Here I hope to share my adventures in family history with family, friends and interested parties! Hopefully you'll find something here of interest, I would love to hear your views.

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Nana Singleton and the names that got me interested in family history

When I was a child, my Nana Singleton used to come and stay with us over Christmas and often ended up sharing my bedroom - which meant I had to give up my bed to her and sleep on the Z bed borrowed from my sister. Anyone who's ever slept on a Z bed will know that they will freqently for no apparent reason dump the sleeper onto the floor in the middle of the night!  But, I loved my Nana and really didn't mind giving up my bed for her - she had been born in Kilmarnock in Scotland in 1900 and though she'd lived in England (first Barrow in Furness in Lancashire and then Hull in East Yorkshire) since she was about 15 or 16, she retained her lovely Scots burr for the rest of her 94 years.

Nana Singleton in the 1960s at Cowden, East Yorkshire

Often during the nights she stayed before we both slept, she would tell me about when she had gone to a "big house" as a skivvy when she was about 14 and about my mother's habit of sucking the cuffs of the arms of her coats when she was a little girl. My Nana's name was Agnes Caldwell Gray, though she was always known as Nancy, probably to differentiate her from her mother another Agnes; I can remember Nana telling me that he middle name was an old family name from Scotland. She was the eldest of five, two girls and three boys - the others being - John Wilson Gray born 1905 in Scotland, Margaret Colville Gray born 1908 in Troon, Ayrshire, James Crighton Gray born 1911 in Troon, Ayrshire and lastly David Gray born 1916 in Barrow in Furnace, Lancashire, England. There had also been two other children, both girls named Jane Neil Gray, one born and died in 1899 and another born and died in 1901.

 back row - John Wilson Gray, Margaret Colville Gray, James Crichton Gray, front row - James Gray (1877 - 1955), David Gray and Agnes Caldwell Gray - photo taken in the early 1920s

When my Nana was in her 80s, there was a family tree drawn up of her parents, brothers, sister, children, grandchildren and great grandchildren - it was this basic family tree that got me started years later on tracing my family history; and I started with Nana's family as I was fascinated by the middle names she and her siblings had and wished to trace them to their roots. It was then, pure luck that started me off with Scottish Genealogy, where their statutory registers for birth, marriage and death give more information than their English counterparts.

It was fun searching the records, building a family tree, tracing the family in ninetheenth century censuses and discovering new surnames and families, and I did track down all the middle names of the Gray children, most of them to their origins in the family.

My nana - Agnes Caldwell Gray - her paternal grandmother was Agnes Cathcart Slessor Caldwell born in Kilmarnock, Ayrshire in 1858 to Robert Caldwell and Mary Slessor - she married John Wilson Gray in 1876 in Kilmarnock and my Nana's father James Gray was born in 1877.

Uncle John - was named after his paternal grandfather John Wilson Gray who was born in Kilmarnock in 1853 to James Gray and Elizabeth Orr - though I'm still not sure when the Wilson came from yet.

Aunty Maggie - was named after her maternal grandmother Jane's sister Margaret who married an Alexander Colville in Dundonald Scotland in 1860

Uncle James - his middle name was Crighton or Crichton and this proved to be his maternal grandfather's name - Crichton Smith was born in Ballantrae, Argylle in 1820 and married Jane Neil in Symington Ayrshire in 1871 - thus also solving the name of the two young sisters who died in infancy who were named Jane Neil Gray.

Uncle David - though he didn't have a middle name, he was named after his father's Uncle David Gray

My Nana married John Singleton (known as Jack) on Walney Island, Barrow in Furness on 5 June 1920 and they went on to have five children, Christopher Chapman Singleton 1920 - 1974; James Singleton 1922 - 1982; my mother Muriel Singleton 1926 - 1997; Jack Singleton 1930 - 2006; Jean Neil Singleton 1937 and Evelyn Singleton 1939 - all barr Evelyn were born in Barrow in Furness, Eveyln been born here in Hull after the family moved here for my Grandfather to work at Shipham's a local ship building company (who now specialise in valves).

Since I started tracing my family tree, I have gone on to trace my English families to Yorkshire, Lincolnshire, Norfolk, Nottinghamshire, Kent, Lancashire & Cumbria - all from becoming interested in where the names in my Nana's family came from. Like many of us I wish now I could go back and talk to my Nana on one of our Christmas evening talks more about her life and her relatives, what more could I have learnt...

Nana and Granddad Singleton with their first 7 grandchildren aboout 1951

Nana Singleton (in the middle) at her 80th birthday party  with 10 of her grandchildren and two great grandchildren - I am second from left in the middle row (with the large glasses!!) - taken 21 March 1980

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