Deciding that it was high time I turned my attention to the correct storage of my old books, papers and artefacts, I recently ordered myself a nice big archival storage box and some acid free tissue paper.
I have had in my possession for some time some old books of my Granny’s, such as her illustrated Bible, a copy of On The Imitation of Christ, and various notebooks where she recorded notes from sermons. I have carefully extracted these from the drawer where they have lived for many years, wrapped them in tissue paper, labelled them and placed them in the new box.
One book which I had completely forgotten I had is a small (4” x 3”) book entitled ‘The Keepsake Scripture Text Book’, which had belonged to my Granny’s brother, Uncle Bert Mitchell. Unfortunately I cannot now remember how I come to have this little book, but it is quite possible that it was given to me after the death of his daughter Mary. Inside the front cover is inscribed “Albert Mitchell – a present from his loving sister Carrie”. There is no date, but the writing is certainly that of a child. The book cost 1 shilling. On each double-page spread through the book there are Bible verses one one side and dates through the year on the other – three to a page. Uncle Bert used this book primarily as a Birthday Book, but also recorded the dates of family deaths and weddings. It seems to have been used by him throughout his lifetime: the earliest date is a death in 1897 and the latest a birth in 1962. Some of the later entries are, I am sure, written in a different hand, possibly that of my Aunty Mary. Since Bert was born in 1892 I suspect that the 1897 death was entered in retrospect, but there are a number around 1903/4, so he may well have been given this book around the age of 10 or 11.
In addition to the family events it is interesting to see what else is recorded. There are names of the local gentry and clergy (eg the birthday of Miss Joan Burrell, daughter of Sir Merrick Burrell of West Grinstead). Other names may be neighbours or friends from the area (Miss Parvin, Mrs Blotting, Mr A Mason, Miss Bacon) and others may be schoolfriends (Willie Myram, Tommy Botting). When I have nothing better to do, it would be really interesting to try to find some of these names on a census and establish who they might be.
However, other entries record ‘Jan 18 Knepp Castle burnt down 1904’, ‘March 10 King’s Wedding day’, ‘May 22 York Minster 1926’, ‘Aug 4 European War 1914’, ‘Sept 3 II World War 1939’. It is fascinating to see what is included.
Some entries are tantalising: ‘April 15 Uncle Amos died 1900’. Amos? Doesn’t ring a bell. I go to my Mitchell tree on Ancestry, but no Amos. Ok, so which other family? I try the Philpott tree – yes, there he is, Amos Sayers born 1842, an uncle of Bert’s mother’s, and therefore his great-uncle. Bert’s maternal grandmother was Eliza Sayers. This discovery leads me on an interesting path of discovery. I knew that Amos was born in Ifield, Sussex, near Crawley. I found him there in the 1851 and 1861 censuses (‘son’ and ‘watchmaker – servant’) before his marriage in 1868. Subsequently he appears on the 1871, 1881 and 1891 censuses, all in Ifield, where his occupation is given as ‘post messenger’, ‘post messenger and watchmaker’, and ‘postman’ respectively. It looks as though he may have served an apprenticeship as a watchmaker and then continued to practise that trade whilst also earning a wage as a postman latterly. I haven’t found his burial, but the Probate calendar confirms his date of death as 15 April 1900.
What I find quite interesting is that a number of Sayers names appear in the book, which indicates to me that these were uncles, aunts and cousins of Bert’s mother’s with whom she stayed in touch. I already knew that the extensive Mitchell family kept in close contact, despite emigrations to the USA and Canada, but now I know that the this was also true of the Sayers family. I feel that through this lovely little book I am getting to know my Granny’s family and the relationships that were important to them.
I also realise that I have a lot of blanks to fill in on the Sayers tree, so that might be a nice little winter project….when I’m not looking up all those other friends and neighbours from the book….