October 16th

So, on this day in the past Oscar Wilde was born in 1854, Austen Chamberlain in 1863 and so was Eugene O’ Neil in 1888 and Michael Collins in 1890. It’s also the birthday of Edward Ardizzone, Enva Hodxha and Max Bygraves, Angela Lansbury and Günter Grass, and Peter Bowles the actor.

However, in our family we think of it as the birthday of my mother-in-law, my children’s grandma, Dorothy Alice Colgate in 1914.  She was born in Bletchingley in Surrey in a room above what became Lloyd’s bank. Her parents were Augusta, née Brown, and Ernest Colgate. Augusta Sarah, was the thirteenth child of John Brown and Emily Charlwood. Dorothy didn’t know her Grandfather Brown who died in 1915 at the age of sixty-six, and probably barely remembered her grandmother who died when she was only three years old, but she remembered her Colgate grandparents and often talked about them, John who died in 1926, and Sarah who died in 1943.

John and Sarah were born in 1855 and 1856, and it seems extraordinary to me that my children both knew and loved their grandmother who had memories of people born a hundred and sixty years ago…

Happy birthday, Dorothy…

100 years ago today

A hundred years ago today, Dorothy Alice Colgate was born to her mother Augusta, and father Ernest Colgate, in Bletchingley, Surrey. Augusta was the youngest of a large family of Browns, she was born in 1891, the youngest of eleven children. Ernest, in contrast came from a family of four, three sisters and he was the only boy. One of his sisters had died as an infant so his childhood must have been very different from Augusta’s.

Ernest was born in 1881, and he appears on the census for that year; his father John was an agricultural labourer, and his mother Sarah already had two baby daughters to look after. Ten years later John is still a labourer and the three children are at school. ten years further on, and Ernest is now working as a farm labourer, his father works on the roads, and his sisters have left home. Alice is living with her husband and baby daughter nearby, he works at the limeworks, and sister Annie is also married and living with her husband who is a cowman.  Ernest became a groundsman, and continued to live with his parents until he married Augusta in 1911, but after the census was taken that year.

Augusta was born into a very different situation; her father, also named John, was a bricklayer. When she was born, before the 1891 census, many of her brothers and sisters were still living at home. William was an under gardener, George was a bricklayer’s labourer, Alice was a general domestic servant, and Edward, John Rufus, Alfred, Charlie and Amanda were all at school. No doubt the family, especially the mother, Emily, was quite relieved that  Ellen had left home, but sadly another son, also called John, had died. Ten years alter, there are still a lot of Browns living at home; George, Edward, John junior, Alfred, Charles, Amanda and Augusta. John is still a bricklayer, as were two of his sons, the others are a gardener, two were  labourers. In 1911 Augusta was working for two elderly rich gentlefolk, brother and sister, Mr and Miss Noy. Later that year she married Ernest.

Dorothy Colgate, who would have been 100 today, married and moved to Newhaven; after the war she and her husband had a brief spell in London before moving to Cornwall. However the family ties were too strong for Dorothy, and she and her family moved back to Surrey where she lived until almost the end of her life.

The featured photo shows where Dorothy was born; she was born in the upper room on the corner of the building in the photo.

Those branches and twigs of a family tree

Talking to a cousin last night, who is a little older than us and who remembers some long-deceased relatives, we began to talk about the Brown family from Bletchingley. Our connection was with the youngest, Augusta who was born in 1891. Brown is a not an uncommon name so trying to trace a John Brown for instance can be a little tricky.

Our cousin mentioned an Aunty Nancy who had two daughters, and an Aunty Daisy; did I know where they fitted in the family tree?  I couldn’t find a Nancy Brown who may have married to become something else… but there was an Amanda, and Amanda could have become Nancy, so was Aunty Nancy Amanda Emily Brown? I know Aunty Nancy had daughters called Joan and Renee, so I looked up marriages and eventually found that Amanda had married Archibald Roots (what a name!) and had two daughters, Joan and Irene who became Renee. So that was one branch resolved… but what about Aunty Daisy? I can find no Daisy in our family tree… and have even searched through all the Margarets which is the name that Daisy comes from, apparently… so an unresolved branch…

Researching a family tree leads to a lot of dead ends… but sometimes you have to go back to the beginning; the cousin who told me about Aunty Daisy, has a sister… so I shall ask the sister and see if she can reveal the secret of Aunty Daisy!

In search of a less unusual name

I’ve always sympathised with people who are researching their family name and have a less uncommon name than I do. Even with Elsden being quite unusual, it’s surprising how many Thomas Elsdens there are for example, and it’s only with the aid of other details such as birth place, other members of the family, and intuition that I’ve been able to trace some of my family.

My husband’s great-grandfather was John Brown… can you imagine how many John Browns there were, born in about  1850? According to  my quick sweep it was 297 born in that year exactly.  I narrowed the search to Surrey… but there is none! So I widen the search a little by extending the range of years, since he was born in about 1850, and I come up with eighteen, of which two were born in Reigate and two in Godstone… all possible.

When he married Emily Chalrwood, they had at least thirteen children, of which the youngest, Augusta was my husband’s grandma. You would think Augusta was quite an unusual name, but checking the birth records again there are three – but only one of them could be identified as our Augusta Sarah who was born in Reigate. Augusta, always known as Dandy to her family, married Ernest Colgate in 1911 and they had four children. Their marriage lasted until Ernest died in 1955.

Ernest John Colgate and Augusta Sarah Colgate, née Brown

Luckily, with Brown family I was helped out by the existence of the family Bible which recorded the dates of birth of the children .. although not always accurately. Emily and John married in 1873 and their first born child, William is entered into the family Bible… but then someone changes his date of birth because obviously he was actually born before his parents married!