"Each has his own tree of ancestors, but at the top of all sits Probably Arboreal." - Robert Louis Stevenson

Monday, 5 March 2012

Fearless Females 2012: My favourite female ancestors (and a photograph)

I’ve touched on women and their place in genealogy and history a couple of times already, so when I came across this blogging prompt I decided I wanted to get involved.
I’ve chosen two favourite female ancestors for you today – one from my maternal ancestry and one from my paternal ancestry. They both happen to be great-grandmothers.
First up, Annie Louisa Hampshire (1887–1975), my mum’s maternal grandmother.
She’s a favourite because I heard my mum, my nana and my great aunt talk about her and their family a lot as I was growing up. She was the starting point for my family tree and I suppose that sort of makes her my ‘inspiration’.
From my mum’s stories I have the impression of a witty character – gossipy and sharp-tongued with a youthful spirit even in her old age, and a bit of a man-eater! She provides an interesting contrast with her daughters – my nana and great auntie Mary – who were, I think, altogether more down-to-earth and reserved. But, she also has her stories, including a ‘skeleton in the closet’ mystery that is truly impossible to solve!
My other favourite is Victorine Hayward (1913–1987), my dad’s maternal grandmother.
A rather more complex choice. I love her because she is an equally vibrant character. A striking-looking woman (in the photograph she is aged about 22) with a cut-glass accent and a beautiful singing voice, she was well educated and apparently spoke brilliant French – an aptitude I seem to have inherited! In later life she was confined to a wheelchair, and was the first person in our village to get a motorised one! My parents both attended the same schools, but didn’t really know one another at that point. Regardless, my mother clearly remembers this imposing figure rolling up in her wheelchair and parking herself right at the front of queues and crowds at school events!
I also love her because she was for a long time my biggest challenge! Victorine, also known as Renee, was impossible to track down. I first found her marriage record to my great grandfather, in which her name was Renee V Fox or Hayward. Still more baffling, on the birth records of her two children she gave her maiden name as Jones. With no clue, initially, as to why she had three surnames (four if you count her married name), or which I should be searching for, I floundered hopelessly, going down several wrong leads before I got some help from an old friend of hers and my grandmother’s. The story that unfolded was astonishing – and so Victorine is responsible for and led me to one of my most incredible ancestry discoveries ever…

L x

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