Welcome to my blog, where I take pleasure in words and pictures, be they my own or those of others. I'm a creative individual, and the crafty side I explore on my 'other blog', Picking Up The Threads, which I hope you'll visit too. I'm sure you understand that I have sole copyright of my original work and any of my contributions, so please ask if you want to use them. A polite request is rarely refused. So, as they used to say on the BBC's 'Listen With Mother' radio programme, many years ago: "Are you sitting comfortably? Then we'll begin."

Thursday, 5 June 2014

Lovely Lizzie


This is the face of a selfless and much-loved woman, my Great-Grandfather’s older sister, Lizzie. This portrait of her was taken around 1890 when she would have been in her mid-thirties.

When I was young I remember hearing my grandfather mention her with great affection and being told that she had brought him and his siblings up when their own mother died. I have since found out that this was the second time that she had stepped up when the family had need of her.

Elizabeth Georgina was born in 1854 to my Great-great grandparents George and Emma who ran a greengrocer’s shop in Radford, Nottingham. Her brother, George Henry, followed in 1863, by which time her parents had given up the shop and moved back into town to live near the Lace Market area where George worked as a porter and Lizzie would later follow him as a Lace Mender. In 1867 my own Great-grandfather William Joseph was born. Sadly, a few years later, both parents died within a short time of each other; Emma in 1875 of a stroke, and her husband in 1876 of bronchitis when my Great-grandfather, was still a little boy.



We don’t know what happened to the siblings immediately following the loss of their parents and it’s the 1881 Census which adds some more details. Lizzie was lodging with an unmarried aunt, George by now a clerk, was lodging with a provisions dealer and his family, and young William Joseph was in the care of Sir Josiah Mason’s Orphanage in Aston, Birmingham. In later life William, always known in the family as Little Granddad, attributed his small frame to only having had one square meal a day there. He would have left on his fourteenth birthday and took up an engineering apprenticeship. It was then that his sister Lizzie made a home for him. The 1891 census has brother and sister living together in the Lace Market area, where Lizzie, still working in Nottingham’s thriving Lace industry, was listed as a curtain folder and William as an iron turner. Older brother George had moved to Grimsby to work as a trawlerman.

In April 1891 William married my Great grandmother Mary Jane with whom he had three children: Maud (1993). Albert (1895) and Sydney (1898), my grandfather. Unfortunately Mary was to die in 1902 aged only 32, leaving William to bring up three children under ten. Once more Auntie Lizzie stepped in to help; she moved in with her brother and his three children, keeping house whilst he went to work. This arrangement probably continued for about ten years until William re-married in 1912 to a widow, Gertie, who had lost her family in the influenza epidemic.

We know of the movements of Gertie and William up to their deaths in 1949 and 1952. As a baby of just a few months I was taken to see Little Granddad who apparently described me as ‘a perky little Poll’! We know that he was a well-read man who enjoyed his pipe and doing crosswords; that he had worked as a lathe turner until the age of 74 and that in 1941 he was ‘bombed out’ when his house took a direct hit. These facts are there to share because they have come to me through living memory, but what we don’t have are any stories of the lovely Lizzie after her brother’s marriage. It would be nice to think that he and his new wife gave her a home in just the way she herself had done first for him, then later for his children.

There is more research to be done, but for now we have to be content with this portrait of Lizzie in later life and let it speak volumes about this woman; daughter, sister, aunt but never wife and mother, though she carried out the rôle of both out of duty and with love.


Once more I am, grateful to my brother, the genealogist of the family for the small details.

For more tales behind the pictures join us at Sepia Saturday where other contributors will be opening up their family albums and introducing their ancestors.

19 comments:

  1. I hope you or your brother are able to find more information about Lizzie.

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  2. There's a nice lot of personal detail in this account - maybe more will come to light one day. Happy hunting.

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  3. I hope she was able to enjoy her later years and was taken care of.

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  4. (I know you meant "1890" as the date of that portrait.)
    There have been many selfless "Aunt Lizzies" who have gone under-appreciated. (And for the record, I HATE seeing them referred to as "spinster" in a census record or other document.) Your Lizzie sounds like a gem. I hope you will learn more about her.

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    1. You get the prize for being the first to spot the deliberate mistake ;) Thank you.

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  5. A lovely profile of Lizzie.

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  6. Lizzie sounds delightful. I hope she had a happy and rewarding life.

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  7. so interesting reading how Lizzie's story has been carefully pieced together - really hope she found the happiness she deserved in later life x

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  8. Such an interesting face and the two photographs of Lizzie seem to display so many of the same character attributes. Isn't it odd that on this open theme day a theme of sorts seems to be developing and that is formal portraits of relatives.

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  9. Very interesting story of a brave woman. I hope you find out more about her.

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  10. What an interesting collection of information on G.Aunt Lizzie. You are fortunate to know that much, and it looks likely that more can be discerned about her later years. Good luck on that. And all else failing, invent your own story. (I heard that gasp! Of course you'll note that it's fiction!) But why not? I think you're right that she stayed in the home with her brother. What else would she do?

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  11. Great thanks to your brother for all his work! What an interesting background into your family history and little Granddad's description of you, so cute. She certainly had a heart of gold, and she carried out very important duties, for the lives of so many. The footprints she has left behind are from shoes many folks could never fill as well. I do hope to discover more later if you uncover anything else.

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  12. She looks tired in the second photo, I hope she had a happy life, she certainly deserves it. It is amazing to know so much about family, I'm quite jealous.

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  13. Yes, that last photo seems to portray a woman who has been through a lot!

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  14. What a generous and loving soul Lizzie was. I hope she was not deprived of marriage because of her generosity. I hope you and your brother are able to learn that she did, indeed, remain in the home of her brother after he remarried. She seems not to have changed much with age except that her hair turned grey. Thank goodness for the Lizzies of the world!

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  15. One would like to think Lizzie's brother repaid the debt he owed his sister by providing her with a loving home in her later years. It's hard to imagine he would not.

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  16. I think there are many families with an sister/aunt/daughter like Lizzie in their history. I can think to two girls on branches of my family tree, who took over management of a household after a parent died. In the days when women's mortality rates were higher than men, this was a more common situation in family life..

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  17. Great history, Lizzie enjoyed much love in her later years. I just know it. Don't you?

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  18. Perhaps you should change your blog name to Little Poll or Perky Poll?

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