Friday, April 07, 2006

Cork Cutters and Ferrule Makers

I was searching through a box of old photographs and family papers when I found a very old card signed by my great-grandmother. Now this was one line of my family tree that I hadn’t researched as much as the others. It being my father’s mother’s side of the family on her mother’s side – try to work that one out after a glass of sherry. I knew that Sarah Ann or Sally, as she was known, had, according to the 1881 census, come from Birmingham with her brother Robert into Derbyshire, presumably for work, and from the parish records that they had both married and stayed there. I knew their father’s name was also Robert (deceased at the time of their marriages in 1875.) My sister who has a subscription to Ancestry was able to find the family for me on the 1851, 1861 and 1871 census returns and how fascinating and moving it turned out to be.

In 1861 the family was living in a courtyard in the St Martin’s District of Birmingham. That is, of course the Bull Ring area, as the church there is St Martin’s. They lived in Court No 10 in house No 2 and Robert (senior) worked as a Gun Implement Maker, his wife Mary Ann worked as a Brace Stitcher (whatever that is) son John, age 12, as a Cork Cutter and son Robert, age 10, as an Umbrella Ferrule Maker. Sarah was five and there was a younger brother Joseph aged 4. By 1871 Robert (senior) and Mary Ann had died (only in their forties) and John and Robert (junior) are lodging together in St Martin’s. Sarah Ann is in domestic service with an architect in the Lady Wood area of Birmingham. Within 4 years they are living in Derbyshire and settling down there - I'd love to know how this came about. At the end of 2004 we visited the Back to Backs in Birmingham, little knowing then that I was looking at the type of houses in the very same area where my ancestors would have lived and worked. A very salutary lesson, indeed.

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