Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Family History Through the Alphabet Challenge : E is for...

I feel terrible. I am sorely late with this weeks alphabet challenge blog post. My excuse is that I have been working solidly on indexing and editing a family history book. I have been so tired these past few days, I have barely been able to concentrate.

So, here we are at the letter E:

Two of my great-grandmothers had names starting with the letter E so it makes sense to write about them, right? That would be reasonable but, to be honest, I hardly know anything about either of them to do them proper justice here. Both of them died before I was born, one just months before.
Elizabeth was my mother's maternal grandmother. She was born in Putney, county Surrey in 1884. The daughter of a long line of gardeners, Elizabeth was the sixth child of eight born to Richard and Louisa Dare. My mother never met her grandmother Elizabeth, but had just one photograph of her which was inside her mother Lilian's photo album.

Elizabeth Dare
"Fondest Love, Mother"
Elizabeth was particularly fond of the cinema and she would do just about anything to go. In the early twentieth century, before the advent of television, this was her only outlet from a tumultuous home life. Some family members have said she would usually take her coat to the pawnbrokers, or sometimes clothes belonging to her husband and children. This may sound cruel to some but I actually feel quite sorry for her. Being a wife and mother in Elizabeth's time would have been extremely hard. Before the age of welfare and women's rights, women like Elizabeth had to find respite wherever they could. Elizabeth's respite was the cinema.
Elizabeth's love of cinema extended to her daughter (my grandmother Lilian) and to me. One of her favourite actors was Laurence Olivier and a favourite film was Rebecca. I may not know who Elizabeth revered most in the cinema but I can well imagine her sitting in her favourite spot each week, anxiously awaiting the black screen flicker into light and sound, eager to escape into a world of imagination and fairytale.

Eva was my father's maternal grandmother. She was born in Loddon, county Norfolk in 1887. The daughter of a Painter & Glazier, Eva was the eldest child of three born to Robert and Mary Bowes. Eva was the only one of those three to marry and have children. Her brother Fred and sister Winnie lived together in Beccles. My father dearly loved his grandmother Eva, and always talks of her very fondly. She died two months before I was born.

Eva (second from left with her daughters)
Eva was very fond of writing and in her life she wrote many letters to all of her family and also wrote articles for the Beccles Methodist Church parish magazine, of which she was a staunch member alongside her husband who was a Verger (my great-grandfather).
My grandmother Freda always believed I was an exceptional letter writer, and would constantly tell me that I took after her mother Eva. Freda always knew I would be a writer one day, bless her. When I began writing articles for a genealogy society and I told my father about it, he wistfully assured me I was following in Eva's footsteps. I did not know (or had likely forgotten) that she wrote articles for magazines. This made me feel so good inside, I can't begin to articulate what significance that has to me.

Last, but not least, my letter E blog must make mention of Emails. Without the ability to email people I would quite possibly not effectively communicate with half the people I do. All thanks to message boards, genealogy websites, or my website, I know the very lovely June, Angela, Jim, and Terry, today.
Of course, emails don't quite mean the same as a carefully handwritten letter, folded and posted and delivered to your mailbox. That is one of the many things I miss about my grandmothers. Both were keen letter writers, especially Freda. The reality is though, we live in the technological age where everything is faster, speedier and accessible on the internet. Emails are the quickest (and sometimes, only) way to communicate and "keep in touch". Without emails, I would not have half the amount of family photographs in my photo collection or have been able to share and compare the family history information that I have researched. So, thank you Emails.



  1. Even if you didn't know your grandma's, these are wonderful stories about them - and isn't it just wierd how history often repeats itself. And as for emails, we're all with you on that one.

  2. Thanks for this most enjoyable post. So good reading about Eva and Elizabeth and to be told you were "following in Eva's footsteps", with your writing, must have been a joy. I'm smiling and have such a happy feeling, thanks. Catherine

  3. Many thanks to Gould Genealogy and Catherine for your lovely comments. You have warmed my heart because it is good to know that my posts mean something to you. xx

  4. Lovely post as always Debra, you doing so well tackling this alphabet challenge xx