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The Things I Never Knew!

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  • Olive Tree Genealogy
    My maternal grandmother used to tell me stories. Stories of her youth, her brothers and sisters, her parents and her growing up years in Ramsgate, Kent
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 22, 2011
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      My maternal grandmother used to tell me stories. Stories of her youth, her
      brothers and sisters, her parents and her growing up years in Ramsgate, Kent

      I thought I knew almost everything there was to know about Grandma Ruth. I
      loved hearing about her father who drove a coal wagon, but who suffered from
      epileptic seizures, often during his deliveries. His horse knew the route so
      well it would carry on house to house until the route was done, then bring
      my great-grandfather back home.

      Her mother ran a boarding house. Grandma was sickly as a child and developed
      a tick, a nervous little cough and shake of the head. One of her brothers
      died as a teenager. And on and on it went. Grandma told me the same stories
      so many times I had them memorized.

      I was lucky when I began my genealogy quest into her lines, I knew her
      grandparents' names, I knew where her ancestors were born, where they lived,
      what their occupations were. I knew all about Grandma's siblings, in fact I
      met several of them during my own childhood.

      But yesterday I decided to search the 1911 census online on
      1911census.co.ukI hadn't done this before because I figured I wasn't
      really going to learn
      anything new so why pay for credits to see the image(s). I say images
      because my maternal grandfather was also born in England and he too would be
      in that 1911 census as a teenager. But I was pretty darn sure there was
      absolutely nothing *new* I could add to my knowledge of the families from
      the 1911 census.

      I was wrong.

      The 1911 census for 10 Chapel Place, Ramsgate showed my grandmother Ruth as
      a 17 year old. Her siblings at home were as expected - Lilian, 25 and
      Sydney, 12. Her grandmother Sarah Simpson, a 70 year old widow, lived with
      the family. And her father David and mother were also listed, her mother's
      occupation shown as a boarding house keeper. But there were two surprises
      and a few interesting new facts.

      *Surprise #!:* my great grandmother who I knew as Sarah Jane Simpson, listed
      herself as "Jane". I'd never heard her referred to by her middle name. Since
      she is the person who signed as having filled out the form, I'm going to
      assume she knew what name others called her.

      *Surprise #2:* My grandmother Ruth was listed as being a milliner in a
      showroom. I never knew she made and sold hats! Why didn't she ever talk
      about that? I have seen photos of her beautifully dressed as a youngster and
      as a married woman. Her two little girls were also in beautifully crafted
      outfits that I was pretty sure she had made personally and I saw her knit
      and crochet and tat and do all kinds of beautiful sewing but I never knew
      she made her living at it. I have an entirely new mental picture now of my
      grandmother as a teenage girl.

      *New Fact*: I knew the family lived at 10 Chapel Place in Ramsgate but I
      never knew how many rooms they had in their home. That information is
      provided in the 1911 census. I see that my great-grandmother Sarah (I mean
      Jane!) Simpson wrote that there were 14 rooms in the house. That's a pretty
      big place for 1911 England! But this number was crossed out and in an
      entirely different handwriting was written the number 7. Still pretty big.

      The instructions for counting the number of rooms states "write below the
      number of rooms in this dwelling (house, tenement or apartment) Count the
      kitchen as a room but do not count scullery, lobby, closet, bathroom; nor
      warehouse, office, shop" I was intrigued. I'm pretty sure there was no
      office, warehouse or shop there so what rooms did Jane count to get from 7
      to 14? They had to be rooms referred to as scullery, lobby, closet or
      bathroom. She ran a boarding house so presumably there were extra bedrooms,
      each having its own closet. But is that what was meant by "closet" in 1911

      A scullery is a separate room off the kitchen which held tableware so I'm
      fairly certain great-grandma's house had one of those. She probably had a
      lobby (what we might call a foyer or entrance hall). But that's only more
      rooms beyond the final count of 7. I'm assuming she had a parlour (a front
      living room) and perhaps an informal living room. She had a kitchen and I
      suspect a dining room due to having boarders. So that makes 3 or 4 rooms.
      Bedrooms - she must have had at least 3 for family and at least one extra
      f(she had one boarder in 1911). So we come to the final tally of 7 rooms. If
      Jane added the scullery, lobby and one closet for each bedroom (4) we get a
      total of 13. To get that first number of 14 rooms we might add that informal
      living room.

      Boring? Not to me. I can now form a pretty good mental image of my
      grandmother's home in 1911. I don't need to know the actual layout of rooms,
      although I would love to! I can still picture my grandmother rushing
      downstairs from her bedroom (no doubt shared with her older sister Lilian)
      to the kitchen to partake of breakfast before heading out to the shop where
      she worked.

      And so I learned another valuable lesson and yes you CAN teach an old
      genealogist new tricks! Never never never assume you know all there is to
      know. Leave no stone unturned, gather details and enjoy your journey into
      the past.

      Posted By Genealogy Blogger to Olive Tree Genealogy
      2/22/2011 07:52:00 AM

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