Friday, 17 October 2014

FAMILY HISTORY - JOHN W. LAIT - DEATH BY FIRE


When I undertake research into my family history I learned a long time ago that it works best for me to keep looking slightly off-centre, even when looking for the most specific information on an individual. You never know what unexpected snippet of information is going to turn up, so I find its always worth looking a few pages forward, a few pages back, to see if there are any other bits of information which might correspond to another one of your family members.
And so it was with finding John William Lait.

The grave of my great(x2) grandfather - Charles Augustine LAITE
Image (c) 2014 - Graham Seaman 

I was carrying out research on the grave of my great(x2) grandfather, Charles Augustine (or as he latterly became known, Austin) Laite who is buried in Allerton Cemetary, Liverpool. Charles had been married twice, the first time to Mary Ann Graham, the second to Mary Ann Corkindale. The majority of the people in the grave are descended from his second marriage and so I was concentrating my research in looking at this family line.

I began to run through a few internet searches of the other names on the grave - Catherine, George E., Mary A. Laite etc., and it was while I was doing this that the following link showed up:

Coroner's report - Liverpool Mercury - 4 January 1894
Image (c) 2014 - OldMerseyTimes.co.uk

It was a report from the Liverpool Mercury from 4 January 1894 regarding the accidental death of a young lad, John W. Laite aged 12 years old, in Liverpool. The report states that ‘…on Christmas Day the deceased with his little brother in the absence of his parents, while playing near the fire with a paraffin lamp, spilled some oil on his trousers which caught fire. He was severely burned and died on Tuesday at Mill Road Infirmary.’
The verdict of the coroner was ‘accidental death’.

I had already found that this was a relatively common occurrence during the period as I had looked into other instances of accidental burning after finding another relative, my g(x2) grandmother, had suffered the same fate. I had previously thought that maybe this type of accidental death would be far more common for girls rather than boys. I felt that this might be the case as the deaths appeared to be linked to the type of clothing which the girls would have been wearing (flowing skirts and nightshirts etc.), and the fact that most coal fires in those days would have been open and not had a guard in front of it. However, the fact that the boy had spilled oil on his trousers meant that John’s death could possibly be blamed more on the type of flammable materials his clothes were made from, rather than the type of clothing itself.

The name John W. Lait seemed to be familiar to me, but after checking my database I found that he was not related to Charle’s marriage to his second wife at all.
I had only a small amount of information on my own John W. previously, but there could be little doubt in my mind that here was the son of Charles Augustine and his first wife, Mary Ann Graham, my great(x2) grandmother, whose cause of death aged 50 on 10 January 1904 was said to be ‘…shock and exhaustion due to burns received by her clothes accidentally catching fire on the 9th instant…’

Mary Ann LAITE - death certificate 10 January 1904
Image (c) 2014 - Graham Seaman 

I am waiting on the death certificate for John to be absolutely sure, but it would seem that here we have the most tragic of coincidences… Mary Ann’s son is horrifically burned on Christmas Day in 1894, and then my great grandmother suffer’s the same fate herself almost exactly 10 years afterwards.

For further information regarding some of the more common (and also uncommon) causes of death in the Victorian era, you can find further information on the excellent blog at Victorian Domestic Dangers.com


All Content (c) 2014 - Graham Seaman



Thursday, 16 October 2014

FAMILY HISTORY - GRANDFATHER'S LAST LETTER

I have a letter in my possession.

It is addressed to my father, who was then living at 25 Hughson Street in ToxtethLiverpool.
The letter was written by my grandfather Joseph Seaman, and I am led to believe that it was the last correspondence he sent to his son before he eventually passed away in 1961.

The letter written by my grandfather Joseph...

The text of the letter is as follows:

‘Hello Son…
Just a line to let you know that I have recovered from my ailment and am back at Delphside again. I would have wrote before but but with having no material for writing with me and of course with being ill I have not felt like doing anything at all believe me.

Well son don’t worry about me now because I am allright now to a certain extent I have to go back in a months time but I don’t suppose they will keep me in although one leg has gone septic since I have come out but I am under thier doctor so think it will be alright but you have enough worry of your own without mine well son don’t worry to much about it, because its just one of those things give my regards and thats the lot.

Dad.’

I haven’t yet found a photograph of my grandfather as an adult and my mother’s last memory of him is of a hospital visit she made to see him. She can’t recall which hospital, or just who went with her to visit him, but she does remember that he started to cry at the time. My Dad couldn’t visit as often as he would have liked to, and as can be seen by the content of the letter, it seems he was actively dissuaded to do so by his father himself.

In researching the letter I found that ‘Delphside’ was one of the previous names for a part of, what is now called Whiston HospitalPrescot, near Liverpool. The institution originally had opened in 1843 to house the mentally ill, but it also became a Poor Law Infirmary - a place where both the mental and physical health needs of the poor in the surrounding districts were catered for. At the time when my grandfather was there, the hospital had wards which catered for people with infectious diseases and also had a wing which provided respite care. I think my grandfather may have been in one of the latter wards when he composed the letter.

Joseph Seaman as a baby...

After I was given this document by my mother I was touched by it in a number of ways.

My grandfather’s written words provided me with a small insight into what he had been going through in relation to his health perhaps, and also went some way to support the facts my mother could remember about him. I had also been rather frustrated through not being able to find an adult photograph of him, therefore I found it an immense privilege to be able to hold in my own hands the three pieces of paper on which he had written.
However, I realized a little later that there was one further detail contained in the text which would perhaps prove to be more important to me than any of the others.

On the second page Joseph wrote to my father; ‘…but you have enough worry of your own without mine…’. The letter itself was not dated, however the postmark on the envelope confirmed that it had been posted at 6.30pm on 14 June 1956. This date was significant, for eleven days later a baby was born to my mother in Sefton General Hospital, Liverpool.

That new baby, the ‘worry’ my grandfather mentioned in his letter, was me.

Joseph eventually died on 18th December 1961 at Whiston Hospital after suffering a stroke, brought on by pneumonia and bronchitis. He was 58 years old - a year older than I now am as I write this.

From what I understand, my grandfather spent the final years of his life being treated in hospital, and not once does my mum remember taking myself or my brother in to visit him, a fact which I find very sad indeed. However, it gives me some satisfaction in knowing that although I did not get to physically meet him, I realize that at least on this one occasion I have proof that he thought of me.

I have certainly thought of him many times since.

Sunday, 12 October 2014

FAMILY HISTORY - ST.CHRISTOPHER PICTURE (1928)

ST.CHRISTOPHER PICTURE

This is a small picture of St.Christopher, the patron saint of travellers, which currently hangs in the porch of our home in ChildwallLiverpool.


I found the object hidden in a drawer in my aunt's home, buried under a collection of random papers, after she had passed away and we had the job of clearing all her possessions from the property. I remember the moment so clearly when I found it, because it was already familiar to me. I'd seen it many years before as an adult, when I had discussed its history with my aunt, but more importantly I also remembered the artifact from when I was a child.

According to my aunt this small object was handmade by my Norwegian great-grandfather, Peder Gerhard Ingebretsen (later to become translated to Peter Englebretsen following his naturalization in England). Peder was a merchant seaman and lived at the family home in Hughson Street, Toxteth in between his visits to sea. The property had a small vestibule which joined the main front door to the front room, and this picture was hung within it for many years, serving as a token which would hopefully bring good fortune and a safe journey to anybody who passed it on their way out of the house.


The picture itself is printed on a card which would more usually be kept in a purse or wallet. It is relatively small,  11 by 7 cms in size, and has a plain plywood backing with a glass front. Both have been smoothed down at the edges for safety. The three metal supports for the glass are held in by two panel pins and a loop of flat brown elastic is used to hang it from the pin at the top.

At the time I found it I asked my Mum whether she wanted to keep hold of the picture herself, but instead she stated that she would prefer it if I looked after it. I decided that I wanted the item to be seen rather than to be hidden away in the family history cabinet where I keep a few other precious possessions, and with this in mind I knew there could only be one place to display it. Our front porch... the single place where all visitors pass who come into our home.

From the information passed down from the family, I would calculate that this object is around 85 years old at the present time. It is rather satisfying therefore to think that the St.Christopher is still serving as a token to keep my own family safe, in just the same way that my great-grandfather had used it all those years ago.

Thursday, 9 October 2014

FAMILY HISTORY - THE BOMMIE (1959)

The photograph attached here shows a young three year old boy (yours truly) standing in an ordinary street in Liverpool in 1959. The house behind me was the home of my grandparents, Lizzie and William John (aka Jack) Welsh, and it was an ordinary two-up, two-down terrace in Toxteth, just like thousands of others in many similar streets throughout the city.

To the right of the house is what was known in Liverpool as a ‘bommie’. This was a flat area of land, sometimes rubble strewn, which represented all that remained of a building that had been destroyed during the German bombing raids during WW2. Even though it was probably thirteen years after the war had ended when this photograph was taken, it was not the general policy of the local Corporation to spend money rebuilding properties on small pockets of land such as this. What funding they did have was being spent developing new housing estates away from the city centre, out toward the green belt land which would eventually make up the suburbs. So while this piece of rough dirt and broken rubble might well have been a blight on the local landscape, along with countless others like it the land would become a playground for youngsters just like myself, until eventually the entire area would be cleared and redeveloped with new housing many years afterward.

Yours truly in dubious trousers outside my Gran's house in Hughson Street
This bommie had been a house almost exactly the same as the one my grandparents lived in until one fateful night during an air raid when the property took a direct hit from a German bomb.

At the time of the raid the occupant of the house, a lady called Mary O'Prey, was sheltering in my grandmother’s air-raid shelter in the back yard. There would have been plenty of space inside for several families, who would sit out the raid using orange boxes or whatever they could find for seats, wrapping themselves in blankets as protection against the cool night air - their faces illuminated by a couple of flickering candles as they would read or sing songs to their children in an attempt to reassure them. Some of the men would be absent during the raids. Just like Mr O’Prey and my grandfather they had a common duty to fulfill and would be out on the streets, air-raid wardens who braved the elements and the bombs to patrol their local area.

The sound from the bombs plunging down from the sky around them must have been deafening; with hundreds of explosions being heard from Dingle to the town centre as the shadowy swarm passed by overhead. The growing drone from hundreds of aero engines filled the air, but presently even these were superceded by the unmistakable whistle and banshee wailing of a German bomb falling worryingly close by. All would hold their breath and pull their babies closer to them, closing eyes and muttering words of comfort to themselves as the sound grew to a terrifying crescendo. It would have ended with a sickening thud, followed almost immediately by an enormous explosion - the sudden noise shaking the ground and also the strong brick walls which surrounded them. Slowly, as the noise died away and dust settled within the shelter, Mrs O’Prey was heard to turn to my Gran and say: 'There you go. You've lost your house Lizzie!". However, when the all-clear was finally given and everyone made their way wearily out of the shelter, it was only then that the woman realized it was, in fact, her own home which had actually been destroyed. The shock and devastation she had probably felt at that time just cannot be imagined.

And so it was that thankfully, my family was one of those who had the good fortune to survive those terrible nights in Liverpool. If it would have been any different, or the bomb had fallen a few feet further over to the left, then that three year old boy might well not be around to tell the story he’s telling now. However, my family were not the only individuals who had good fortune that night. As a postscript to this story I can reveal that the family had a pet dog which was reportedly in the house at the time of the blast. The dog was later found, shaken but alive, inside a house in Fernie Street about thirty yards away. It had been blown up into the air by the force of the explosion and sailed right through a back window of the property to land within the bedroom beyond!

Some of those same Fernie Street properties can be seen in the photo behind me but alas, the name or breed of the fortunate dog is not known.

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

FAMILY HISTORY - 1/3 BAGNALL STREET

GENEALOGY - 1 & 3 BAGNALL STREET, LIVERPOOL
1 & 3 Bagnall Street, Everton


My grandfather, Joseph Seaman, was born in number 3 Bagnall Street on 5 August 1903, the small property on the right. The building at number 1, a former plumbers office, looks rather precarious and looks as though it may fall down at any moment! 

I traced the property on Google Earth initially before travelling there myself to take these photos. The majority of properties are boarded up and scheduled for demolition - if I'd left this until January the area might well have been cleared for redevelopment.

An ideal example of the saying....'If you decide to do something then do it quickly... you might not get another chance!'

Click on the photo above or follow the link here to find a selection of 6 photographs of the surrounding area....

Thursday, 2 October 2014

SEAMAN / LAIT - MARRIAGE CERTIFICATE - 1 SEP 1928

St.Catherine's church, Edge Hill...
pictured in 2006 before it was demolished
to make way for new housing.

Below is the marriage certificate for my grandmother and grandfather's wedding. This took place at St.Catherine's church, Edge Hill, Liverpool in 1928.

At the time Margaret LAIT was aged 27 and Joseph SEAMAN was 26. My grandfather's occupation was said to be a carter at the time they were married.

Joseph's address was given as 4 Lily Grove, Edge Hill... and Margaret's was 23 Moorgate Street.

Joseph's father's occupation was listed as a labourer, while Charles Graham LAIT was listed as an engineer.

Marriage Certificate - SEAMAN / LAIT - 1928

MARGARET ELEANOR GRAHAM SEAMAN - DEATH CERTIFICATE - 29 OCT 1947

Margaret Eleanor Graham SEAMAN (nee LAIT)

Seen below is the death certificate of my grandmother, Margaret Eleanor Graham SEAMAN (nee LAIT).

M.E.G. (as my cousin Anne and I affectionately christened her during our research conversations) unfortunately died very young, at only 46 years of age, and died following a massive heart attack. At the time she died she had been living with the family at 33 Moorgate Street, Edge Hill, Liverpool.

She died in hospital in Smithdown Road, Liverpool.

Notification of her death was made by my grandfather, Joseph SEAMAN, who was said to be employed as a general labourer at the time his wife died.

Margaret Eleanor Graham SEAMAN - Death Certificate 1947



JOSEPH SEAMAN - DEATH CERTIFICATE - 18 DEC 1961

My grandfather Joseph SEAMAN died in 1961 of bronchial pneumonia, plus other complications as can be seen by this death certificate. He was 58 years of age when he died, the same age I am now as I write this, and his occupation was given to be a carter on the railway.

By the time he died he'd spent quite a considerable amount of time out of his final years in hospitals of one form or another, both through long-term illness and also being seen as an out-patient. He finally died in Whiston Hospital near Prescot.

Joseph Seaman - Death Certificate 1961

CHARLES GRAHAM LAIT - BIRTH CERTIFICATE - 24 JAN 1874

This is a copy of my great-grandfather's birth certificate.

Charles Graham LAIT was born in East Saint Mary's Gate, Grimsby, in 1874. His father Charles Augustine LAIT was employed as a grocer's assistant.

His mother, Mary Ann, had the maiden name of GRAHAM. This name was consequently passed down firstly through their son; then to his daughter Margaret Eleanor (who was my grandmother), and then to me as my given name.

Charles Graham LAIT - born 24 January 1874