Monday, 6 May 2013

Family Tree Research - Artistic Ancestors, Arthur Jameson and Helen Jameson Hunt, New York Illustrators

My great x 3 grandfather, Rodger had a younger brother Arthur and Arthur, like most of his brothers became a miner in the Durham coalfield.

Arthur married Mary and moved from his home town, South Shields to Jarrow and then, in time, to Hebburn.

In terms of distance - there's not much between all three towns.  My great x 3 grandfather, Rodger Stephenson moved to Jarrow so they were probably working together for a while at the mine.

Arthur and Rodger had pretty normal north east miners lives; they both had big families and lived in pit houses in Jarrow and then Hebburn - these were usually two rooms, three if you had a bigger family and the back lane area was a shared area, housing the outside toilets, pigeon lofts, allotment areas etc.

Arthur's daughter, Jane Anne Stephenson married well.  I have researched my family tree quite thoroughly and nobody really did well for themselves - the girls usually married miners, dockers and eventually shipyard workers and the lads married girls from their area; usually miners' daughters.  I'm not saying that was a bad thing, that was just the normal thing to do - the north east of England was heavily industrialised.

Jane Anne married an architect and surveyor.  On the earliest census of their married life, he is listed as a architect and builder and in later census reports as an architect and surveyor.  His name was Edward Jameson and in time, he bought them a lovely house in a rather nice area of Gateshead.

Jane Anne eventually had her parents living with her in Gateshead and they were set up with their own grocery store.  That would have been unheard of in those days but would have given them some financial independence from Jane Anne, even if they were sharing her home.

The Jamesons and their children disappear from UK records in 1881.  They appear on the census but then there is no sign of them. Theri eldest daughter, Lily died in 1878, still a child but they had three other children.

As I have the worldwide version of, I am able to look abroad for other records.

In 1883 I find Edward being investigated by British police for fraud but all charges are dropped 'no case to answer'.  Maybe that was the push he needed to move from the United Kingdom and take his talents elsewhere.

He and Jane and their children, Arthur, Louise and Fred emigrated to Leavenworth in Kansas.
Leavensworth, Kansas in 1867,%20Kansas,%201867.jpg

I traced their emigration on the ship, City of Chicago and their settling into Leavenworth with some excitement.

Edward becomes a 'real estate agent' (a good trade for an architect/surveyor).  On their first census in the USA, their son Arthur Edward Jameson is listed as an 'artist'.  This piqued my interest - it looked like Arthur had picked up his father's talents.

The next census finds Edward, Jane, Louise and Fred still living in Leavenworth, Kansas but Arthur E Jameson has moved to New York City and is a boarder, along with many others at what looks like an apartment block in Manhatten.  He has moved there to hone his skills.

Eventually, Arthur marries Brownie (real name Arabella) Duncan and settles in Manhattan.  He is listed on the census as 'Illustrator', Brownie is a woman of independent means (she is from a fairly well off family).

Arthur and Brownie have 2 daughters, Margaret Duncan Jameson and Helen Duncan Jameson.  On one census, both are listed as students - Margaret of 'music' and Helen of 'art'.

Illustrated by Arthur E Jameson

I wondered if Helen was following her grandfather and father into artistic pursuits?

Further research shows that she did!  Indeed, Arthur Jameson was a prolific illustrator, illustrating both adult and children's magazines.  He seems to have specialised in children's colourful illustrations.

Helen D Jameson illustrated books and magazines but is particularly well known for a series of Madamoiselle covers she did in the 1930s and 1940s.

The covers are all viewable online if you want to delve further.  I have included some of my favourites here.

Helen married an illustrator, Arnold Hall (he did covers for New Yorker magazine) and went by the name of Helen Jameson Hall. They had no children.
Illustration by Helen Jameson Hall

Edward was an illustrator all of his life and Brownie outlived him by several years - he went back to Leavenworth, maybe for a family trip and died whilst visiting his family.

Helen's sister, Margaret Duncan went to Julliard and studied classical piano.  She was, for a few years, a piano teacher before becoming a legal secretary for a top law firm in New York.

So from their very humble beginnings, the Jameson family did very well for themselves; their move to Kansas was a good one.  Edward and Jane clearly saw their future lay away from the North East of England and they provided their children with options other than mining, shipyard work, steel making and the docks.

My great grandfather x3 stayed in the north east and his son became a miner (and Wesleyan minister) before getting other work after returning from Pennsylvania.  My great-grandfather did not go down the mines, becoming a labourer but my family is (on both sides) mainly from mining stock!

I'm so pleased for Jane Anne; she married a man who could take her away from the industrial north east and showed her a life on the other side of the Atlantic that she would never have seen in England.

And look at the opportunities which opened up for their son Arthur and their granddaughter, Helen.

Margaret Jameson aged 23
I would love to hear from anyone who thinks they might be related on the American side - wouldn't that be great to be able to bill and coo together over Arthur and Helen's success - not bad for a bunch of hard working Geordies.  Edward died before Jane Anne and she went to live with her daughter, Louise McKee in Brown, Texas.  Jane's son, Fred moved to Illinois.

The best part of my research on this part of my family tree was discovering the illustrations still available online.  The one I featured here by Helen is available as an iphone cover, how cool is that?

The second best part of the research was finding their passport applications for a trans-Atlantic trip to Europe in 1922 - it included their photos - now they are not strangers!  Hello to Margaret and Helen, my second cousins, three times removed.
Helen died in 1983 and Margaret died in 2000, she was 100 years old.

Helen Jameson - aged 20

Sunday, 5 May 2013

Family Tree Research - A Holy Man In The Family

John Wesley
My family research began a long time ago and I only recently purchased a worldwide version of and it has filled in a few gaps and has also led me down some unexpected paths.

In my last post, I discussed the fact that the vast majority of my male ancestors were miners, save for my Tyne Waterman great grandfather and his dad, who was a hairdresser!  I like to think of him as a sort of geordie Vidal Sassoon or Nicky Clark but I think the reality is less glamorous - he was cutting, trimming and rollering in the 1820s - posh people were still wearing wigs but poor people stuck to short back and sides and the women rarely had their hair cut.

I did not expect to find too many surprises along the way in terms of 'occupation' on the census records from 1841 through 1911 so imagine my excitement when I discovered the following occupation for my great-great grandfather, R.N.S - Occupation: Miner/Wesleyan Minister.

I should also reveal that his son, my great-grandfather was not a religious man and was very much a man who did not 'spare the rod' when it came to disciplining his own children.
Montour Mining Company

I understand from reading other family history stories that this was nothing new in the early 20th century and recent episodes of the new BBC drama, The Village certainly bear this out.

 Times were tough and you had to be tough to survive.

His religious upbringing may well have included an element of fire and brimstone. who knows?

 I do know that he was extremely articulate and a strong supporter of the budding Labour Party but even my grandmother never, ever mentioned his own upbringing, describing him often as 'a closed book'.  So was that closed book a bible, I wonder?  Was he the way he was because of his Wesleyan upbringing?
Montour area of Pennsylvania

 He never talked about his siblings, parents or upbringing and surely, having a dad who was once a preacher would have been a story worth sharing with your own kids?

So how on earth did my great great grandfather become a Wesleyan Minister?  What is a Wesleyan Minister?  What did he believe?  Did he take his young family to Montour, Pennsylvania for a mining job or the opportunity to also spread his mission?

My interest was piqued - here's what I discovered

Pittsburgh Coal Company - probable employer of RNS
Religion in general in Britain was being brought into the cities and the poor were being brought into the fold of religious worship (whether they wanted it or not).  The truth is that the vast majority of the poor did not think about God, care about God and mainly, did not know about God so religion meant nothing to most of them.  Some of them could hardly put food on their tables and worked very long shifts in either the pits, mills or the factories so going to church was not really top of their 'to do' list.  they lived in pretty terrible urban areas and life was a struggle from day to day with high infant mortality, disease and abject poverty.

It probably didn't help that the newly evangelical leg of the Church of England led most of their sermons by telling these poor people to not be so idle!  Not to drink!  Not to fornicate!  Well, dear me, what else did they have in their lives?  Work!

The Wesleyans were also evangelical - they went out into the people and talked to miners at the pit heads - talked about loving God, loving Christ and loving your neighbours too - because in that sort of community brotherhood came goodness of heart and spirit.  I'm no expert but it all sounds like it was about telling people to understand God and love God on their own terms - no church!  So Wesleyans had chapels and chapels were about the community and brought God into the community.

I found a document online which has the name of my relative on it - he went to mines in the North East of England and preached his message there.  I have no evidence that he was a Primitive Methodist, though maybe he had a bit more of that about him after his time in Montour, which had a strong Wesleyan presence.

He stops calling himself a  Wesleyan Minister eventually - maybe age got the better of him; the 1891 census his occupation is listed as 'Sewing Machine Salesman', no mention of being a minister.  By then he was 53 years old.  I don't think its a coincidence that all of his jobs after living in the USA are 'salesman' type jobs.  He never worked in the mines again.  He certainly did not make any money in America, their address in 1891, Palmer St, Jarrow was a slum area.  They moved there after first moving back to Derbyshire; home of his wife.  Eventually he came back to the North East.

Interesting to note that Montour's neighbouring county is called Northumberland; so possibly named after my own neighbouring English county?  Seems likely.

As a footnote - my great-grandfather (the closed book) married a girl who was famed in her local area, Percy Main, Northumberland for being a medium - she did seances and went to people's houses to do spiritual evenings.  My great grandfather might have been turning in his grave?

Thursday, 11 April 2013

Family Tree Research - Bringing Your Ancestors 'Back to Life'

As a family historian, you are going to have good days and bad.

The good days might see you discover a new line of your family, maybe a sibling of a great-grandparent with lots of supporting evidence.  Your heart beats a little bit faster and your great grandparents look a little less lonely on their particular branch of the tree.

On bad days, you discover nothing or hit a brick wall and feel like you have wasted money on your subscription to whichever site you are using and you also think that brick wall means "that's it!"  You've finished!  You've gotten as far as you can go.

But don't give up.  There is more to family tree research than putting names down on a piece of paper.

Let's face it, a few months into your research, you're already sick of looking at your own surname and your own home town appearing over and over again.

If you find someone born in a different county or state, you feel like you've struck gold - your family weren't always living in your town - some of them had to move there; and given the decade you are looking at, maybe they had to move there on foot, or on a horse and cart.

Now imagine if you were moving to the next state or the next town; could you do it easily?  Knowing that because the new town is hundreds of miles away, you might never return?  You might be leaving behind parents or brothers and sisters.  In those days, you might never see them again and only contact them by letter (if you could read and write).

So if you're stuck or you hit a brick wall, why not head off in another direction?

I Wonder What Their Town Looked Like Back Then?

  • You know their names
  • You know where they lived, you might even know the name of the street (census?)
  • You know when they lived there - 1881? 1901? 1911?

Time for some real history - you have the internet at your disposal.

Go onto Google images and put in the name of your town and the year you are researching,

e.g. Plumstead, 1881 or Arlington, Texas 1901.

Let's see what Google images returns for this.

This is an image called The Lake, Plumstead and appears on the following website:

I should say, at this point, that my ancestors moved FROM Plumstead to North East England, looking at this idyllic photo makes me wonder why?

And how does Arlington, Texas fair on Google images (why Texas you ask?  I am watching a baseball game in the UK between the Rangers and the LA Angels and I have a soft spot for Texas).

This photo is of 'Mineral Well' taken in about 1900 which was basically, the centre of Arlington when it was being established.

Isn't it an amazing photo when you think about what Arlington has become?  Look at the horses in the muddy street and the street is brimming with people.

The photo is from the following website:

So don't be so quick to slam shut your laptop or switch off your PC.

Go on Google images and try to at least know something more about the place in which your ancestors lived.

Imagine wearing those clothes and walking down those streets.

Is the sun shining?  Or is it the depths of winter and people are huddled against the cold.

Save the images to your Family Tree Folder and print them off for your file.

Suddenly the ancestors you've had success in finding have a home and you know what their home town looked like at the time that they were walking around.

Here's a little video about one of my ancestors - I found out that he died in a mining accident in 1884, leaving his children orphaned (his wife had died the year before aged 27).  Did I just want them to be names on a page? No.  I needed to bring myself a bit closer to them and this is how I did it.

Let me know about your family research adventures.  If you are from the north east of England, you might enjoy the videos featured in this article about Geordie folk band, The Unthanks; they get back down to what the nineteenth century was really like in this area -keep it real!

Sunday, 7 April 2013

Family Tree Research - Skeletons in The Closet

Admit it!  You start your family tree journey on a wing and a prayer with your own surname and if you're lucky a grandparent still alive to give you some stories to build upon.

Family tree research is exciting when you first begin.

Back in the day (1987ish), all I had was a notepad and my parent's stories of their parents, aunts and uncles.  My dad knew his grandfather was a Welshman, my mam knew her grandfather was a Tyne waterman.

I drifted down to my local history library and spent hours mulling over cemetery indexes, microfiched 1881 census and St Catherine's Indexes.  It took hours, often overlooked by grumpy librarians checking that you paid for your crappy dry silver copies of microfiched Gazette pages.

Now of course, new genealogists can get a week or two free on Ancestry.Com (or or GenesReunited among other sites.  I won't lie, I love and made recent contact with a cousin once removed in Australia and we're rattling off emails to one another and sharing photos and stories and it is just wonderful.  It is like finding the missing pieces to a jigsaw.

But what about discovering skeletons in the closet?

I learnt a valuable lesson recently about not putting my twenty first century thoughts and feelings into something that was going on in 1851 between my great x 3 grandmother and her family and yet, it has been a tricky business trying to 'disconnect' from it when the job of a family tree researcher is to basically join the dots.

I won't go into the gory details except to say that it involved her abandoning her young children to go in search of a man.  My research shows her finding him, marrying him (not a time for everyone to say 'Awww' just yet!) and then returning to her home town to have more children with him but not be reunited with her other children.

Each subsequent census entry reveals her children living with either her sister or her parents and then of course, the children grow up themselves and marry.

I have fought with myself over this woman, really I have.

I got to a point where I had to log out of my computer for about a week because I could not find anything to show me that she was reconciled with her children.

And then I thought to myself  'What gives you the right to judge?' And it was a wake up call.

Genealogy is full of skeletons in the closet and it is your job as a researcher to find them but it is not your job to make sense of them beyond the evidence you find.

Evidence in the case of family tree research  = dates, names,places,births,deaths,etc,etc.  

I could not prove that she was not reconciled with her children.  I could not prove that she never saw them again so I had to step back and present JUST the evidence.

She was widowed young, left to bring up four young children and maybe she went looking for my great x 3 grandfather because she was alone and vulnerable?  Who knows? I DON'T!!!!

I have learnt an important lesson though.  Yes, they have my surname and I am a genetic mix of all of them but I do not know anything about them as people - I can put meat on their bones to some extent  by learning about how they lived but it is just unfair of me to judge them!

Accept and embrace your family tree skeletons in the closet - they must have had their reasons for doing what they did but they lived in a time you did not, when things were very, very different. And actually, it's none of your business!  

They didn't ask you to go back in time and dig 'em up, that was your decision - and remember, they're long dead but you can still learn to respect them.

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Researching WW1 Deaths In Your Family Tree

World War One Family Tree Research - Extra Research Tips

This is the gravestone of Henry Waterhouse.  He died on 11th April 1918, aged 26.

He is buried in Lijssenthoek, Belgium.

He was a Royal Engineer, a 'sapper'.  They cleared mines, built bridges and paths across trenches and they dug tunnels.  It was all very important crucial work, hard work.  I didn't do it credit in that sentence but I gave you the gist.

Henry or knowing my family, most probably 'Harry' spent the last 4 years of his life up to his neck in mud, working hard every day in terrible conditions.

Harry was not married.  The telegram bearing the terrible news of his death went to his parents in Percy Main, North Tyneside - Harry Waterhouse, a young, brave Geordie.

My family tree adventures on led me to discover that Henry had 'died of wounds' on 11th April 1918.  That's all the info that's included on the postcard sized information card about this brave lad.

It tells me a date and theatre of war - France & Flanders' - it is so generic isn't it? 'France & Flanders'

But for me, it just wasn't enough.

I don't have a photo of Harry Waterhouse, I'll probably never have one.  He was my great-grandmother's younger brother and that postcard sized info card wasn't enough to satisfy my curiosity about Harry and his experience of World War One.

I felt very sad for him.  I felt sadder still when my research uncovered a further 2 brothers killed in the same war.

My great-great grandparents had 3 postcards home to tell them their boys were gone forever; it is difficult to imagine what they went through.

So Harry, Charles and John Waterhouse all lost their lives in WW1.  Charles died first in 1915, leaving a widow Mary and 3 children aged 11, 6 and 4.  Mary got that postcard too.  John died between Charles and Harry in 1916.  John was not married, maybe that was a good thing.

There is no need to accept that the little military info card needs to be the be all and end all of your memory keeping of these men.

I was pleased to find the information on Ancestry but I wanted to know more about where they died and about the battles in which they lost their lives.
Thankfully, when it comes to the 'Great' War, there is a wealth of information available if you know where to find it.

So armed with the small snippets of info I had - the dates of their deaths, I first wanted to know which battles they died in.

I can't vouch for this exactly - they may have been hospitalised in a battle and died later but usually there are not huge gaps between the battles and it is very well chronicled.

So I went to Dates of WW1 Battles and discovered that Harry's death occurred at the Battle of Cambrai, a battle in which many tanks were used.  95,000 men lost their lives.

Harry is buried at Lijssenhoek in Belgium, he has a neat little gravestone which bears his name, rank and serial number.  It has flowers planted and is well maintained.  I thank the person who does this for his family almost 100 years after he died.  I also thank the person who photographed every gravestone and put in on the War Graves Photographic Project website.  This has been an epic project for whoever decided to take it on; they deserve the respect of all WW1 family historians.

Harry exists somewhere for my family should any of us decide we would like to pay our respects if we are ever in Belgium.

John also has his own gravestone.  He is buried at Maroueil British Cemetery in France.  He was in the 2nd/20th London Regiment; unusual for a Northumbrian man who would usually join the Fusiliers except John's dad, George was a Woolwich lad and it looks like John joined a Kent regiment to honour his dad?  I like to think so any way.  John died at the Somme, just a day into the battle.

Sadly, Charles has no grave.  He is buried out there somewhere under all of those poppies in Belgium; killed at the Battle of Ypres.  His name is engraved in the granite at the Menin Memorial, the rather beautiful white edifice honouring the British dead without grave markers.

Charles was in the 2nd Northumbria Fusiliers.  If you come from this part of England, you're usually either in the Durham Light Infantry of the Northumbria Fusiliers.

Charles died at one of the war's bloodiest battles.  He was 33 years old.  It is possible from my research that another of their brothers survived the war.  

The family's experience of the great war is one I cannot even begin to imagine. it is hard enough to imagine outliving one of your children, never mind three of them.

It was important for me as a family historian to learn more that what was hand written on a postcard.  As someone who shares their genes, I owed it to them to find out where they died and where they are now laid to rest.

To any family historians out there - don't stop with the names on a card.  Don't be satisfied with knowing when they died.  Find out more about their experience and your research experience will be all the richer for it.

They become more than just names 2 or 3 generations back - I can never know Harry, Charles or John but I can honour them in my family history by sharing their experience, their battles, their resting place with anyone who reads my family's history.

Happy researching!