This photograph is one of my most treasured photographs. The lady sitting down is my Great Great Grandmother, Caroline Harris nee Ellis. According to my great Aunts, who were Caroline’s grandchildren she was a formidable lady. She did not suffer fools gladly and took no nonsense from anyone.
Caroline was born in 1844 to George Ellis and Prudence Budd. She was baptised in Puttenham as indeed were generations of my family on 20 October 1844. On the Census records from 1861 until 1891, Caroline repeatedly states she was born in neighbouring Elstead, which is entirely plausible given the proximity to Puttenham and there were a great many Ellis families in the immediate area.
Caroline was one of a eight children born to George and Prudence, who had married on 16 October 1834. Her mother died in 1855 aged 37 years when her youngest brother, James was just three years old. To date I have not established if indeed her father remarried and I should do so. Caroline married Henry Harris on 3 December 1864 and together they had ten children born between 1864 and 1885. The first was Emma Jane, born just before her parents marriage and baptised in November that same year. Henry died in 1929 aged 86 years and Caroline in 1935 aged 91 years.
To return to focus on the photograph. The women behind Caroline are four of her daughters, some of whom equally were known for their longevity. The lady on the left is my Great Grandmother, Annie Prudence Harris (1879-1972). I am lucky to remember my Great Grandmother, who is affectionately known as APH in my own notebooks. Of course by the time I recall her she was a very elderly lady, largely confined to bed and living with her eldest daughter, my Grandfather’s sister.
I remember being allowed to walk up the stairs, which of course seemed very steep to me as a three year old. My Grandfather on some occasions carried me from the bottom of the stairs, on other occasions, he picked me up when he sensed that my little legs were getting tired. On those visits, I was placed on the bed, next to APH and allowed to snuggle in, she smelt of lavender and always gave me the biggest hug and cuddle that any three year old could want. Her hair tied back in a bun, grey with faint strands falling from it. APH loved pineapple and no visit was every made without one!
By this time, APH had been a widow since 1943, almost 30 years which seems tragic. It is hard to imagine her as a young women courting and eventually marrying my Great Grandfather, Charles Butcher. They married on Christmas Eve 1898 at Puttenham, having 12 children between 1900 and 1917, although just nine lived to adulthood. The youngest daughter, Marjorie was just 35 when she died in 1952 leaving behind a husband and daughter. Three others died as infants. Charles Harry was born blind and lived just five months in 1902, Frederick William was stillborn in 1903 and then Elsie was born in 1912 and lived just two months, she sadly died of convulsions. There is a resilience that runs deep here and a determination to stand strong. Those strengths have continued to the modern generations, including to a certain former three year old!
The other three women in the photograph were Caroline’s daughters, Mabel, Rose and Kate. The closeness that the photograph exudes was fairly strong, the strengths of determination and even stubbornness ran deep despite the miles that separated the siblings, despite the second world war and other tragic circumstances. In writing this post, I note that there are a few outstanding pieces of research that I need to update into my genealogical software.
Mabel married and had a son and three daughters, all the daughters lived into their 90’s including the daughter who gave me this photograph. The son however, worked on the London docks and died as a result of an work related accident. Rose married and had two children, and not too much is known of her life, although I do know the family moved to the south coast. Kate, also married and had one child. She lived in the later years with the family at Manor Farm Guildford and died in 1958 after being hit by a car, crossing the main A3.
Having put this post together, it has highlighted that I have numerous omissions in my research, some still to undertake, others to incorporate from research visits. The sad thing is this is within living memory and unless it is recorded now, it will fade, like we will, into the past.
Taking part in the Genealogy Blog Party