Sunday, 28 November 2010

Family Miscellany - It's off to work we go

My parents worked hard all of their lives and the family archive contains various documents which track their early work patterns from the early 1950s.

Most of us probably believe that modern life has become more bureaucratic and more obsessed with health and safety regulations than it used to be fifty or more years ago, but these two documents show how the authorities loved their forms just as much back in the early 1950s as they do today.

In June 1952, at the age of 13, my mom Joan Lawlor took up a paper round. But it wasn't a case of picking up her delivery bag, climbing onto her bicycle and off she goes, as the local authority had a few administrative hoops for her to jump through first.

First of all, the 13 year old would-be paper girl was required to pass the examination of the school medical officer, who certified on 2nd July 1952 that "in my opinion employment in accordance with the provisions of the Bye-Laws regulating the Employment of Children will not be prejudicial to his (her) health or physical development, and will not render him (her) unfit to obtain the proper benefit from his (her) education".

The certificate then had to be signed by the newsagent., Mr Clarke of 476 Coventry Road.

But not only was it necessary to get the School Medical Officer's say-so before doing a paper round back in 1952, all children between the ages of 13 and 15 wanting to get a part time job also had to have an Employment Card under the Children and Young Persons Act 1933.

My mom's Employment Card permitted her to deliver newspapers for Mr Clarke between 7.15 a.m. and 8 a.m. and 5 - 5.45 p.m. on School Days and a slightly longer window of opportunity on Saturdays and Sundays. Permission to deliver milk was scored out.


Famly Miscellany - Crisis What Crisis?

I've been rummaging back through the family archive (aka 'mom's old biscuit tin') this weekend and here's an interesting document, a bread ration card.

But before anyone jumps to the same conclusion that I did, that this must be from the 2nd World War, take a closer look at the dates on the card and you'll be reminded that this card relates to bread rationing of 1979 - 1980.  

Labour Prime Minister James Callaghan generally gets the blame for the strikes of late 1978 to early 1979, which became known as the Winter of Discontent and for his famous remark to the press "Crisis what crisis?". The strikes of November 1978 did include a bread strike which led to panic buying.

But by the summer of 1979 Callaghan had been voted out of power and Britain's first female PM, the Iron Lady, Margaret Thatcher had taken over.

So I am slightly confused at the dates on this ration card which would have been 12 months after the bread strikes of November 1978. 

Was there another bread strike under Mrs Thatcher or did bread rationing go on for a further 18 months after the winter of discontent?

The card, by the way, is registered to my mom Joan Millington at our old family address at 107 Station Road in Harborne. I would have been 18 years old when this was going on so perhaps bread was not on my personal list of priorities (or not that kind of bread anyway). Although I do remember sugar rationing as I was working in Asda on Harborne High Street in about 1977/78 and recall being in charge of replenishing the sugar stocks everytime we had a rush of desperate housewives and stampeding pensioners!

Julie McNeil responds to this post:

Wow - I emigrated to Australia in Jan 1978 age 14 - You are right about us thinking about the war though I was surprised that rations didn't end until 1952?

I vaguely remember the 1972? blackouts, petrol rations, queues for bread. no tv, candles to light me to bed, it was cosy.

Are you getting your bread and butter in the big freeze of 2010?

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Family Miscellany

Below is an assorted selection of interesting items from the family archive. Items of family history interest don't have to be restricted to old photographs and birth certificates and most old documents can tell an interesting story or two for future generations.

So take my advice and think twice before emptying the contents of your top drawer into the nearest available black bin liner!

Item 1 is page 2 and 3 of Harry Robinson's passport (Harry was my dad's brother-in-law), issued on 3rd June 1958. But as you can see, back in 1958 a man's passport also included his wife, implying a rather chauvinistic assumption by the Foreign Office that the wife was never going to travel abroad without her husband.

So it is that both Kath and Harry Robinson are included in his passport. The bearer is registered as Harry, a setter operator, born in Birmingham on 31.3.1920. Height 5ft 4in, eye colour blue, hair brown and no special peculiarities.

Kath is registered as his wife, a machinist born in Ahmadabad, India on 3.1.1922. Also 5ft 4 with blue eyes and blonde hair.

The passport was due to expire in 5 years time, on 3rd June 1963 and their visas included:

20 Juil 1958   Boulogne
21 Juili 1958   Schweiz
25 Lug 1958   Uscita
29 Juil 1958   Dunkerque
30 Juil 1959   Boulogne
8 Aug 1959   Oostende
2 Aug 1961   Oostende

There are one or two other visa stamps that are difficult to read.

On page 31 of the passport there are details of the 'travelling expenses' declared by the holidaying couple on three different journies to the Continent:

24 June 1958    £100
8.7.1959   £94
15 July 1967   £40

And if we are wondering how far that £100 worth of travelling expenses stretched back in 1958, the photograph below of Kath feeding pigeons was taken on 22nd July 1958 in Milan, indicating a fair journey across Europe by train perhaps?

What is unusual about this image is that it was clearly a black and white photo, selected parts of which were coloured, presumably by hand. So Kath's dress is pink and the pigeons blue with just a touch of the same blue on a lady's dress in the background, possibly a dash of yellow in Kath's hair and in the shirt of the man directly behind her and even a delicate application of red lipstick, but everything else remaining in mono shades. I wonder was this a technique used by an Italian street photographer or did Harry take the photo and the technique was applied by a developer in the UK? These days the technique has become popular again in digital photography, but I am certain in the 1950s it was done by hand almost to artistic levels in the popular magazines of the day such as The LadyGood Taste and Cosmopolitan.  

This is a very fragile photograph showing a group of women in a convalescence home. The lady in the 2nd row, end of row on the left in the dark dress is my grandmother, known to us as Nanny Mill, or Florence Millington, nee. Clayton.

Presumably Florence was recovering from an operation or illness. I don't know what year this was taken but can I safely guess it was in the late 1940s / early 1950s by the fashion and hairstyles?

On the subject of grandparents, here is another very fragile document, the four torn quarters of which are held back together by ancient strips of sellotape, all of which adds to it's character and authenticity. This is my maternal grandparents' marriage certificate.

James Lawlor of 92 Walsh Road, son of Denis Lawlor and Catherine Cushen of the same address, married Elizabeth Whelan of 49 Bolton Street, daughter of John Whelan and Anne McDonnell of the same address at the Church of St Michan, Halston Street, Dublin on 22nd July 1938. They were married by the Rev. John Scanlon in the presence of Patrick Gorman of 20 North Brunswick Street and Mary Whelan of 46 Bolton Street. 

I hope my dad Geoff will forgive me for posting up this next set of documents ("not so much of the old" I can hear him saying), although he should not be embarrassed as they show him in an entirely glowing light.

Firstly, from the Summer term ending July 1948, dad's school report from St Peter's R.C. School. At the age of 11 Geoffrey Millington was about to move up into the senior section of the school from Class J8. We can see from his report that he attained good remarks and above average scores in all of his subjects, achieving 100% marks for arithmetic. His head teacher, E.M. Clements, adds "Has worked steadily and is getting on".

But I love my grandfather's reply on the back of the report, which I feel indicates a touch of working class deference for those in authority at the end:

Dear Miss Clements & Staff. 

I am very pleased with Geoffrey's school Report and I am sure he will do better in the future.

Yours Respectfully

Mr W J Millington  

My grandfather's confidence in his son "doing better in the future" certainly seemed to pay off as, four year later at the age of 15, my dad achieved a glowing end of school report in July 1952. A report that I for one would have been envious of showing 90% grades in several subjects and remarks which repeatedly included "Excellent" and even "Top boy in class!" in science. Strangely the one subject area in which he dropped marks over a four year period was arithmetic - by far his top subject at aged 11, which may well say more about the teacher than the pupil.

And finally...

The format of school reports may not have changed much over the years but here is a document that to the best of my knowledge we don't see these days, it's my dad's Scholar's Leaving Certificate issued by City of Birmingham Education Committee.

The document certifies that Geoffrey Millington attended St Peter's R.C. School and "is legally exempt from attendance at School, having ceased to be of compulsory school age as defined by Sections 35 and 38 of the Education Act, 1944".

Head teacher Miss Clements remarks: 

"An extremely intelligent boy who has done very well at school. He has been most efficient as School Captain. Conduct - excellent".

Dated July 24th 1952. Chief Education Officer was M. Russell.

More miscellany in the future.

Do you have any scanned documents you can contribute to the website?

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Census asks family historians to share their stories

The 2011 Census has launched a new family history page of the 2011 Census website along with a Facebook page where amateur genealogists can share their helpful tips for searching census records and discuss their findings.

The idea is to provide members of the public who are keen to delve into their family's past with easy how-to guides, hints and tips, and give those who are already up to their eyes in second cousins, twice removed, the opportunity to share their experiences with others.

Anyone wishing to offer their census story for consideration can do so via or post their story on 2011 Census Family History on Facebook. The 2011 Census team is also looking for interesting census- related stories to feature in local newspapers, radio and websites. These too can be sent using the family history email address.

The 2011 Census will take place on 27 March 2011 when everyone in England and Wales will be asked to complete and return a census questionnaire. For the first time the questionnaire can be completed online using a unique access code.

The completed paper questionnaires will be scanned and the data digitised, but a 'photo' of the handwritten questionnaire will be kept confidential until released after 100 years.

Censuses will also take place on the same day in Northern Ireland and Scotland.

Friday, 5 November 2010

The Clayton family in the Census

One of the earliest records we have of our Clayton ancestors at the moment is this record from the 1841 Census which records Thomas and Hannah Clayton, whom we believe were the grand parents of my great grandfather (Henry William Clayton). We know that the family came to Birmingham from Willenhall in the late 1800s but the Census records of 1841 and 1851 indicate that Thomas Clayton came from Shrewsbury and Hannah nee. Worthington came from Tetnall near Wolverhampton. The couple had just one daughter in 1841:

1841 census - household transcription

Address: Willenhall Road, Willenhall, Wolverhampton

CLAYTON, Thomas M 25 1816

CLAYTON, Hannah F 26 1815

CLAYTON, Mary Ann F 9 1832 Staffordshire

Here is the same couple in the Census of 1851, note the mis-spelling of Clayton (Cleyton) which makes the search for this family difficult. In this record they have two additional children, Thomas and William. Thomas junior became the father of my great grandfather.

1851 census - household transcription

Address: Back of John Street, Willenhall, Wolverhampton

CLEYTON, Thomas Head Married M 35 1816 Wood Screw Maker Shrewsbury Salop

CLEYTON, Hannah Wife Married F 35 1816 Tetnall Staffordshire

CLEYTON, Mary A Daughter F 16 1835 Wolverhampton Staffordshire 

CLEYTON, Thomas Son M 9 1842 Scholar Wolverhampton Staffordshire

CLEYTON, William Son M 6 1845 Scholar Wolverhampton Staffordshire

By 1871, Thomas Clayton junior has married Emmie Clayton and they are living in the St George's parish of Birmingham. The couple have four children which include my great grandfather Henry William Clayton:

1861 Census

I have so far been unable to find a record for Thomas and Hannah Clayton in the 1861 Census, however I have discovered a record for a 19 year old Thomas Claton (note there is no 'y' in the surname) living with the Ross family. It is suggested he is a nephew of the head of the family through another word has been scored out underneath the word nephew suggesting some confusion. He is a latch maker born in Willenhall.

The wife of this family is named Mary Ann Ross - could she be Thomas Claton's older sister? Her age is given as 41 which is out by about 10 years compared to the other records of the Clayton family in 1851 and 1841, but it is worth considering there could have been an error.

1871 Census

11 Berlin Place, Frankfort Street, St George's, Birmingham

Thomas Clayton, Head, born about 1833 in Wolverhampton, a black smith.

Emmie Clayton, wife, born about 1843 in Birmingham

Thomas Clayton, son born about 1862

Emma Clayton, daughter born about 1867

Henry Clayton, son, born about 1869

Samuel F Clayton, son, born about 1871

10 years later the same family is living at 74 Fordrough Road, Aston. They have two further sons, brothers of my great grandfather, Frederick and Alfred:

1881 census

74 Fordrough Road, Aston

Thomas Clayton, Age: 44, Estimated birth year: abt 1837, Head, Spouse's name: Emma Clayton, Gender: Male, Where born: Wolverhampton, Staffordshire, England Blacksmith

Emma Clayton, born Birmingham, aged 43

Thomas aged 20, twine maker, born Birmingham

Mary E. aged 18, corset maker, born Birmingham

William H. aged 14, scholar, born Birmingham

Samuel, aged 12, born Birmingham

Fredrich, aged 8, born Birmingham

Alfred, aged 6, born Birmingham

Keep watching this space as I add more records appertaining to the Clayton family.