01 September 2014

Discovering Shropshire's History

Were any of your ancestors Salopians?  Salop is an old name for Shropshire.  If you are a native of Shropshire in England, then you are probably a Salopian yourself.  

I live in Australia and I was not born in Shropshire, though my mother was born in Shrewsbury, the county town of Shropshire.  All her grandparents were born in Shropshire, as were their grandparents before them. 

My only maternal ancestor not to have been born in Shropshire, was my grandmother.  That was probably because her father could not find work in his home district.  Are you interested in Shropshire's history at all?

If you can trace your ancestors back through several generations of Shropshire's inhabitants, then we have something in common.   I have found information on geni.com (without making any payments at all) tracing one of my maternal lines back through several generations of Salopians to the 1600s.  My matrilineal line goes back as far as Winifred Taylor of Dawley Magna in Shropshire (and interesting information about that parish was found on familysearch.org).

The geni.com site states that Winifred was born circa 1805.  At the age of 20, she married Richard Buttery of Little Wenlock on 30 May 1825.  Between the ages of 21 and 38, Winifred gave birth to eight children.

I have found from freebmd.org.uk that Winifred Buttery died at the age of 66 in 1870. I would obviously like to know more about her mother and maternal grandmother as my maternal line is the one of most personal interest to me.  I call it the Matryoshka line of my family, after the Russian dolls.  

By the way, it seems that Matryoshka dolls were inspired by the Japanese Daruma dolls.  Those dolls have a great deal of symbolism attached to them.  Perhaps I should try making a symbolic set of dolls - Dawley dolls - to represent my ancestors.  Have you done that for your ancestry?

Discovering Shropshire's History is another website from which I have located information about my Salopian ancestors. From there, I discovered that many of the primary school children in Shropshire know more about some of my ancestors than I do myself.  They have seen a dramatic representation of my grandfather's great aunt, whose maiden name was Rebecca Bailey.

Several of my female maternal ancestors worked as pit girls at the mines, but also spent part of the time each year in and around London.  The girls of Shropshire had a reputation for being strong and hardworking.  They carried baskets of strawberries from the market gardens around London to the produce markets of the capital during the 1700s and 1800s.  They did not receive much income in return for their efforts.

Yet I worked in many menial jobs myself in my teens, long before knowing anything at all about my family history.  I earned a very small income as a strawberry picker in damp, English fields.  I picked potatoes from heavy clay soil to put into sacks. I washed dishes by hand in a busy Scottish restaurant.  I experienced long hours as an overworked waitress and as a cinema usher.  The money was not for luxuries.  It was for the basics of life.  A pair of shoes and a raincoat were my first priority purchases.

My first 'proper' job, no less menial than the others, was as a secretary in London.  I spent hours on end sitting at a manual typewriter, producing standard replies to people who had failed to obtain a job at all. Many of my ancestors could not even read or write, but at least they managed to work - for next to nothing.

I have written before on the iron and coal mines of Shropshire.  When my ancestors could no longer make a living from agriculture, possibly due to the enclosure movement by rich landlords, they usually worked in the mining industries.  During the 1800s, my ancestors were humble people, without any material wealth at all.  Who has benefited most from their work today?

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I especially appreciate historical insights.