 1901 - four years before his marriage to Sarah Ann - Kaye Holroyd is listed as living with his parents (William and Martha Berry) in Elland. Aged 19 when the census returns were completed, he was listed as being a chimney sweep. There are a host of brothers and sisters and one granddaughter listed at the same address. I will return to the granddaughter in a little while. A few streets away,Sarah Ann Shaw was living with her family. Her father, Henry Shaw, a stonemason's labourer, is listed as the head of the family. He was born in 1849 and his wife Emma was born in 1852. There are five children listed, William (born 1975), Sarah Ann (born1878), Fred (born 1886), Edith (born 1899) and Mary (born 1901). The curious thing, of course, is the spacing of the birth of the children and the age of the mother at the birth of these last two. To have two children in quick succession, after a gap of fourteen year, and at the age of 47 and 49 is stretching believe a little too far. The obvious explanation is that Mary (listed as a daughter of Henry and Emma and therefore sister of Sarah Ann) is, in fact, Sarah Ann's illegitimate daughter. And it would appear that the second illegitimate daughter (Edith) was also passed off in the 1901 census as a legitimate daughter of Henry Shaw rather than an illegitimately granddaughter.

But this is a tale of two granddaughters. Kaye Berry's father, William Berry, is also listed as having a granddaughter living with him in 1901. But this time the child - Isabella Crossley - would appear to have been quite legitimate (after all, she has the surname Crossley rather than Berry). The explanation this time would appear to be equally tragic, her mother - Sarah Berry born in 1880 - must have died in childbirth leaving her young child with her parents.
As Isobel and I sat around the fire this evening pondering on these half-forgotten stories, it suddenly occurred to me that the two granddaughters could theoretically lived until recently, How strange that is. They could have been born with the new century and they could have died when it was in its final years. What a tale they would have had to tell. Maybe it can still be prised out of the cold official records.

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