04 July 2009

Superstitions and Traditions


Why did my grandmother Dorothy cover mirrors whenever there was a thunderstorm? Why did my grandfather Harry believe he saw a ghost of an old lady when he visited a big old house in Shropshire?

What are the superstitions and traditions followed in your family? Which stories are passed on from generation to generation?


Learn about the science of superstitions

Some common superstitions

Dorothy was born in 1906 and died in 1997. She was a lovely grandma. She was round and jolly and had the smell of soap flakes. In her youth, she was slim and graceful. Yet I knew very little about her or her family while she was alive. Questions were never asked. The present was so busy when I was growing up. The past was so remote.

British culture and traditions

There have been quite a few surprises over the past year or so for me and my family. We have discovered some long-hidden family truths from census records and birth certificates. In a previous blog post, I mentioned the siblings of Dorothy, only one of whom had ever been mentioned to my mother, and then only very vaguely.

During her early childhood, Dorothy and her family lived in Wednesbury in Staffordshire. I am not sure if she still lived in Wednesbury during the First World War, but a very unpleasant event would have profoundly affected the people who did live there:

The Great Zeppelin Raid

I recently found another very interesting website. One page has photographs of the war memorial in Darlaston in Staffordshire. Darlaston was where Dorothy's brother had lived in the years before he went to war. The only military person with a full first name engraved for the 1939-1945 conflict was my great uncle Bert Harris.

Darlaston War Memorial

There are many ways to remember those who died.

The tradition of Remembrance Day

Mourning rituals through time


Traditions may have a practical basis or a superstitious one. Which traditions do you follow, and why?

Many people have mementos of the past that bring life to their family histories. Which objects make your ancestors seem closer to you?

Here are my lovely grandparents, Harry and Dorothy. I do not have many photographs of them so every one is precious to me.

Harry and Dorothy were never known by their first names by people outside the family. Traditions of courtesy and formality were very important in their opinion.



I am also interested in finding cultural connections between different parts of the world. On a personal level, I have gathered some Staffordshire-Australia links:


In memory of Australian cancer specialist Professor Gordon Hamilton-Fairley (1930-1975), who died in an IRA bombing targeted at Harry and Dorothy's Member of Parliament

Mr Cook (1860-1947) the Staffordshire miner who became Prime Minister of Australia

Staffordshire rooms in a Tudor mansion in Australia

Mr Jervis (1735-1823) who went from the middle of Staffordshire to lead the Royal Navy

Mr Wedgwood (1730-1795) made a Sydney Cove Medallion in Staffordshire using Australian clay


Do you know of any other important connections between Staffordshire and Australia?

Although I do not think of myself as a superstitious person, and I do not like having other people's superstitions, traditions, or other beliefs and behaviours imposed upon me, I enjoy learning about many aspects of heritage and culture. A quiet sit down with a cup of tea is one English tradition I do like to keep, but I never try reading the tea leaves!

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I especially appreciate historical insights.