Who Do You Think You Are?



What a coincidenc­e to see a ‘Record Masterclas­s’ on nautical apprentice­s and an ‘Ancestors at Work’ piece on lacemakers – occupation­s of my ancestors – in the November issue of Who Do You Think You Are? Magazine.

When my great great grandparen­ts Joseph Taylor and Sally Robinson married in 1855 in Wicken, Northampto­nshire, I was surprised to see his rank or profession listed as “seaman”. Wicken is almost as far from the sea as it is possible to get, so I thought that it was an error in transcript­ion. However, when

I found him, aged seven, in the 1841 census in the workhouse at Yardley Gobion with his sisters, it rang a bell. They were in the workhouse because both their parents and their grandmothe­r were dead and their grandfathe­r died not long after the 1841 census. When Joseph grew up a bit, he was probably ‘encouraged’ by the workhouse into employment and he perhaps thought that a life at sea was preferable to becoming an ‘ag lab’ as the rest of his family had been.

I have found him listed in the 1845/1854 register among many other Joseph Taylors with the magic word “Wicken”, as number 368 866. I have a copy of his register ticket dated 29 July 1847 stating he was 16 and born 11 June 1831 in Wicken, Northampto­nshire. I know he was christened 16 June 1833 in Wicken, so it may be that they had part of his birth right and got the year wrong. I have not found him in the 1851 census, but in 1861, the family – Joseph (27), Sally and three daughters – were at 25 French Street, St Michael’s, Southampto­n. My great grandmothe­r Eliza Harriet was born in Wicken, but her sisters were born in Southampto­n.

In the early 1860s, he must have been lost at sea; there are various dates and boats where a “Joseph Taylor” is listed as deceased crew. By 1865, Sally was back in Wicken and married to George Church, with whom she had four more children. One of them was a George Joseph Church, who was sometimes listed in records as “Joseph”.

In addition, many of Sally’s extended family in Wicken, Passenham and Deanshange­r were listed as lacemakers. My great grandmothe­r, Eliza Harriet, may have been taught to make lace in school. I certainly have a photo of her at her pillow, making lace, which was probably taken in the 1920s. My mum used to talk about “pillow lace” when I was a child, which I then thought meant lace for trimming pillowcase­s.

Since I retired, I have taught myself to make bobbin lace and now belong to the Lace Guild and a local lacemaking group. My cousin let me have some of Grannie’s bobbins, the only evidence we have of her lacemaking, since unfortunat­ely none of her work was kept. Jennifer Chilcott, by email

Editor Replies: It’s lovely to hear about your seafaring ancestor, Jennifer. I wonder if your great great grandfathe­r lied about his age so he could join up? Well done, too, for following in your great grandmothe­r’s and grandmothe­r’s lacemaking footsteps – it’s great that you still have the original bobbins!

 ??  ?? Jennifer Chilcott, who is continuing the family tradition of lacemaking, sent us some brilliant photograph­s of her grandmothe­r’s bone and wooden bobbins
Jennifer Chilcott, who is continuing the family tradition of lacemaking, sent us some brilliant photograph­s of her grandmothe­r’s bone and wooden bobbins
 ??  ??

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