Monthly Archives: June 2019

Yesterday is History: You ARE Family History

Often when researching family history one major component is missing. You.

As the saying goes ‘Yesterday is History.’ It’s something us family historians often overlook, we’re so focused on earlier generations.

So time to take a pause from all the research and write up your own life story. It is a legacy for future generations of family history researchers – your history, your recollections, and in your words. Your chance to say it as you remember, with all those unique snippets of information, stamped with your personality.Years ago I bought dad a memory journal to complete. He never did. It’s a thing a bitterly regret he never got round to doing. It would have been a precious legacy to all his descendants for ever more, now he’s no longer around to ask. It would have been a much-cherished connection to him and his life through his written words. As it is, I’m the family history recorder, so now his life is viewed through my memories, my prism. One step removed.

And for those with no direct-line descendants this might be even more important.

This is your opportunity to ensure a lasting footprint in your family’s history.

There are so many ways to do it. It’s not like in previous eras where education, cost and social status dictated, and restricted, opportunity.

There is the family history journal method which in theory is the easiest option with all its pre-printed prompts. But you could also write down your life story. There is no need to over-complicate it and create some massive opus, unless you really want to. Family Tree magazine set a challenge recently to write your family history in only 1,000 words. Those 1,000 words could prove of more value than money left in a will, no matter how rough and ready you may feel it is. That’s not the point. It’s the fact it’s down there for posterity.

There’s even the option to do a recording, so not only your words but your voice preserved for ever more (hopefully).

And when you do put pen to paper, finger to keyboard, or voice to recorder, make sure the finished product is passed on to your family or the wider family history community. It could be by ensuring relatives have copies in your lifetime. It could be a formal bequest via your will. But whatever and however: Just do it.

The Family History Show 2019 – A Family History Get Together in York

The Family History Show at York is one of my family history year’s highlights, and 2019 did not disappoint.

A one-day event held at York Racecourse, it is billed as The Largest Family History Show in the North of England. With around 60 exhibitors, the stands are close together creating a bustling market-place experience, so there’s a real atmosphere of camaraderie amongst the exhibitors which rubs off on those visiting.

View from the Mezzanine – Photo by Jane Roberts

Sometimes bigger national events in exhibition centres can seem a tad remote and ‘commercialised.’ In contrast York conveys a really friendly, relaxed and welcoming feel. It’s great for show novices because it’s not overwhelming, but for regulars it’s like returning to a much-loved home.

Whilst Ancestry, Findmypast and the big DNA kit push was absent, to be honest it didn’t matter. There was so much else to focus on with a wide representation from the family history world. These included purveyors of postcards, maps, magazines and books to providers of genealogical supplies and courses alongside archives and museums. TheGenealogist, FamilySearch, Society of Genealogists, Ministry of Defence Records Section and the Family History Federation were amongst the bigger organisations. And it was fantastic to see such a range of Family History Societies from across the north of England and beyond.

I’ve attached the list of attendees below.

List of Attendees at The Family History Show York, 2019 – Photo by Jane Roberts

There was also an Ask the Experts area, plus seven talks in the two lecture theatres rounding off with an Expert Panel. Inspired by watching BBC’s A House Through Time I attended Gill Blanchard’s Tracing Your House History talk and came away with lots of tips and ideas to trace my house history … if I ever have the time! Time may be even more of a premium for me, especially as I ended up joining the Family and Community Historical Research Society (FACHRS). I’m full of enthusiasm to get involved.

Family and Community Historical Research Society (FACHRS) Stand – Photo by Jane Roberts

After a busy few hours on my feet it was a relief to have a sit down. There is a cafe area for those all-important refreshment breaks, but this year we brought sandwiches and ate them in fresh air and glorious sunshine overlooking the finishing straight. And what a view it was!

My Lunchtime View – Photo by Jane Roberts

Then it was back to it, and finding out what’s new. Morley Family History Group covers the area synonymous with the surname Aveyard, the subject of my One-Name Study. And they are in the process of producing a raft of new and updated parish register indexes and Memorial Inscription booklets.

Another stop-off must for me was the Ministry of Defence Records Section. They had some fascinating original documents on view including a 1914-1916 Wellington Barracks Footguards Attestation Register and some Air Ministry files about missing WW2 airmen. It was a wonderful opportunity to touch history, reading the lists of names knowing these were all real people who more than a century ago signed on to serve King and Country. It was especially sobering viewing noting how many were annotated with Killed in Action, Died of Wounds or discharged because they were no longer fit for service. One name which stood out for me was Albert Gun[n] who attested in Dewsbury and was Killed in Action.

Some of the Documents on Display at The MoD Records Stand – Photo by Jane Roberts

They also had a prototype online application system for service records which you could test and provide comments on. I understand it is hoped to have more news on this at RootsTech London.

I loved catching up with many familiar faces. And the show would not have been complete without popping over to say hello to the Huddersfield & District Family History Society team of volunteers who, at the end of a busy day, were still on their feet. I must declare an interest here as I edit their quarterly Journal.

The Huddersfield & District Family History Group Volunteers – Photo by Jane Roberts

I did fear with three big national family history shows scheduled for 2019, one of which took place only a couple of weeks earlier, that York would find itself squeezed out. With competing family and budget demands, to get to London and Birmingham from the north of the country for a show is a big commitment both in terms of travel time and cost, particularly if an overnight stay is factored in. The same pressures apply to exhibitors, with many relying on volunteers. York, for this part of the world, is far more accessible.

This accessibility factor, combined with the breadth of relevant exhibitors attending and talks geared towards the audience, thankfully meant my fears did not become a reality. The morning in particular seemed busier than ever.

The Family History Show 2019, York – Photo by Jane Roberts

And the years of experience behind the running of the show meant the organisation was excellent at all points – from booking tickets (excellent value at £8 for two if pre-booked), to directions to the racecourse with its ample free car parking, plus regular free shuttle buses from the railway station for those on public transport. Once at the venue things continued to run smoothly including a fast-track entry lane for those who had pre-booked, two private rooms for the free talks (so no noise seep) with these being large enough to accommodate all who wished to attend, and a floor plan to navigate your way around the exhibitors.

It proved a thoroughly enjoyable day and 20 June 2020, the date of the next Family History Show in York, is already firmly pencilled in my diary.

The Shocking Death of George Aveyard

Family history at its most basic boils down to births, marriages and deaths. Sometimes it is easy to become immune to the true meaning of the parade of dates marking the start and end of life. There are, after all, so many in a family tree. Occasionally, though, one event does stop you still in your tracks. For me the death of George Aveyard is one such event.

George was the two-year-old son of Daniel and Sophia Aveyard. In the context of my Aveyard One-Name Study, Daniel’s parents were George Aveyard (1780-1854) and his second wife Hannah Asquith. The family originated in the West Ardsley area, but somewhere between March 1832 and June 1841, they moved to Gildersome Street, an area south of the centre of modern-day Gildersome.  

Daniel was the second youngest of George’s 18 children, baptised on 4 August 1830 at St Mary’s, Woodkirk [1]. Evidence strongly suggests George and Hannah were my 4x great grandparents.

Daniel, a coal miner, married Sophia Brook at All Saints Dewsbury Parish Church on 23 August 1852 [2]. Sophia was born on 1 June 1832 and baptised one month later at Woodkirk parish church, her parents being William and Amelia Brook [3].

All Saints, Dewsbury Parish Church – Photo by Jane Roberts

Daniel and Sophia’s marriage resulted in 12 children [4]. So far, I have identified 10 of them – whilst Aveyard is an uncommon name there was more than one Aveyard/Brook marriage in the relevant period. I suspect I have identified at least one of the remaining children, but more work is required (short of purchasing the relevant birth certificates).

The so far identified children are Simeon [5] (birth registered in 1853); George [6] (birth registered in 1855); Sarah Elizabeth [7] (birth registered in 1861); Brook [8] (birth registered in 1863); twins Joseph and Mary [9], whose diminutive name appears to have been Polly [10] – yes, that is a known short form of Mary, (births registered in 1865); Ada [11] (birth registered in 1868). She was buried on 25 April 1869 at St Peter’s Birstall under the name of Adah Aveyard and her father was named as Daniel [12]; Herbert [13] (birth registered in 1870); Richard Newman [14] (birth registered in 1871); and Rachel [15] (birth registered in 1872). She was buried on 21 July 1872 at St Peter’s Birstall with her father named as Dan[ie]l [16].

The events in this post took place in Gildersome Street on 13 August 1858, with the inquest taking place before Coroner Thomas Taylor the following day at the King’s Arms Inn, Gildersome. Whilst many inquest records do not survive for this period, with newspapers being the main information source, we are fortunate that the HM Coroner of Wakefield records at West Yorkshire Archives (Wakefield) includes the notebooks of Thomas Taylor [17] for the period 1852-1900. They include the notes for the inquest of George Aveyard.

A little over two years old, George was able to talk and had been used to walking alone for about six months. Sarah Aveyard (née Stables) the wife of one of Daniel’s older brothers, Thomas, gave an account at the inquest, testifying there were “...always plenty of children playing about” [18] in Gildersome Street where the families lived. 

It was clear that even though a toddler, George was amongst them. Her young nephew had been to her house on morning of his death, leaving at around 11 o’clock heading down the road. So, his aunt clearly had no concerns that he was out and about without his mother.

You can envisage the scene: traditionally based around weaving and cloth manufacture but now becoming a mining village, this was a close-knit community with groups of impoverished, grubby children, the streets their playground, freely popping in and out of houses, many of them occupied by relatives. A place where everyone knew everyone. In this period Gildersome Street really was an Aveyard enclave.

At around 11.45 am George arrived home. His mother, Sophia, gave him a piece of bread and content he once more wandered back outside. At around noon she noticed he was missing. This was out of character, as according to Sophia’s evidence at the inquest “I have not lost him before.” [19]. She sent out her eldest child Simeon to seek him. At this point she believed him to be perfectly safe at his grandmother’s home about 80 yards away. This is most likely to be his paternal grandmother, Hannah Aveyard. 

It was dinner time and Sophia was starting to feel anxious. Another neighbour, widow Elizabeth Buckley, overheard her asking one of her daughters if she had seen George. This would have been just gone one o’clock. Elizabeth in fact had seen George two or three times that morning. 

Now events took on a dark, stuff of nightmares turn. Alice Aveyard, described as “going in [sic] 11 years” [20], daughter of Thomas and Sarah, and therefore cousin of little George, was the one who made the horrific discovery. I imagine it would haunt her until her dying days, a scene no adult, let alone a child, could never unsee.  

According to her inquest evidence:

“…I went yesterday afternoon to George Buttery’s privy adjoining the Wakefield and Bradford Road. The door was wide open. On looking thro’ the hole in the seat I saw a bare knee in the soil and I imm[ediat]ely gave an alarm.” [21]

In the 1851 census, Thomas and Sarah Aveyard’s household details were adjacent to the entry for the family of George Buttery. In other words they were close neighbours.

So what was a privy? Well, I’ll start by saying a privy was a far cry from the flushing, sanitary toilets of today. Improvements had, in fact, commenced with the landmark 1848 Public Health Act which decreed:

“That it shall not be lawful newly to erect any House, or to rebuild any House pulled down to or below the Floor commonly called the Ground Floor, without a sufficient Watercloset or Privy and an Ashpit furnished with proper Doors and Coverings.” [22]. 

There were also provisions for the newly created Local Boards of Health to issue notices where any houses had insufficient provision:

 “..whether built before or after the Time when the act is applied to the District in which it is situate…” [23] 

But this is a bit of gloss which belies the true unsanitary, conditions. In the period a privy was essentially nothing more than a small wooden, sometimes brick, building which could be shared by several families. The implication, however, in the inquest notes is that the Gildersome Street houses by 1858 did not have massive communal privies shared by scores of people. Alice’s evidence is that this one belonged to one household, that of George Buttery.  Sarah Aveyard in her evidence stated:

“The privy does not belong to Daniel Aveyard’s house.” [24]

Number of families aside, the very basic interior design was a wooden board with a hole cut into it. In fact, there could be more than one hole, and these not necessarily divided into separate cubicles. 

Excreta (liquid and faeces) would drop through this hole and the waste would drain and collect into cesspits. These were generally porous for the liquid matter to drain away, though this did not always happen. And when it did operate correctly, the question is where did it seep to and what contamination did it cause? The (hopefully but not always) dry waste would build up and eventually be shovelled out by night soil men. And yes, it was a job carried out under the cover of darkness.  The waste would then be sold on for manure.

So, the soil referred to in Alice’s evidence was actually a euphemism for human excreta.  

Even if not serving a large number of houses, the stench surrounding these privies would be unimaginable at any time of year, never mind August and the height of summer. And it was in this hell hole that a child was trapped.

Alice went to tell her mother she had seen a child’s leg in the privy. It was about quarter past one in the afternoon. Sarah returned with her daughter to the appalling scene, saw the knee and screamed. This attracted the attention of some local women, including Elizabeth Buckley. 

The women removed George’s body, which was lodged head first in the soil (think about the true meaning of the word soil in this context). Elizabeth testified that when they extracted him, he was dead, his eyes were partly open, there was no froth about his nose and, she observed when she washed his body, that he had no signs of injury. She also stated the the privy seat was not broken and in good order.

In other words this appeared to rule out any foul play, which view the inquest jury duly took. Its verdict was that George had “accidentally suffocated.” It is a verdict which does not even begin to capture the hideous circumstances surrounding this young child’s death.

Back in 1858, with its alarmingly high childhood mortality rates, a child’s death was not the unexpected event it is today in 21st century England. But a child’s death in such a ghastly accident was utterly shocking. Perhaps this was the reason Daniel, Sophia and their family had left Gildersome Street by the time of the 1861 census, and had moved to Boggart Lane in the Howden Clough area of Batley, near Still House Farm, which stands today [26]. They wanted to escape the scene of such personal family trauma?

Such was the hideous nature of George’s death, the inquest was widely reported in local newspapers, as typified by the 21 August 1858 edition of the Pontefract Advertiser [26] which recorded:

SHOCKING DEATH OF A LITTLE BOY – An inquest was held on Saturday, at the King’s Arms Inn, Gildersome before T. Taylor, Esq., on the body of George Aveyard, aged two years, son of Daniel Aveyard, coal miner. On Friday last, about noon, deceased went out of his father’s house, and no more was seen of him until one and two in the afternoon, when he was discovered in the soil of an adjoining privy. When extricated he was found to be quite dead….”

It is a death which over 160 years later, and amidst so many other deaths recorded in the course of my family history research, I cannot forget and one that does not cease to sicken.

As for location, the buildings of Gildersome Street have long been erased from maps. Ironically the present-day area is one which I frequently visit. It lies among the network of busy roads and the industrial estate areas, all within minutes walking distance from where West Yorkshire Archives (Leeds) now stands.


  • [1] Baptism of Daniel Aveyard, St Mary’s Woodkirk Baptism Register. Accessed viaWest Yorkshire, England, Church of England Births and Baptisms, 1813-1910 [database on-line]. Originals at West Yorkshire Archive Service; Wakefield, Yorkshire, England; Yorkshire Parish Records; New Reference Number: WDP108/1/2/1
  • [2] Baptism of Sophia Brook, St Mary’s Woodkirk Baptism Register. Accessed viaWest Yorkshire, England, Church of England Births and Baptisms, 1813-1910 [database on-line]. Originals at West Yorkshire Archive Service; Wakefield, Yorkshire, England; Yorkshire Parish Records; New Reference Number: WDP108/1/2/2
  • [3] Marriage of Daniel Aveyard and Sophia Brook, All Saints Dewsbury Parish Church. Marriage Register Accessed via West Yorkshire, England, Church of England Marriages and Banns, 1813-1935 [database on-line]. Originals at West Yorkshire Archive Service; Leeds, Yorkshire, England; Yorkshire Parish Records; Reference Number: WDP9/28
  • [4] 1911 Census, Aveyard family entry. Although Sophia is now a widow her Particulars as to Marriage details have been completed. Accessed via Findmypast. Originals at The National Archives, Kew. Reference RG14PN27255
  • [5] Birth Registration of Simeon Aveyard, March Quarter 1853, Hunslet Registration District, Volume 9B, Page 219, Mother’s Maiden Name Brook. Accessed via the General Register Office Website Birth Indexes.
  • [6] Birth Registration of George Aveyard, December Quarter 1855, Hunslet Registration District, Volume 9B, Page 184, Mother’s Maiden Name Brook. Accessed via the General Register Office Website Birth Indexes.
  • [7] Birth Registration of Sarah Elizabeth Aveyard, June Quarter 1861, Dewsbury Registration District, Volume 9B, Page 475, Mother’s Maiden Name Brooke. Accessed via the General Register Office Website Birth Indexes.
  • [8] Birth Registration of Brook Aveyard, December Quarter 1863, Dewsbury Registration District, Volume 9B, Page 502, Mother’s Maiden Name Brook. Accessed via the General Register Office Website Birth Indexes.
  • [9] Birth Registration of Mary and Joseph Aveyard, March Quarter 1865, Dewsbury Registration District, Volume 9B, Page 550, Mother’s Maiden Name Brook. Accessed via the General Register Office Website Birth Indexes.
  • [10] 1891 Census, Aveyard family entry. Accessed via Findmypast. Originals at The National Archives, Kew. Reference RG12/3722/12/17
  • [11] Birth Registration of Ada Aveyard, June Quarter 1868, Dewsbury Registration District, Volume 9B, Page 575, Mother’s Maiden Name Brooke. Accessed via the General Register Office Website Birth Indexes.
  • [12] Burial of infant named Adah Aveyard, 29 April 1869 at St Peter’s, Birstall. Accessed via West Yorkshire, England, Church of England Deaths and Burials, 1813-1985 [database on-line]. Originals at West Yorkshire Archive Service; Wakefield, Yorkshire, England; New Reference Number: WDP5/1/4/3
  • [13] Birth Registration of Herbert Aveyard, March Quarter 1870, Dewsbury Registration District, Volume 9B, Page 578, Mother’s Maiden Name Brook. Accessed via the General Register Office Website Birth Indexes.
  • [14] Birth Registration of Richard Newman Aveyard, March Quarter 1871, Dewsbury Registration District, Volume 9B, Page 604, Mother’s Maiden Name Brook. Accessed via the General Register Office Website Birth Indexes.
  • [15] Birth Registration of Rachel Aveyard, March Quarter 1872, Dewsbury Registration District, Volume 9B, Page 603, Mother’s Maiden Name Brook. Accessed via the General Register Office Website Birth Indexes.
  • [16] Burial of infant named Rachel Aveyard, 21 July 1872 at St Peter’s, Birstall. Accessed via West Yorkshire, England, Church of England Deaths and Burials, 1813-1985 [database on-line]. Originals at West Yorkshire Archive Service; Wakefield, Yorkshire, England; New Reference Number: WDP5/1/4/4
  • [17] Taylor was the coroner for the Honour of Pontefract from 1852-1900, deputy county coroner 1855, 1861-1864, and county coroner 1864-1900.
  • [18] Coroner’s notes at the inquest into the death of George Aveyard, 14 August 1858 Originals at West Yorkshire Archives, Thomas Taylor, West Yorkshire Coroner’s Notebooks June to November 1858, Reference C493/K/2/1/9
  • [19] Ibid
  • [20] Ibid
  • [21] Ibid
  • [22] Public Health Act 1848 (11 & 12 Vict. c.63), An Act for promoting the Public Health – 31st August 1848. Accessed via website, delivered by The National Archives
  • [23] Ibid
  • [24] Coroner’s notes at the inquest into the death of George Aveyard, 14 August 1858 – Ibid
  • [25] Example of a dry toilet for illustrative purposes. This one is from a railway station in Vrbčany in the Czech Republic. Source Wikimedia Commons, Attributed to Ludek [CC BY-SA 3.0 (
  • [26] 1861 Census, Aveyard family entry. Accessed via Findmypast. Originals at The National Archives, Kew. Reference RG09/3401/107/24
  • [27] Identical reports featured in The Leeds Mercury of 17 August 1858 and The Leeds Intelligencer of 21 August 1858

Pioneers of the FIFA Women’s World Cup: The First Football Internationals

The Women’s Football World Cup is now well underway. With England v Scotland attracting a peak of 6.1 million BBC TV viewers, becoming the UK’s most watched women’s football match of all time, it’s a far cry from the sport’s early days.

The first women’s international match took place on Saturday 7 May 1881 between Scotland and England at Hibernian Road, Easter Park in front of about 2,000. According to some reports the teams had only trained for about a fortnight for this game, the first in a series of rather chaotic, public exhibition matches to be played in both countries. 

The England team, including (according to some press reports) women from London [1], which took the field comprised of May Goodwin (goal); Mabel Bradbury, Maude Hopewell, Maude Starling, Ada Everstone, Geraldine Ventner, Mabel Vance, Eva Davenport, Minnie Hopewell, Kate Mellor and Nellie Sherwood. The Scotland team, from Glasgow and the surrounding area, was Ethel Hay (goal); Bella Oswald, Georgina Wright, Rose Raynham, Isa Stevenson, Emma Wright, Louise/Louisa Cole, Lily St Clair, Maude Riverford,[2] Carrie Baliol and Minnie Brymner. Some spellings vary depending on newspaper.

It is possible some of the names were stage names to disguise real identities. Interestingly two ‘actors,’ 18-year-old Louisa Cole (born in Greenock, Renfrewshire) and 19-year-old English-born Carrie H Baliol, were lodging in the home of Margaret Henderson in Campbeltown, Argyllshire [3]. Both these names featured amongst the Scotland forwards. Their presence adds to this game owing as much to theatre and entertainment as a sporting contest.

The game took place against the backdrop of the early years of the suffrage movement and advancement of women’s rights. In fact, the games were part of the pushing back of the long-established boundaries confining and defining women and their place in society. Indeed, a piece in The Jedburgh Gazette described it as ‘women’s rights with a vengeance.’ [4]

To put in some kind of context, it was only in 1870 that any money which a married woman earned could be treated as her own property and not her husband’s, with the introduction of the 1870 Married Women’s Property Act. And it was not until after the Internationals, in 1882, that the right was extended to allow married women to have complete personal control over all of their property. 

The attitudes towards women and ideas around their expected behaviours were instrumental to most of the reporting.  The game was variously described as a ‘most disappointing spectacle…football is not a game for women,’ [5] ‘an athletic novelty’ [6] and ‘a general feeling was apparent…to make fun of the match.’ [7] although the players were described as being ‘of excellent physique in most cases’ [8]. It was claimed ‘before the match was concluded more than half the spectators had gone. The general feeling seemed to be that the whole affair was a most unfeminine exhibition…’ [9]. 

An inordinate amount of attention was paid to the players’ attire and hair, with some retaining

 …such feminine ornaments as frilling, bracelets, &c., but others, with arms bare to the shoulder, entered into the game with all the enthusiasm of boys. [10]

The kit was essentially similar to their male counterparts. Scotland sported blue jerseys, a badge with two Union Jacks, a crimson waist sash, knickerbockers and blue and white hose. The English team’s jersey was crimson, with a blue sash and a lion rampant badge. They had white knickerbockers and crimson and white hose. Both teams wore crimson and white woollen cowls and high-laced boots. 

1890’s Illustration of a Women’s Football Match

Scotland ran out 3-0 victors. The Fife Herald typified the waspish type of reporting. Their take on the women was: 

They were slow in all their movements except, perhaps, when they were within a few feet of the goal, when their tongues were in full swing…

Although they did grudgingly conclude:

Misses Maude Hopewell and Bella Oswald as backs, and several of the forwards played well. [11]

They went on to quote the Glasgow News saying:

Football is not a game for women and the spectacle of a score of girls careering about the field in knickerbockers is not to be defended on any ground of public utility.

The teams struggled to get a venue for the next game, it being eventually played on 16 May 1881 at the Shawfield Ground, Rutherglen Bridge, Glasgow.  It resulted in what was termed as a scandalous exhibition, disgraceful scenes and a display of ruffianism from ‘Glasgow Roughs’ with fighting and a pitch invasion. 

Around 400 paid to watch the game but others burst the gates despite police efforts to prevent them. This swelled the crowd to what some newspapers estimated to be as many as 5,000.  Mainly men, they hooted, hissed and laughed at the women and ‘after 55 minutes of play of the most amateurish description’ [12] a contingent cut the ropes and stormed the pitch.

A police baton charge was required to rescue the players, some who were badly treated by the mob. With difficulty the women managed to get to their horse-drawn omnibus, one (or two, depending on newspaper report) fainting in the process. The four grey horses pulling the omnibus galloped away, with the accompanying jeers and hisses from the mob ringing in the women’s ears.

A further attempt to play a game at Kilmarnock was halted by the intervention of magistrates. The Ayr Advertiser’s take on this read:

The “LADY” FOOTBALL PLAYERS – Kilmarnock was saved the scandal of a visit from the “Lady Football players” on Tuesday night, by the intervention of the magistrates whose representations caused the club who had granted the use of their field to cancel the engagement. The managers of the female teams being advised of this decision by telegraph, they did not put in an appearance. And the disgraceful exhibition was accordingly prevented. [13]

The teams now moved over the border to England. They played their next game in front of a crowd of about 4,000 at the Olympic Club, Blackburn on the afternoon of Saturday, 21 May 1881. 

I can find no details of the team sheets but curiously a couple of reports stated ‘The players hail from Glasgow’ [14]

This is backed up by a report in the Athletic News of 25 May which stated:

The fair performers were unmercifully chaffed by the spectators but as the remarks were passed in the coarsest Lancashire, and the girls are as Scotch as they can find in Glasgow, the talk did not hurt them much for want of being understood. [15]

Both teams had second half goals disallowed, but a few minutes before the game ended the ‘English representatives’ scrambled the ball over to finish 1-0 winners.

The ad hoc nature of the matches is illustrated by the report of what appears to be the next game which took place on 3 June:

The female football players not being able to find a ground in Manchester, wandered to Liverpool, and on Friday last they managed to bring off a match at a running ground in the outskirts of the city. The following report of what the “ladies” are pleased to call “football” has been sent in to me for publication:- On Friday evening the lady football players gave an exhibition of their powers to the Liverpool public at Stanley Athletic Grounds. The young ladies appeared on the field at 7.30 p.m., and were loudly cheered by the spectators. The Scotch captain won the toss and selected to play with the wind. The match, from the players point of view, was very good. About 15 minutes from the start the English secured the first goal through a piece of good dribbling on the part of Miss Eva Davenport. Thereafter the Scotch pressed their opponents very hard, Miss Louisa Cole making several fine runs but failed to score before half-time was called. On ends being changed, the Scotch scored their first goal, Miss Louisa Cole doing the needful just before time was called. For the English Miss May Goodwin at goal stopped several dangerous shots. Misses Geraldine Vintner, Eva Davenport, and Minnie Hopewell as forwards dribbled well and made some splendid runs. For the Scotch, Miss Georgia Wright at back played a good defensive game. Misses Louisa Cole and Maud Rimeford, as forwards, played a good combined game. Altogether the match was a great success although the attendance was not so large as might have been expected to witness such a novelty. [16]

The team appeared to be based in Manchester. From there on 13 June they travelled by rail to Windhill, Bradford to play another game. The Leeds Times reported:

They are not a prepossessing band of females, and generally are composed of young girls, a few of them being between twenty and thirty years of age. A large number of people witnessed the game, which was well played. The competitors were frequently and uproariously cheered by spectators. The match ended in a victory for Scotland by three goals to two. [17] 

They did eventually get to play in Manchester, but once more confusion reigned. The Athletic News of 22 June 1881 reported that the team had arrived in Manchester a month ago but initially had not found a ground to play on. They finally arranged to play on the field of Salford FC but this fell through when their cashier absconded with the money needed for the ground rent. It was then announced they would play at Cheetham Football Club’s Tetlow Fold, and a 3,000- strong crowd turned up for the game on 20 June.

The report continued:

Unfortunately, there was some other hitch in the proceedings, and the game did not come off, but I am informed that all the difficulties have been cleared away, and that these matches would duly be played last evening [21 June] and to-night (Wednesday). [18]

Cheetham FC were at pains to distance themselves from the event. They even advertised to this effect in an open letter dated 21 June from Edwin Smales, the Club Secretary, which was published in the Manchester Courier. [19]

The game on 21 June proved another debacle. The Huddersfield Chronicle of 23 June carried a full report about the ‘Scene at a Football Match’:

The players attired in a costume which is neither graceful nor very becoming, were driven to the ground in a wagonette, and, as was to be expected, were followed by a crowd largely composed of youths eager to avail themselves of the opportunity presented for a little boisterous amusement…Very few persons paid for admission to the grounds, but a great multitude assembled in the road and struggled for a sight of what was going on within the enclosure, whilst an equally large number gathered in the higher ground on the other side of the field for a similar purpose. A number of police constables were present to maintain order and prevent anyone entering without paying, and for about an hour, whilst the so-called match was being played they succeeded. There were frequent attempts, however, to elude the constables. At length a great rush was made by those occupying the higher land, and the football ground was speedily taken possession by the mob. Apprehending a repetition of the rough treatment they have met with in other parts of the country, the women no sooner heard the clamour which accompanied the rush than they also took to their heels and ran to where their wagonette was standing. This they reached before the crowd could overtake them, and amid the jeers of the multitude and much disorder they were immediately driven away. [20]

So, another abandoned match. But the ladies did not give in. These pioneers of the women’s game returned to Liverpool. There, as advertised in the Liverpool Mercury of 25 June 1881, the International Lady Football Players played two more games on the 25 and 27 June at the Cattle Market Inn Athletic Ground, Stanley. Admission was 1s. 

Liverpool Mercury – 25 June 1881

In yet another curious newspaper report, reference was made to the disappointingly small attendance:

Owing, probably, to the disappointment caused a few weeks ago by their failure to keep an engagement to play at the same grounds… [21]

The report went on to discuss the women’s ‘modest and picturesque’ costume, and half-time refreshments of oranges. Scotland won the game 2-1.

The second game on 27 June was better attended:

The play was very spirited, and at times the feeling of nationality was strongly manifested by the onlookers, the efforts of the players on both sides being encouraged and rewarded by cheers. [22]

Scotland proved the stronger side, winning 2-0. The report made mention of a further match to be played that night, 28 June. Indeed, the newspaper even carried an advert for the game. I’ve not found any report of the result yet.

Liverpool Echo – 28 June 1881

This typified the chaos surrounding these first so-called internationals with cancelled and abandoned games, uncertainty about identities (and nationalities) of those playing or even scorers, and all this taking place in the face of the prevailing attitude about the role of women in society. The fact that these ‘anonymous’ women managed to play any games at all under such difficult and downright hostile circumstances is a testament to their strength of character.

What a total contrast to the FIFA Women’s World Cup of 2019, with its media coverage, worldwide interest, and Panini sticker albums all contributing to the profiles of the players, making them household names and sporting role models to future generations of female footballers. 


  • [1] Edinburgh Evening News, 9 May 1881
  • [2] For example Riverford is sometimes Rimeford or Riweford
  • [3] 1881 Scotland Census, accessed via Ancestry, Reference – Parish: Campbeltown; ED: 16; Page: 13; Line: 6; Roll: cssct1881_150
  • [4] The Jedburgh Gazette, 14 May 1881
  • [5] The Dundee Courier and Argus, 10 May 1881
  • [6] Buxton Herald, 11 May 1881
  • [7] The Edinburgh Evening News, 9 May 1881
  • [8] Ibid
  • [9] Nottinghamshire Guardian, 13 May 1881
  • [10] The Ayr Advertiser, 12 May 1881
  • [11] The Fife Herald, 12 May 1881
  • [12] Glasgow Herald 17 May 1881
  • [13] The Ayr Advertiser 19 May 1881
  • [14] Birmingham Daily Mail and Edinburgh Evening News 23 May 1881
  • [15] Athletic News, 25 May 1881
  • [16] Athletic News, 8 June 1881
  • [17] The Leeds Times, 18 June 1881
  • [18] Athletic News, 22 June 1881
  • [19] The Manchester Courier, And Lancashire General Advertiser, 22 June 1881
  • [20] The Huddersfield Chronicle, 23 June 1881
  • [21] The Manchester Evening News, 27 June 1881
  • [22] The Liverpool Mercury 28 June 1881

The Fair Weather Genealogist – Summer Research Tips

Summer tends to be the time of year when family history research takes a back seat. Who wants to be stuck in front of a computer screen or closeted away in some dusty archive or local library when the days are long and the sun is shining brightly?

The meteorological summer is defined as June, July and August. Here are my five seasonal tips to continue with your family history research whilst making the most of those three long, hot summer months (we can but dream!)

  • Do a bit of ancestral tourism, visiting locations associated with your family history. It could be a street in which your ancestors lived, the school they attended, the church where they married, the cemetery in which they are buried, or even popping into the pub, if it still exists, where a family-associated inquest was held.
  • For me family history extends beyond names and dates. I love finding about the everyday lives of my ancestors, their occupations, leisure activities, transport methods, living conditions, and the health struggles they faced. I also want to try put their lives into the context of local and national history. Summertime provides ample opportunity to find out more, especially on those cooler summer days. It could be a visit to a museum such as the Thackray Medical Museum, the trio of Ripon Museums covering the workhouse, courthouse and police station/prison, Bradford Police Museum, the National Coal Mining Museum, the National Railway Museum in York, Ryedale Folk Museum or Beamish (the Living History Museum of the North). I’ve concentrated on some northern examples here, but there are so many possibilities to choose from up and down the country. It’s definitely worth checking out ones near where you are holidaying, as it’s something which could be incorporated in to a family vacation or a day trip.
  • Outdoor events are another option especially when the sun is cracking the flags, from 1940s weekends to Civil War events with living history camps. These require more seeking out, but they are well worth the effort.
  • Experience the transport methods of your ancestors. Journey back in time accompanied by the evocative smells and sounds of a real steam train, stopping off at stations liveried in colours and signs of a bygone era. In Yorkshire there are plenty to choose from and they’re fantastic for families too. There’s Middleton Railway in Leeds, the world’s oldest working railway; the Keighley and Worth Valley Railway, of Railway children fame and taking in historic Haworth with its Brontë associations; the Embsay and Bolton Abbey steam railway in the beautiful Yorkshire countryside; and the North Yorkshire Moors Historical Railway Trust operating between Pickering and Whitby, taking in Heartbeat country. Volunteer-run, these railways offer far more than the wonderful train rides, with offerings including themed events, tours and even hands-on experiences.

Haworth Station in the Keighley & Worth Valley Railway – Photo by Jane Roberts

  • And if you really are struggling to drag yourself away from the beach or the pool this summer holiday season, why not pack some genealogy crime and mystery fiction into those suitcases? That way you can get your genealogy fix through plotting the next research steps of a fictional genealogist and trying to crack the case whilst getting some well-earned rest and relaxation. Four authors of this genre to look out for are Nathan Dylan Goodwin with his Morton Farrier forensic genealogist book series; M. K. Jones who writes about genealogy detectives Maze Investigations; M. J. Lee and his former police detective turned genealogical investigator Jayne Sinclair; and Steve Robinson’s series of books based around American international genealogist Jefferson Tayte.

Whatever you end up doing this summer, I hope it’s a good one.

A Personal Post: The End of an Era

31 May 2019 marked the end of a huge chunk of my life over the past few years. I was at the Society of Genealogists in London for the award of my joint Pharos Tutors and Society of Genealogists Family History Skills and Strategies (Advanced) course certificate.

A bittersweet moment, it was the culmination of a couple of year’s hard work undertaking the various modules, the end of year one exam and a year two project. And even before that I had spent three years completing the Intermediate course.

Yes, submitting my final assignment last autumn and receiving my marks (a Distinction) just before Christmas were phases of the end. But the award ceremony was the moment which finally put a full stop on this period of formal learning

It was also wonderful meeting those who also undertook this learning journey, be it my fellow students or the ever-patient tutors who taught us along the way. I’ve learned so much through these courses and become a better genealogist as a result. They’ve also laid the foundations for my future continuing professional development.

But at the same time it was also a sad moment. Saying goodbye to everyone. Finally recognising that this phase of life was over and that the regular routine of formal learning had ended.

But has it?

Whilst the formal assessed courses are at an end, as part of keeping up-to-date with genealogical developments I will forge on with my personal programme of learning in order to continue to offer the best possible service to those who put their trust in me to research their precious family history.