Tuesday, 9 February 2016

The Maternal Line

This post is scheduled to appear on the day that my third grandchild is due. I don't yet know if it will be a granddaughter or a grandson but I have already blogged about grandparenthood. When my 'about to be a big sister' granddaughter was born I focused on the direct maternal line backwards through the generations from her via me, back through generations of women, some of whom I know very little about. Maternal ancestry is always more difficult to trace than the male line, because each generation introduces a new surname. My granddaughter is the ninth identifiable generation in the direct female line, with a possible further two generations still to be confirmed.

So who were these women, where did they live, when did the marry and how old were they when they too became ‘Granny’? Many of these women lived into their late eighties or nineties - I am planning on inheriting those genes! The exception was my grandmother, who was a smoker - let that be a lesson to you. Despite this, a tendency to have children in the late twenties or thirties means that only twice has the family spanned four living generations. Spring births were popular and many of these ladies died in  the spring too. The line starts in Essex before moving to the London suburbs, then escaping to the Isle of Wight and Cambridge. I am very fortunate that I have photographs of seven generations of women, if you include myself, my daughter and granddaughter. I challenge readers to investigate their own maternal (or of course paternal) line in the same way as I have here.
Mum c. 1947
I will start with my mum, Gwendoline Catherine ‘Gwen’ Smith born 27 February 1925 159 Albert Road (later Davidson Road), Addiscombe, Croydon, daughter of Frederick Herbert and Ivy Gertrude Smith. Married Cyril Albany Braund 27 August 1947 St. Martin’s, Croydon. Died 13 March 2011 Devon. Married at 22, One child, First child born at 31, Grandparent at 57, Died at 86.

Ivy Gertrude Woolgar 1893-1963

Ivy Gertrude Woolgar born 4 January 1893 7 Chalford Road, Dulwich, daughter of Philip James and Clara Woolgar. Married Frederick Herbert Smith 8 April 1922, St Clement Danes, London. Died 25 April 1963 28 Sundridge Road, Addiscombe, Croydon. Married at 29, One child, First child born at 32, Grandparent at 63, died at 70.

Clara Dawson 1858-1949 possibly taken 1886

Clara Dawson born 15 April 1858 Great Baddow, Essex, daughter of Thomas and Mary Archer Dawson. Married Philip James Woolgar 21 December 1886 St James’, Dulwich. Died 26 January 1949 159 Davidson Road, Addiscombe, Croydon. Married at 28, Four children, First child at 30, Grandparent at 63, died at 90.

Mary Archer Dawson née Bowyer 1830-1919

Mary Archer ‘May’ Bowyer born 1830 (probably March) Writtle, Essex, daughter of John and Ann Bowyer. Married Thomas Dawson 2 April 1855 Independent Protestant Dissenters’ Old Meeting House, Chelmsford, Essex. Died 16 April 1919 6 St John’s Cottage, Penge. Married at 25, Six children, First child at 26, Grandparent at 48, died at 89.

Ann Oliver born c 1799 (probably summer) Writtle, Essex, daughter of James and Elizabeth Oliver. Married John Bowyer 25 December 1822, All Saint’s Norton Mandeville, Essex. Died 25 February 1889 Highwood, Writtle, Essex. Married at 23, Six known children, first known child 30, Grandparent at 56, great grandparent at 78, died at 89.

Elizabeth Fitch born c 1768 (probably late summer) Writtle, Essex, probably daughter of Cornel[ius] and Ann Fitch. Married James Oliver 20 January 1794, Writtle, Essex. Died 1863, Ongar District. Married at 25, Eight children, First child at 25 (pregnant when married), Grandparent at 55 (or before), Great grandparent at 88 (or before), died at 95.

Speculatively, before this come Ann Palmer and then Ann Mason. The genes that my granddaughter might have inherited from these Anns are pretty diluted but nurture, as well as nature, plays its part. I wonder how many mannerisms and traits have traveled through these generations?


  1. I love following the women. My maternal line goes back 10 generations (my daughter to my 6th great) and lived in a 30 miles radius. I need to do the statistics you included! ~ Cathy

  2. Great photos! Thank you for sharing. I must check if I can put together a line of photos on my maternal side.

  3. This is a great idea, Janet, thank you - and a fascinating challenge. I enjoyed it very much. I've got photos of my maternal grandmother,but the line doesn't go back any further, perhaps because Gran's parents were so poor they had to farm her out to relatives.
    Plenty to think about.

  4. Thanks. Must do this to mine as I'm sure my daughter would love to see it laid out like this with age at various life stages. At the moment my maternal line stops with 3 generations all with the same surname - all unmarried mothers. Must try soon to get one generation further back and see if any man appears!


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