|Bath Chronicle, 24 February 1763|
It's St Valentine's Day, so I'm going to look at a few love stories from my family tree. Happy, sad, or awkward, they remind me that my ancestors and relatives weren't just dates and names on a GEDCOM, they were living, loving, real people with all the ups and downs that go with being human.
|Rwgan, our family home in Wales|
Richard was smitten... but Lizzie was choosy, and had turned down previous offers for her hand. One of her unlucky suitors had described her as 'frozen perfume' - I love that phrase! But something about young Mr Owen melted her... and they married and had two sons, my father and uncle.
My other grandfather was Laurence Thomas Delaney, known as Pop. He was the son of Mary Maude Wilson and Thomas Delaney (Tom). This story is about one of Pop's sisters, Florence (Flo) and also involves a paying guest.
|Flo at the races, © Frances Owen|
He and Flo fell in love. But international politics were cruel to them. The First World War broke out and Robert was interned as an enemy alien. After the war ended, Robert was repatriated to Germany.
He asked Flo to marry him, but she couldn't bear the thought of going to live on the other side of the world. So they parted, and she never married.
Her life wasn't empty, though; she loved going to dances with the other young Delaneys and, when the family moved to Sydney, she enjoyed days at the races and evenings at the opera.
One of my convict ancestors, James Thomas Richards (no relation, as far as I know, to the Elizabeth mentioned above), went on being a rogue into his fifties. At some time before May 1870, in Sydney, New South Wales, he met Rebecca Harrington, a free settler from Hackney in East London. You may have read about Rebecca's mother, Julia, in the Celestina Christmas story over on the A Rebel Hand blog.
James was about 25 years older than Rebecca. Who knows what drew them together? Did he represent security? He was a well-known figure on the quayside, and a prizewinning waterman. Maybe she was pretty, vivacious or charming. It could have been their East End backgrounds which gave them something in common.
But all we have are the facts - that on 28 February, 1871, when she was about 30 years old, Rebecca gave birth to James's daughter, Eleanor Ann Edith. The only problem was that James wasn't in a position to marry her - he already had a wife, Elizabeth Beadman.
I haven't got much evidence about how James, Rebecca and Elizabeth dealt with this uncomfortable situation. I do know that when Rebecca's father, Thomas Harrington, died in 1874, he was buried from James's house in Cumberland St, Sydney. Had he, or Rebecca, or both, been living there?
|Thomas Harrington's burial notice, Sydney Morning Herald, 22 July, 1874|
Most of my ancestors just met and married (or didn't) without leaving a boy-meets-girl story behind them. I've written about how my earliest Australian ancestors may have got together, and I'll mention them again because 2016 is a bi-centenary year for three of them: Nicholas Delaney, who married Elizabeth Bayly (Bayley, Bailey), and Sarah Marshall and John Simpson, who probably didn't go through a ceremony but were 'married' as far as they were concerned.
Do you know any love stories which bring your ancestors to life?
I'm going to finish with a few Valentine notices I found in the British Newspaper Archive. I hope you enjoy them!
|Plymouth Gazette, 15 February 1845. A cynical view...|
|Worcester Journal, 4 February 1854|
|Burnley Gazette, 19 February 1876. Sale of unwanted cards?|
|Burnley Gazette, 26 March 1881. A bit desperate?|
|'Offensive vulgarity' in 1926. Who knew they'd gone out of fashion?|
|Surrey Advertiser, 10 February 1940. The war can't stop love (or commerce). Take that, Hitler!|