8 January 2015

#52Ancestors - Week 4 - Closest to my Birthday

So this is 4 "weeks" into the 52 week challenge - 1/13th of the way through. This week's challenge seemed simple enough at first....

Week 4, Closest to your birthday — Not too much to think about here. What ancestor has the birthday closest to yours? (I mean in terms of month and day, not the year)

Right, so pick the person whose birth day is the same as mine - That would be Jane Dobson born on September 6 1820.

Jane was the daughter of Thomas Dobson and Mary Middlemass. She was baptised on July 15, 1821 as a Roman Catholic in the Tynemouth and North Shields Chapel. She is a sister of my great, great, great grandfather.

But that's all I know about her. I can't find her on the 1841 census in the UK. She could have passed away, married, immigrated - anything at all.

So on to the next closest date September 5 and Francis Kilmartin. She is my 2nd cousin twice removed. I have a date of birth in Scotland and a death date in Canada. That's it, no other information. No story there.

Christina Boyle Martin September 8. First cousin once removed. Birth date check, Death date check. Any other information - negative. Move on

Jack Crawford September 4. Husband of a 2nd cousin once removed. Nope

Mary Dobson? Nada

John McDonald? Moving right along...

Catherine Kilmartin, sister of Francis? nothing

John Millar? sigh

Thomas Dempsey September 9. First cousin once removed. Again nothing.

Only Names in my Tree
It's all very sad really. So many people on my family tree are just names with a date or two and no background information to make them real. A few of them have "interesting" parents or grandparents.

We all know there's more to family history than just names and dates. What it is that makes a person come to life?

Vital Statistics is not where it's at. I am going to have to add Social History to my bag of tricks and get some information about what what happening when and where my ancestors were alive.

Here's my last hope - the last "closest to my birthday" ancestor who is not still alive.

Nicholas Stuart Dobson
Finally! I was starting to panic.

Nicholas was my great grandfather. Son of Thomas Dobson and Ellen Steward (the "tough old bird" from last week). Born in 1871 and Passed in 1950. He lived almost his whole life in Sunderland.

Sometime between the 1881 and 1891 censuses he became a Hairdresser. Later on in life he is listed as Master Hairdresser.

I'm not sure what it takes to become a master tradesman, but I'm sure skill and experience has a lot to do with it.

I once wrote to the Incorporated Guild of Hairdressers, Wigmakers and Perfumers in the UK to see if they had any records. (Apparently its been incorporated since 1900 and I'm sure Nicholas would have been a member). However, I never heard anything back.

60 years as a Hairdresser - that is something.

But there's more to Nicholas than just a pair of scissors.

Incorrectly Registered at Birth
Nicholas' mother Ellen registered his birth. She was unable to read or write. She obviously misunderstood the registrar's questions and when she was asked for name and gender, she gave her name and gender instead of her son's. It wasn't until a week later that Nicholas' father Thomas (who could read and write) made the correction for the records and changed it from a "daughter Ellen" to son Nicholas.

Imperial Yeomanry
At the age of 29 and with a wife and five children, Nicholas joined the Imperial Yeomanry 15th Company (Northumberland) 5th Battalion to fight in the Boer War in 1901 and 1902. He was a trooper.

Family Legend is that he was captured more than once by "the enemy" but escaped. According to the story, there sometimes weren't enough guards, so to stop the prisoners escaping they took their clothes. Apparently being naked wasn't enough to stop Nicholas and so off he went back to his unit.

I haven't been able to establish whether or not this story is true, but I sure hope it is.

Nicholas was awarded The Queen's South Africa (QSA) Medal Clasps: Cape Colony, Orange Free State, Transvaal, South Africa 1901, South Africa 1902. I have copies of those medals and I keep them with my father's and grandfather's WW2 medals.

On October 1st 1902, Nicholas, along with many others, was made an Honorary Freeman of the City of Newcastle Upon Tyne. This was "in recognition of his loyalty and devotion to the Throne and Empire in gallantly volunteering and serving with the British Army in the War in South Africa"

What an honour for a hairdresser from Sunderland

The presentation took place in the Town Hall on October 25th. "There was a large assemblage of ladies and gentlemen to witness the ceremony. The interior of the Hall had been appropriately decorated for the occasion".

There were 600 volunteers to be honoured and they had marched from various parts of the town to be there.

Of course there was a stirring speech from the Mayor. I like this part of the report best and will end today with this quote:

"And although the freedom of the city did not permit them to place a cow upon the Town moor - (laughter) - and the enjoyment in the morning of the milk therefrom, still, it gave them a higher and more distinguished honour than even the actual Freemen possessed, because as he said before their names would be inscribed in the scroll of fame, and those who came afterwards would recognise that they had ancestors who had done good service in their country's cause."

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