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I was recently asked by a friend to research her family, as she didn’t even know the names of her paternal grandparents and was interested to know much more about her mother’s family, too. I did about 18 hours of research, and managed to take the lines of both her mother’s and her father’s family back to the eighteenth century. Along the way I found sad tales of heroism at Gallipoli, and vagabonds in Lincolnshire. Her family stretches across the north in Yorkshire, Lincolnshire and Derbyshire.
In my experience, very few of us have a clear-cut family history which leads to one county or one strata of society. One of the delights of research is finding the unexpected, the surprise. As I have already posted elsewhere on this site, my research started with my great grandmother. Although she died even before my mother was born, she was a part of my life for as long as I can remember, simply because my grandparents had a big drawer of photographs and I used to love to be allowed to see them and have the contents explained to me.
My grandmother told me that Lottie (seen above, in costume) and her husband were shunned by his Welsh family, because they didn’t approve of him marrying a music hall dancer. In actual fact, Lottie wasn’t just a common-or-garden music hall dancer. She had been taught by the Austrian Katti Lanner, who was responsible for setting up the first National Training School for Ballet in the UK, and apprenticed to Giuseppe Venuto de Francesco. She danced at the re-opening of the Metropolitan Opera House in New York, after a fire, and on Broadway in the first production in the US of Cinderella.
In any case, the research that I have done on the family has gradually revealed that although her father was a railway porter and her grandfather worked for the early post office, Lottie Dickins or Dickens was actually descended from the landed gentry, and back a few generations from them, the aristocracy. Her profession may not have been held in very much regard in the late 19th century, but her lineage was actually a lot grander than her husband’s.