Wishing a Happy and Healthy New Year to all our full Society members and to the members of our Facebook Group. I suppose the highlight of January will be the release of the 2021 census. It is unlikely that many of us will see another census release as the 2031 census was destroyed during WW2 and there was not a census taken in 1941 which is why the 1939 Register has been so helpful. I would love to see the 1961 census as I do not remember exactly where I was living when that was taken. Was it Bristol, Churchill or at one of two addresses in Weston? Unless I break records as being amongst the oldest people alive in 2061, I will not find out! On Dec 16th, 2021 – a woman claiming to be the World’s oldest person at 135 years old died in China. There is of course some doubt as to the accuracy of her birth date!
Looking back over the years as I am inclined to do at this time of the year – I remember, December 1942, when my father was called up for active service in WW2. One morning, at breakfast time, he left our home. As a four-year old, I was eating cornflakes, and looked up to see my mother crying – something I’d never seen before. Of course, I didn’t know then that she must have only recently discovered that she was pregnant at the time.
She would have also remembered the situation and the shortages of WW1 - I have this card sent to my maternal grandmother during WW1 from my grandfather to celebrate her birthday on December 12th. I have others sent by him to my mother for Christmas and another which looks forward to Victory.
My mother told of the circumstances of his return from France when she and her sister were not allowed to hug him until his uniform had been debugged and he had been bathed and changed into fresh clothes.
Looking back on the past year the contribution made by the NHS has been outstanding and I wonder how many of you have ancestors who were employed as Nurses or Doctors before the NHS was instituted? The other question I have is about epidemics which caused deaths in your family.
1918-19 Spanish Flu
Following WW1, the pandemic of Spanish Flu caused the death of many of the returning service men and women. A great aunt of mine died in Bristol from this influenza in 1918, she was aged 40, she had been a schoolteacher before her marriage and they had three sons, the youngest only 3 when she died. This photograph of her with her husband and eldest son was taken at Ilfracombe in 1910.
1957 - Asian 'Flu
While talking about pandemics – I managed to contract Asian ‘Flu in the autumn of 1957, about a fortnight after I had started my college training. The college was later closed, and we were all sent home probably to pass it on to families! There was no social media to spread information and very little publicity. I have never felt so ill as I did then!
More details can be seen here 1957–1958 influenza pandemic - Wikipedia
To find out what might have caused the death of your ancestors over the years I can recommend a booklet by Dr Janet FEW – “’Til Death do us Part - causes of death 1300-1948”. It was published in 2015 and contains a list of British epidemics including Smallpox, Measles, Typhus, Plague, Diphtheria, T.B. and ‘Flu. Janet also suggests sites which may help with your research.
If you have medical relations, a list of Nurses already in employment was drawn up in 1949 to encompass those who were taken over by the NHS and can be found on Ancestry.
This paternal aunt, born in 1913 in Bristol, became a Nurse after a spell as a telephonist – She trained at the Bristol Homeopathic Hospital from 1945, before the NHS was instituted. She then went to London to complete her midwifery training before studying to become a district nurse obtaining a Queen’s Nursing Award. Touches of “Call the Midwife” here from what she later told me about her experiences in London. After some employment in Bristol, she accepted a post in Wedmore as Midwife and District Nurse until her marriage in 1961.
Pre NHS Life
The advent of the NHS certainly affected my family. In 1947 I contracted Rheumatic Fever which my sister also developed, and we were put under the care of Prof C Bruce PERRY of the Bristol Royal Infirmary until we were 18. I liked him very much and felt he was really interested in us. His obituary showed that he was more deeply involved in rheumatic heart disease that we realised at the time. The cost of consultant fees was difficult for our parents to find at first, but they insisted on nursing us both at home. I was away from school for 15 months but with support of family and friends we both recovered but there was relief when the NHS took over the cost.
A letter from my father during WW2 dated May 11th had highlighted the worry caused by Doctors’ Bills. – I think it must have been 1944, from Italy. He was wounded on his birthday May 11th 1944 during an assault on Monte Cassino, so it is likely that this was written just before that event. He wrote:
“While appreciating the fact that everything is much dearer in these times, I agree with you that Dr Purcell’s Bill was a bit stiff, but as the children are well again that is the chief thing. Please use the money of mine to settle it with. I know it is being put aside for Pat’s schooling, but there is apparently little prospect of you wanting it for that purpose I would be glad if you used some of it that way as it will soon accumulate again, and there will be plenty there when we want it for the original purpose,”
I think he was referring to the proposed Education Act of August 1944 which was to give free Secondary Education to all pupils. .
Looking forward now to 2022 – What can we expect?
- On Ancestry – Devon Parish Records were added on the 13th December 2021
- On Findmypast – A message about the 2021 census
- The Genealogist allows you to pinpoint the position of your ancestor on the 1911 census. This is very accurate in London but not so good in other parts of the country. Checking on Whitecross Road in Weston the road is located but not the actual house address. You need to scroll down for the map.
- Family History Federation of which we, as a Society, is a member offers advice on how to access free resources
- On the 6th January the release of the 2021 Census: Going by previous releases it may be difficult at access the Findmypast site on that day but try again later!
At the moment, our next Member’s Meeting is due to take place on Wednesday afternoon the 12th of January unless more Covid restrictions are in operation by then in which case it will be a Zoom Meeting. It is entitled “Traditions of Death and Burial” and will be given by Helen Frisby. Meeting starts at 2.30pm with speaker at 3.00pm. We meet now at Our Lady of Lourdes Church Hall in Baytree Road observing all conditions for your safety – Please bring masks etc. It will be recorded for those who cannot attend.
We all hope that 2022 will bring some stability to life and wish all our members success with their research - Have a Happy New Year!