I first started looking at my family tree about 10 years ago. I joined Ancestry and quickly became obsessed about trying to find out how far back I could trace my ancestors. Then life happened, I got married and children came along, and I never did much more with it apart from the odd look at it when we wanted to trace a particular person.
When a great aunt of mine died a couple of years ago (aged 100!) my Mum went through all of her belongings and found some photos. We’ve recently been adding these people back into the tree and it’s re-fuelled my interest in my ancestors. I’m fascinated about the stories behind these people – all now dead but who were actually related to me. Suicide, War, assault and emigration it’s all here! Here’s some of the interesting stuff that I’ve discovered so far.
- Emily Stockwell is one of the oldest people we’ve found on the family tree that we have a photo for. She was my great, great grandmother on my mother’s side. Born in 1850 in Kensington, Emily was the second wife to Thomas Viney. They married when she was 30 which must have been considered “old” in those days, but they still went on to have 7 children together (the last one when she was 42!) and she had to cope with 3 step children from Thomas’s previous marriage as well. Before she had children, Emily was a teacher. They lived in west London before moving out to Romford in Essex. She lived until she was 56.
2. Emily’s second son was Richard Henry Viney. Born in 1882, Richard was my great grandfather. Richard worked as a clerk on Great Eastern Railways until in 1914 aged 32, he went into the military for the First World War. He was a sergeant in the war and won a victory medal and British war medal. Richard had two children before the war and two children born after the war. He lived to be 88.
3. Emily and Thomas’s third son, Ernest Viney was born 1888 when Emily was 38. He was recruited into the First World War in 1913 aged 25. He married Millicent in 1919 aged 31 and together they emigrated to Sydney, Australia in 1930. I guess they wanted to escape all the memories of war and start a new life. He lived to be 89.
4. Emily’s youngest son was born when she was 42 and was called Charles William Viney. He wasn’t as lucky as his brother. He was killed in action at Ypres in Belgium on 2nd May 1915 aged just 23.
5. On another branch of my family tree, William George Collins, my great, great grandfather we recently discovered committed suicide. Apparently “Bill” became depressed over gambling debts and gassed himself aged just 51. He died from carbon dioxide poisoning and was considered unsound of mind. He left behind a wife and one son.
Just like my Mum’s side of the family, my Dad’s side all come from the East End of London, specifically Bethnal Green. For as far back as I could trace (1700s) everyone was born and bred and died in Bethnal Green.
6. My great, great grandfather on my Dad’s side was John Wager. He was a house demolisher and bricklayer. Born in 1860 John was aged 38 in 1898 when he was imprisoned for assault against his wife Bridget, a shopkeeper. There’s a record to show that on the 4th June 1898 Bridget and her 5 children were moved as part of the poor law removal settlement records. The violence must have been bad for the law to intervene in those days.
7. Closer to home, I have more mysteries surrounding my more immediate family. My Nan and Grandad, on my Dad’s side are pictured below. We could never find any photos of them from when they were young and my Nan always said they never had any wedding photos taken, so I was delighted to find these photos recently. Nan fell out with her own mum when she was young and we never found out the reason why. She was raised by her aunt Alice. My Grandad fought as a rear Gunner in the Second World War. He never liked to talk about it but he alluded to something happening which was shameful (to him). I’ve searched, but can find no trace of his war records so far. I’d love to know what happened to him and whatever the issue, I know that we, of this generation could never cast judgement about him or anyone else who had to go through the horrors of war.
8. My Nan and Grandad on my Mum’s side, were also involved in the War. Nan was in the WRAF (Women’s Royal Air Force) and despite the horrors of what she must have had to go through, I have strong memories of her telling me that actually, it was an exciting time for women. They were given responsibility beyond what they’d ever encountered before and the dances and celebrations when her pilots all flew home safe. Grandad was a wireless operator for the RAF.
This is just a snippet from my expanding family tree. I hope you found it as interesting as I’ve had in researching! I can’t quite believe that all of these people in these photos here are all related to me! I’m ploughing on with it and hoping to discover more especially relating to the more immediate members of my family.