#52Ancestors: My “first” ancestor knew his onions!

Grandad’s onions

Having put a stop to my manic and unstructured efforts at genealogy, creating a rather narrow family tree disappearing into the mists of time, I have now settled down to more thoroughly research each ancestor. Apart from my parents, both deceased, the first and easiest is my maternal grandfather, someone I knew and spent a little of my early childhood with. I tend to class him as my “first” ancestor, going backwards from my mother, hence this post meeting the #52Ancestors challenge for the prompt “first”.

Grandad, William Waters, 1950

William Waters was born in the tiny mining village of St Blazey in Cornwall in 1872. His father was a copper miner, as were at least 10 generations before him! By the time he was 9 years old the family had migrated to the mining village of Haverigg in Cumbria, England, almost certainly caused by The Great Depression and a downturn in the market and price for tin and copper. At the age of 19 William was working down the local iron ore mine, Hodbarrow, the richest seam of haematite in the world.

Across his life William experienced a series of most significant events; the coronation of Edward VII, an oppressive heatwave lasting 3 months in 1911, the creation of The National Insurance Act providing sickness benefit, two world wars, women gaining the right to vote for the first time, The Great Slump of the 1930s, and food rationing in the UK. All images credited to/from Ancestry.com

William had 13 children, of which my mother was the youngest being born in 1920, his wife died before him in 1941 and he passed away 10 years later in 1951. I was almost 5 years old when he died but have strong memories of him taking me almost daily to his allotment in what were know as Square Gardens in the village of Haverigg. Bizarrely these allotments have now been built on, and a close friend, Janice Brockbank the retired head teacher of the village primary school owns a house in the exact same spot. I wrote a little of my memories with him in a previous blog post, Grandad’sOnions  you can read from the link or from my blog home page.

Grandad’s onions


12 thoughts on “#52Ancestors: My “first” ancestor knew his onions!

    1. Thank you I’m learning every day from such a lovely growing and welcoming community. All I’m doing is searching newspapers for events of significance across the lifespan of a specific ancestor. First post on this next week

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Fascinating. Your grandfather certainly saw many changes in his lifetime. Makes one wonder what he would think of today’s world. I love his dog. What breed would that be, a Jack Russell perhaps?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. You bear a resemblance. It occurs to me that moving from Cornwall to Cumbria in the late 19th century must have been like going to Australia in the 1960s. Was this an organised movement? Did someone or a mining company make the arrangements or did people move simply on the off-chance? That is worth a bit of research on its own.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’re right about the distance, on my dads side it was from Devon to Northumberland. Good question about assistance to move. I’m about to take out a full subscription to British Newspaper Archive and will begin with that issue, I obviously know the iron ore mines and ironworks of the village because I worked at the latter when I left school. 👍👍🙏 Thanks for the idea, it’ll keep me away from current newspapers!


        1. Just read it, a well written post Andrew with some nice turn of phrases and anecdotes. You’re very fortunate to have such photos, and to be the family guardian of them, I’ve written somewhere about losing all of ours when our Cumbrian house was flooded in 1967. I think this tale and your advice about miners migration adds to my increasing realisation of slowing down and researching people and periods more deeply …. I’m definitely going to start with my grandad and his dad being the first of my line to arrive in Cumbria 👍

          Liked by 1 person

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