And I have been very, very patient. Immensely so in fact. Due to reasons I won’t go into here I have no photo of my Father who died when I was five years old. I also have no photos of his parents, who both died before I was born, or any of his siblings or other realtives. Nothing, I have nothing at all, and my greatest fear in life is that one day I will wake up and I won’t be able to remember his face. It’s because of him and my desire to once again connect with my family, the ones who have gone before that is, to understand where my Father came from and where his parents and grandparents came from, who they were, what their life was like, that I started on this genealogical quest eight years ago. I’ve learned a lot, talked with and had help from some wonderful people, found out more facts and figures, dates of birth, marriage and death, names, occupations and locations than I ever thought possible. But still, that photo of ANY member of my Father’s family eluded me. Until two days ago. Two days ago, waiting for me in my email in-box was a photo I have waited years and years to see, eight years to be precise. It’s a photo of my Great Grandmother. My own father’s grandmother. My first and only visible link to a member of his immediate family. The picture came to me because of the modern marvel of the internet. It came from Wisconsin, although it was taken in Durham, England in 1888.
My Gt Grandmother Madeline Ormston was born in 1862 at Trimdon Colliery in Durham, her father Robert was a coal miner. In 1882 she married, for the first time, to Isaac Laws and in 1883 they were blessed with a healthy son, Robert. In May of 1886 my Grandmother, Mary Lizzie was born, but in August that same year Isaac was killed after taking a shortcut across Hebburn Colliery to get home after a night out at the pub. The inquest decided that his judgment had been impaired by alcohol and he did not acknowledge the oncoming colliery train that was taking the empty tubs to the mine shaft ready for the start of the midnight shift. It knocked him down and killed him instantly. I have the full inquest report.
Just over two years later Madeline remarried, this time to William Hawkins a Papermaker born in Exeter in Devon, who was working at a paper factory in South Hylton near Sunderland in Durham. He had been widowed in June of 1888 when his wife Sarah died and left him with five children, when he married Madeline in December of that same year, and it is thought that this photograph was taken to celebrate their wedding. William and Madeline went on to have another six children of their own. The photo is a copy of the original and someone has written on the people to identify them. They are all Williams children from his first marriage, with the exception of my Gt Uncle Robert who is the little boy standing up between the two adults. For some reason my Grandmother Mary Lizzie is not in the shot, she would have been two and a half. Just cut off, to the very right, is Mary Ann Hawkins, one of Williams daughters, who immigrated to America in 1903 with her husband and some of his family. She is the one who brought the photo with her to the States, which eventually found it’s way to her Gt Granddaughter, a really nice lady called Lara who now lives in Wisconsin. The only oddity on this little family portrait, is the baby on Madeline’s lap, he’s labeled as George and he is obviously very young. The oddity is that this photo is the only reference to him, Lara and I both wonder if Williams first wife died because of complications giving birth to him, and he then subsequently did not live very long because he is not in the 1891 census. This is a feasible explanation, apart from the fact that neither of us can come up with a birth or death reference for him! But, that’s what I love about family history…. there’s always something to discover!
The family members are (left to right): James Hawkins (1877), Margaret Hawkins (1879), William Hawkins (1850), Louisa between his legs (1885), Robert Laws (1883), Madeline Ormston Laws Hawkins (1862) with baby George on her lap. At her feet is Maria Hawkins (1883) and mostly cut off the photo on the right is Mary Ann Hawkins (1881).