Friday, 15 October 2010

Sepia Saturday: Finding George

When I began to write this post, about my maternal grandfather's cousin, George, I thought it would probably run to little more than a few lines. Along with the postcard, this would make a perfectly acceptable contribution to Sepia Saturday. As it turned out, I've been digging through my family history files, raiding google for street views and trying to remember when I last saw cousin George.

A postcard of Edward George Gregory 

The last part proved to be relatively straight forward. It would have been at least 35 years ago. I remember we were visiting my grandparents on a Sunday afternoon, when this slightly built, elderly gentleman came strolling through the gate. Born in 1900, George would have been in his mid 70s (my arithmetic is atrocious). On that day, he had taken the ferry from the Isle of Wight, caught a bus from Southampton and walked the last half a mile from the bus stop. A bit adventurous for a man, well into his retirement, just to visit family, on spec. But I have learnt that adventure was probably in his blood.

His father, Robert Frank Gregory, was born in Dewlish, Dorset, in 1867. Robert's early life would have been centred around his father's agricultural duties as a Dairyman. The family lived in a small hamlet, in the most rural of locations. However, Robert had an itch he needed to scratch, and by 1891, he had gone to London in search of some excitement. In fact, he and another chap, John Holmes, just four years his senior, were lodging together in Burchell Road, Peckham, both working as Tram Drivers. This wasn't the only thing they had in common. They were also from the same hamlet in Dorset. Somehow, it isn't difficult to imagine two young men, showing an urge to move off the land and, perhaps, encouraged by the signs of increasing mechanisation on farms, determined to capitalise on a new age.

15 Garfield Road, Shanklin - courtesy of Google

I know he married Kate and that they had lived in Frome, Somerset, for a while. But things are a little sketchy, until the family turns up at 15 Garfield Road, Shanklin, IOW, in 1901. Cousin George is now 1 year old and Robert is working as a butcher.

Half the fun of family history research, is tying up loose ends, following clues and making educated guesses. For instance, my grandfather vaguely remembered his Uncle Robert had some connection with buses or coaches. Try trams, for good measure. Maybe that's what he was doing in Somerset, during the lost decade or so.

The oddly, patched, reverse side of the postcard, with Christmas message

However, some things will remain a mystery. The patchwork of paper scraps on the reverse side of George's postcard takes some working out. I can only imagine that he sent this to my grandfather in an envelope (as there is no stamp), one Christmas.

73, High Street, Shanklin - courtesy of Google

One thing is for certain. The flat he occupied at the time of sending the postcard was unlikely to have had The Bag Shop below. I am wondering if this could possibly have been a butcher's shop, then. In which case, I'll probably be left with more scrag ends than loose ends.


  1. How strange the patching is. But I do like the look of Edward George, particularly that lovely wave in his hair that they always kept so tidy with Brylcreem I think it was called.

  2. Edward George is a good looking man isn't he with his naturally curly hair. How interesting to see the places where he lived. The postcard is certainly strange with all the stuck on bits. Thrifty or broke?

  3. Wonderful photo - he wouldn't look out of place in an album with my mother's great uncles - he has the same hair type and similar facial features! Isn't it wonderful to trace something about a person, to find our more about their lives. i enjoyed this post.

  4. Perhaps usung paper scraps was a way of recycling an old postcard? Very green and eco friendly!

  5. handsome man, cousin George.
    It is good to come across old photographs, they add flesh to the research into family history.

  6. Being A Butcher perhaps he chopped-up the meassage on the Card?!

  7. The postcard is enchanting. It reminds me so much of my grandfather, who recycled in the most creative and unsparing ways. Did you notice the older tape under the newer?

  8. I've unearthed a trolly driver in my family tree. Their lives - so ordinary to them - sound so adventurous to us. I love that he recycled his postcards. Wonderful sepia post!

  9. What an interesting journey you have taken us on. George, so neat and dapper, has a glint of humour in his eyes. I love the look of the flat above the Bag Shop.

    By the way, your post gives a few connections between us. I, too, have the last name Gregory in my family. In fact, I even gave it to one of my sons as his middle name. Also, I am always interested in butchers because that is my oldest son's chosen profession, although they now refer to it as a 'journeyman meat cutter'. Personally, I prefer the word butcher!

  10. This was a perfect Sepia Saturday post. George is indeed handsome. I am so into genealogy I grasp every clue I can come across. Don't know a lot about postcards but am learning through blogging for sure. I am off the track for SS Martin, so I enjoyed this muchly.

  11. Isn't it so exciting to find out new information? Piecing it all together. Love how other people's families are just as interesting and familiar and similar.
    Great post, Martin!

  12. What makes you wonder about a butcher shop?

  13. Fran and Joan - I think the patched postcard may well be attributable to thrift or hard times.

    Marilyn - Yes, George certainly has the 'look' of his day, doesn't he?

    Jinksy - I'd love to think that George was being eco-friendly.

    Friko - Thank you. I think George looks a pretty happy chappie.

    Tony - Ah, yes. Although he didn't mince his words!

    Leah - Yes, I did notice the layers. It occurs to me that George might have torn his address from an envelope he had received, and held it in place with glued strips of paper. Seems like a lot of trouble to go to, though.

    MuseSwings - The fact that George's father left the depths of rural Dorset for Peckham, London, as a young man, is fascinating, isn't it? I assume there was a rail link, maybe from nearby Dorchester, in 1891. I'll need to check.

    Nana Jo - Well, who knows, if we were to trace the Gregory family back far enough, there might be a connection. This branch of the family goes back to Dorset in the mid 1700s in my family tree.

    daylily - So glad you enjoyed this one. I love the detective work involved in tracing my ancestors. And it's great to have a sense of where I've come from.

    Ciara - I'm constantly surprised at all the little details that rise to the surface, during research. They breathe life into the names on the records. These were people who lived, loved, laughed and wept, just the way we do.

    Meri - George's father, Robert Frank, was a butcher in Shanklin. It crossed my mind that George might have been living above the shop.

  14. Another lovely Sepia Saturday post, Martin.

    It's been a long time since I've heard/read the term scrag ends. lol

  15. The postcard of cousin George is great! He looks like he never lost some of his amusing antics of a red haired, freckle faced boy!

    The mystery of the bandaged postcard is interesting!

  16. I love how these SS posts inspire such detective work among us!

  17. I love all these old photographs and stories, don't you think they bred people more stoic back in the days of trolley buses? These days we're all used to comfort and ease, and hardly anyone would contemplate such a journey as he on speck. He has such a warm and friendly smile and a handsome face.



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