Friday, 7 February 2014


Part of the reason I joined Ancestry is because I’m naturally nosey. I love ferreting out the whys, wheres, whens and hows of things. I also have a lazy streak. I remember my brother, Don, saying that he thought it was a family thing. I’m not so sure about that, although when I was in labour with my son Dan, the midwife said that she’d never come across such a relaxed baby. Still Don and I wouldn’t have been the first two in our family to be able to put down a deposit to buy our own houses if that were true. Although our parents lived in rented property all their lives, us four Nelson offspring managed to buy our own houses, be it ever so humble. I might be a naturally couch potato but when it’s absolutely necessary I can work my socks off.

      The mention of socks, reminds me of a conversation I had with two of my sons the other day. On the telly there was a lot of talk about the poor and food banks. I couldn’t help but say those fateful words I remember… What I remembered was only possessing two pairs of socks and having to wear them inside out to make them last the week. No hot running water, no washing machines, central heating, television. In winter there would be frosty fern patterns on the inside of our bedroom window; the oven shelf in the black leaded grate would be wrapped in newspaper and put in our bed to warm it. As John and I took our morning walk on the field the other side of the Leeds Liverpool canal, the other day, we discussed gloves. No shortage of such in our house now but when we were kids, I remember wearing a pair of socks on my hands to play out in the snow. When they grew sodden wet, I’d go indoors and warm them on the fireguard. He didn’t have gloves.

  But I digress.

  I haven’t been on Ancestry for a while but this morning I logged on and the first thing my gaze lighted on was a photo of my uncle Stan Milburn which had three quivering leaves attached which meant hints with possibly more information about him. I clicked and what came up was a link to Wills and Probate October 1952. An aspect of family history I had never explored for obvious reasons.  Uncle Stan never married, worked all his life and had lived with my grandfather in a rented two up, two down, nr Anfield football ground. He died when he was only in his forties and apparently left £138.10.0d to May Lillian Nelson. My mother! I never knew that! I could not resist googling to see what that amount would be worth in today’s money - £2776.15p.

  I would be eleven that year and I could not help thinking that perhaps it was due to that windfall I was able to go to grammar school after passing the scholarship and that Dad was able to buy the old army tents that meant we as a family went on our very first holiday away to North Wales the next year.

 How fortunate we were, not only in my mother being left money by her brother but that it was used to benefit us children. It was also the thought of that holiday that gave me the saving habit. ‘You’ll need spending money,’ we were told. So the pennies I earned by going for Dad’s ciggies or newspaper went into a wooden moneybox he made for me. I also did an old lady’s messages on a Saturday and she gave me a shilling. Infuriately my money was stolen when our house was burgled and the gas meter broken into. Even so the saving habit stuck with me. 

     When John and I married and lived with my parents for three years we saved up for that deposit on a house ( our old home was destined for demolition and bit the dust five years after we left and my parents moved into a flat). We managed to save £1100. I couldn’t resist checking what that was in today’s money - £13959.23p. Not bad considering part of that time John was still serving his apprenticeship as a printer and I didn’t earn loads. The house is paid for now so it was worth risking taking on a mortgage. We still live in the same house.

     But there is something to be said for renting. My grandparents Nelson who rented must have moved home at least six times. Most likely to do with the job or as their family grew or to be near relatives. I know my grandfather started out in Toxteth, lived in Everton, Kirkdale, Bootle, Edge Hill, Everton again and finished up in Woolton. He did volunteer in his forties in 1914 to fight in the Great War and registered at Preston. He was not away for long because it was discovered he had a heart condition before he could go and fight.

     In my last blog I think I mentioned my 3 times great-grandfather, John Cain, who was born in the Isle of Man, exactly where I didn’t know. This time round on Ancestry I discovered there was a link available to a IOM website. My problem is that John Cain was a common name in those days and at least four of them married women whose first name was Ann, the only bit of information I had about his wife. But the couples didn’t marry in the same year, but they all lived in the area of Braddon and Germain. Braddon is derived from Brendan who was a Celtic saint and there is a church named after him, Kirk Braddan. Going on the premise that John and Ann were most likely married a year or so before their first daughter, Ann, was born, I came to the conclusion that he married an Ann Quirk around about 1821.

     Like many Manx people they came to Liverpool. They had four children born here and then John was widowed and he and his youngest son lived for a while with his daughter Ann who married my great-great grandfather, George Brookes. The latter information I had been aware of  for some time. John Cain finished his life in Walton workhouse at the age of 66 and was buried in Walton Park cemetery in 1862, stated as being near Stanley Park which is the same cemetery where my parents and Uncle Stan were put to rest. Now I didn't know that!  


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