The Cottage Smallholder

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Tracing some of my ancestors has taken me on a long journey

My father dressed as a page boy with an unknown bridesmaid

My father dressed as a page boy with an unknown bridesmaid

Do you remember these words?

“Fred Jesson: You’ve been a long way away.
Laura Jesson: Yes.
Fred Jesson: Thank you for coming back to me.”
Brief Encounter 1945

Yes, I’ve been a long way away. Not in the arms of Trevor Howard. And Danny was actually quite happy about my circuitous journey.

I’ve been researching some of my family history. Particularly my Scots grandmother, Jean Fletcher Taylor. I know very little about her except that she was beautiful in her prime and managed to hook a rich husband and marry him at the age of 34. In 1914 that was a real coup, as generally ladies got married much younger in those days.

Her family were from relatively humble origins. Her father and mother worked together as seedsmen and eventually market gardeners. Their daughter, Jean was their only child. Imagine their delight when she hooked the attention of a wealthy army officer. His parents were no so happy about this liaison and instructed the commander of their son’s battalion to transfer him Egypt.

My great grandmother and Jean were not to be pushed aside. They took a boat to Egypt and the romance flourished.

Unfortunately Jean’s husband was killed in1918 – during the WW1. They had no children. She married my grandfather, Jim in 1920. Jim’s first wife had died in childbirth. My aunt Pickles was their one surviving child. My father was born in 1921 and was a surprise!

Unfortunately my grandmother Jean fell under the spell of Ivor Kreuger’s Match King Scam – the shares are doing so well, why not buy more?  When they crashed she lost a lot of her fortune. My father could remember her announcing the news as he watched my grandfather being shaved. He didn’t understand the amounts of money involved but the tremor that went through the room indicated disaster.

Tracing ancestors is fun and I’ve found it totally absorbing. It’s like a vast game of pelmanism, searching, looking, noting and then suddenly things begin to pair up. Which line shall I continue with? Is the initial on the marriage list misheard – could it be D or T rather than C? What happened to the children that they were suppose to have had, were they adopted?

On a good American ancestry site – – I found a report of my Grandmother Jean’s wedding in the Daily Mail. This was alongside some wonderful advertisements and some marvellous articles which included, why women should not be trusted with cheque books and a steamy murder trial.

Generally I’ve been searching through lists with the minimum necessary information and this somehow crudely highlighted how short our lives are. On the other hand, piecing together all these tiny scraps of information suddenly makes distant ancestors suddenly come alive. I’m hooked!

The other sites that I think are good are and the sister site Http://


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  1. Chris Elliot

    Try “Scotland’s People” – the official government source for Scottish genealogy ( For a small fee you can see and print birth, marriage and death documents of your ancestors back to the 18th century. It is fairly complete as Scottish record keeping was highly superior to the rest of the UK at that time.

  2. I have researched my family tree for about 6 years and it is so addictive, like solving a detective mystery with leads and clues to be followed up. I love doing it whenever I get the time and although there are no massive scandals or big stories I love fitting my family and ultimately myself in the context of the history involved.
    I also grow organically in my garden and enjoy using the produce, and work on an organic farm in Devon once a year, so I have been following your blog for a while and enjoy reading your posts very much.

  3. I too am researching my family history-mine is uploaded to Genes Reunited.
    Nothing exciting ,agricultural labourers,stone masons, stocking knitters, coal miners etc.

    My GtGt grandparents did elope though, but only 20 miles away.

    My parenst thought we were related to a publishing company, but sadly my research has squashed that.

  4. louisa @ TheReallyGoodLife

    One comment & one plea!

    The comment: my mum is researching our family history at the moment and is finding the Family History sessions at her local library very useful. They have people on hand to help with research skills, have talks & go on visits to local (usually closed off) historically significant buildings. But for frugal bunnies like us, the best thing is that access to the main paid-for family history websites is free! She’d highly recommend library sessions if available 🙂

    The plea to anyone researching their family history: if you can, if it’s not to sensitive or what-have-you, please put your research online. I came across a distant relative that had worked on his history – and in one click, I got my paternal grandmother’s line back for 300 years! You never know who it will help – but they’re more than likely to be kin one way or another 🙂

  5. fascinating to find all these stories isn’t it? I’ve neen doing quite a bit of family history too….none of my ancestors were rich though..or featured in the dail mail!
    I have one cutting though of my grandfather who survived his ship being sunk in the Pacific during the second world war.And myu great uncle percyu has inspired a children ‘s novel which is nearly finished!


  6. Magic Cochin

    What a great story … I’m always frustrated that family histories often just follow the male line, but the really intriguing social history lies with the women’s stories.

    The photo is beautiful.


  7. My husband has been tracing his family
    on both sides and is totally engrossed
    in it. He’s even found a convict (you can
    guess what country we’re in!) or two.

  8. I also do genealogy and have been researching my family for about 10 years now. It’s a great armchair hobby and I’ve found some very interesting things. I love that I have found your blog and we have very similar interests and are on opposite sides of the world. Isn’t technology grand!

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