Thanks to the internet and my sister-in-law’s Ancestry account I’ve learnt a lot more about my family history than I could have known if I had to rely on family memory. But still my knowledge is merely a collection of fragments from which it’s impossible to know what individual people were really like, how they responded to the world around them or even how they spent their days.
Lately I’ve been focusing on my father’s maternal grandmother, Elizabeth Ann. She is the GtGranny that I have most information about, from family anecdotes and public records. Elizabeth Ann is also the only great grandmother that I have any photographs of and I’m familiar with the village she lived in for nearly fifty years. It’s not much, but wondering what it was like to live her life has captured my imagination.
I like researching information and trying to imagine a life that began in 1864 and ended in 1942 requires a lot of research. Elizabeth Ann lived all her 78 years in rural Dorset. The daughter of a shepherd, she went into service in her teens and later married an agricultural labourer who eventually became a skilled and valued woodsman on a small country estate. GtGranny Elizabeth Ann bore ten children, eight of whom lived to celebrate their parents’ golden wedding anniversary on 2 May 1938.
I’m not sure when this photo was taken, probably some time in the 1920s. I wonder what GtGranny was thinking, standing in her front doorway. Contemplating her long life or just waiting patiently until the photographer has finished so she can get back to peeling the spuds for dinner? She’s a big woman for the era and, looking closely at the image, I wonder if that’s a goitre in her neck? Was she hypothyroid? Like most things about her, I don’t know and never will, but I’ll go on wondering about it all…