The first philosophical fantasy novel

To fall asleep lately I’m reading Hayy ibn Yaqdhan, by Ibn Tufayl or Tufail, written in the 12th century. It’s about a child marooned on an island from infancy, raised by a doe, who figures out philosophy and spirituality from first principles. Before age 7, he invents clothing and modesty, as well as rudimentary weapons.

When his loving doe-mother dies, he tries to figure out how if he can find and fix what’s wrong with her by cutting open her heart, which has an empty chamber where he figures the intangible part of her that wasn’t her body, that loved him and that he loved, must have been.

Then he goes on to dissect and vivisect other animals of the island to figure out how Life works. I think he is going to discover the idea of the divine in his next 7 years.

Somewhere along the way the frame story narrated by Ibn Tufayl explains how we know that the earth and sun are both spherical and how from that plus the properties of light and heat we know that life can exist at the Earth’s equator.

This book was translated into Latin in 1671 under the title Phliosophus Autodidactus and it sounds like it was super influential.

Ibn Tufayl’s Wikipedia article tells us this was written in part as a response to al-Ghazali‘s Incoherence of the Philosophers.

Phrases stuck in my head

Sometimes rather than musical earworms I get particular words or phrases stuck in my head. Last night I woke up with the phrase “Overoles Chiriboga” sort of echoing around every few seconds. This was from a shop sign in downtown Quito, Ecuador, which struck me as both an interestingly resounding phrase and a very beautiful shop front, with a cool font and beautiful paint job.

I took a good photo of it, thankfully, so it isn’t just in my memory. I love the guy standing there with a lot of luggage, and how he is sort of hanging out with the mannequin.

That’s all – there is nothing much to say about this — maybe just a common poet’s curse and blessing — but because I can’t get it out of my head, now you can have it too.

storefront in quito

p.s. it fits perfectly with the Dead Kennedys “California Uber Alles”.

The tailor’s fall, and his daughter’s escape

In my last geneology post I wrote about Jenny Cumpsty and her daughter Jennet Dobson. Jennet married William Crane, a tailor in the town of Garstang, in 1863.

First, a quick summary of William’s life since he is central to our story.

William was born in 1841 in Pilling in a family of farmers. He was an apprentice tailor by age 17, married at age 21 in Garstang and set up his own business as a tailor there and then in Barrow-in-Furness. He and his wife Jenny had three children. After his wife died of smallpox in 1871, he lost his business as a tailor and worked in brickyards and coal mines for the rest of his life. He remarried in 1872 in Farnworth, near Bolton, and had two more children, living and working at Top o’th’ Meadows in Darcy Lever. His second wife died in 1890. He married a neighbor in 1895. He was still working as a navvy in 1911 at age 70. In 1917 William died, a widower for the 3rd time, at age 76.

The Cranes north of the Wyre

Now let’s pull back in time a bit, and look at William’s side of the family.

William’s parents were John Crane, or Craven (b. 1812) and Ellen Parker.
John Crane’s parents were John Crane (b. 1775) and Cathrine Lewtas.
Ellen Parker’s parents were William Parker and Betty Hoole. It is a bit confusing so here is a tree view:

william and jenny's direct ancestors
tree view of william crane and jennet dobson’s parents and grandparents


As a refresher, here are two maps of the area over the river Wyre. The Pilling Moss was part of a larger area of peat bogs north of the Wyre and south of Morecambe Bay. All the villages I mentioned in the last post are within about 5 miles of each other, in case that wasn’t clear. That also holds true for this post!

Overview of the area near Garstang
old map of the fylde

Detail from 1829 map showing Pilling, Stalmine, Hambleton, Out Rawcliffe, Kirkland, Garstang, Calder Vale
1829 garstang map

Preesall and Stalmine, 1775-1792

My 5th great-grandfather, John Craven, was a farmer in Stalmine, Out Rawcliffe, and Pilling. He was born in 1775 in Preesall, around the time of the Pilling Moss Bog Burst.

In 1792, at age 17, he married Catherine Lewtas in St. James Church, Stalmine. John and Catherine could both sign their own names, which surprised me!

marriage record

The Crane family in Out Rawcliffe

Some time in the 1790s, the family moved from Stalmine to Out Rawcliffe.

Their first child, Alice, was born in 1793. Their children were Betty, b. 1794; Ann, b. 1797; Richard Lewtas, b. 1798; William, b. 1800; Robert, b. 1803; Thomas Lewtas, b. 1805; Catherine, b. 1807; Matthew, b. 1809. Their son John Crane who was my direct ancestor was born in 1812, and his younger brother Henry in 1814. So, John and Henry grew up as the youngest sons in a large family of farmers and agricultural laborers.

Here’s a summary of what happened to John’s older siblings. Alice married Thomas Bimson, a tailor in Pilling and then a licensed victualler in Liverpool; after his death, she married Thomas Higginson, a farmer of 60 acres, and lived in Bradshaw Lane, Pilling. Her oldest children took Higginson’s name, married, and lived on farms next to her in Pilling. Richard Lewtas Crane ended up as a laborer in Liverpool. William became a farmer in St. Michaels on Wyre; he could not write his name. Robert became a carter, and lived with his sister Catherine and her family for most of his life. Catherine married a local farmer, Thomas Fox; she couldn’t write her name. Thomas Lewtas Crane married and was an agricultural laborer – unlike his older brothers and sisters, he was literate, signing his name to his marriage certificate.

Their mother Catherine died at age 60, in 1835.

The Crane families move to Pilling

Back to our person of concern, John Crane, William’s dad, born in 1812.

In 1841, John Crane senior is listed in the Pilling census as John Crane, age 65, farmer, living with his children Thomas, 35; Robert, 35; Henry, 24, and two young servants.

Next door to him in Pilling is John Crane, 25, agricultural laborer, with his wife Ellen and their children Matthew, Henry, and William, 3 weeks old. That’s our John Crane & his son William Crane!

Ellen Parker’s parents were William Parker and Betty Hoole. She was born in Nateby in 1814.

Ellen’s father was an agricultural laborer; both parents were from Out Rawcliffe. William’s parents were from the same area. Betty Hoole was born in Barnacre and Upper Rawcliffe in 1795. She married William when she was 15.

John married Ellen Parker in 1835 when he was 22 and she was 20. So, when we see them in the 1841 census, they have been married for 6 years, are still under 30, and have three children. John may be working on his father’s farm alongside his brothers.

In 1847, John’s father John Crane senior died.

John Crane junior moves back to Out Rawcliffe

In 1851, John and Ellen Crane are living in Out Rawcliffe with thir children Matthew, 14, agricultural laborer; Henry, 12, ditto; William, 9, ditto; John, 8, and Richard, 6 are both in school; Robert, age 1, is the youngest. William, John, and Richard were born in Pilling, while Robert was born in Out Rawcliffe, so that gives us a likely date for the family’s move, between 1845 and 1850. It would make sense that they moved after John Crane senior died, in 1847.

In 1861, John and Ellen are still in Out Rawcliffe living with Matthew, 24; Richard, 16; Robert, 11, all agricultural laborers. Their daughter Catherine, 7, is in school.

William the Tailor

Meanwhile, William Crane became an apprentice tailor with Thomas Wilkinson in Kirkland, a village or town that looks a bit larger than Out Rawcliffe, more or less a satellite town of Garstang — certainly larger than Pilling. We see him in the 1861 Census, age 19, living in the household of Thomas and Ann Wilkinson.

Unlike his older brothers and his younger brother Robert, he isn’t stuck on the farm. It would likely have cost money to buy him a place as an apprentice.

In 1863, on Feb. 4th, William married Jennet Dobson. In 1861, Jennet was a servant for the Hesketh family in Tarnacre Lane, Upper Rawcliffe — less than a mile by the road to Kirkland. Perhaps they met in Kirkland; we can imagine that he did some tailoring for the Hesketh family, but there’s no way to know. I don’t have an image for their marriage record but would love to see it to see who was literate and who witnessed.

Caroline Crane was born in Garstang, 24 November 1863. Their son John James was born in 1866 in Kirkland, (also called Churchtown). By 1869, the family had moved north across Morecambe Bay to 74 Scott St., Barrow-in-Furness, where Jane Elizabeth was born.

By 1871, from the census, William and Jennet, Tailor and Tailoress, ages 29 and 32, were living in Barrow-in-Furness at 183 Dalton Street. Caroline, 7 and John J., 5, are in school. Jane is one year old. They have two lodgers, ages 19 and 20. I get the impression that Barrow-in-Furness, then nicknamed “The English Chicago”, was a not-too-horrible industrial and port town, with a shipyard and a railroad, happily NOT located in a giant peat bog surrounded by miles of treacherous tidal sands, so it sounds like another step up in life for the Cranes. I hope their little family was happy and that Caroline had a good early life.

detail from 1871 census

Later that year, 21 August 1871, Jennet died. The family was living at 305 Dalton Street.

William the Brickmaker

First, let’s follow William after his wife’s death. He was not able to stay in Barrow-in-Furness and he lost his tailoring business. Perhaps there were crushing doctor bills. I also imagine the children were brought to live with relatives until their father found a stable situation.

In September 1872 he married Frances Ann Hardman, in Farnworth with Kearsley. William was 31. On the marriage record, he signed his own name though his wife signed with an X. His father John Crane (junior) witnessed the marriage, signing with an X, listing his occupation as a furnaceman. Frances Ann’s father was a collier, and her mother witnessed the marriage (X, her mark). William was working as a brickmaker.

william crane marriage record

William and his father John are still close physically to Pilling and Out Rawcliffe, but in time and modernity they have leapt from generations of peasantry to an urban area in the thick of the industrial revolution. Farnworth, now basically part of Bolton ie Greater Manchester, was a huge coal mining center and also the home of paper mills, iron foundries, cotton mills, and brick and tile factories. Its population more than doubled from 1851 to 1871 when it was a town of 20,000.

In 1881, William, 39, is an excavator (navvy) at 127 Ellesmere St in Farnworth. He may have worked on rail lines into the mines, dug canals, or ditched and drained the remaining peat mosses in the Farnworth area – the census doesn’t have that level of detail. He lives with his second wife Francis Ann, 33; his son John J, 15, labor in the brickworks; Jane E, 11, scholar; and Ann, 4, his daughter with Frances Ann. They have two lodgers, Thomas Fletcher, a blacksmith, and his wife Mary E. Fletcher, 29. Note those lodgers for later! And, I notice also that Jane Elizabeth is able to stay in school at the late age of 11, probably the first “scholar” over age 10 in of her ancestral tree.

Looking at this I can’t help but admire William. From a horrible tragedy, and a downward step from having a profession to doing hard physical labor in a brickworks and then a navvy around the mines and mills, he pulled his family through. He found another wife who is caring for his children, and he is able to support them. Though we don’t know anything about his personality, we can see evidence of his values and his skill in survival.

William and Frances Ann had a second child together, Henry, born in 1884. William’s father John Crane died that same year. Frances Ann died in 1890 in Bolton leaving William, at 49, once again a widower with young children.

John Crane and Ellen Parker have a marker to their memory in the Out Rawcliffe churchyard. It mentions that he was a deacon for the church for many years and it also lists Elizabeth Ellen Gardner (b. 1848 d. 1931). Maybe Elizabeth Ellen was a niece or other relative (or someone who survived her was a relative of John and Ellen, and put up the stone for them all at once.) John Crane was a farmer in Out Rawcliffe for 10 or 20 years before his children scattered and he became a furnaceman in Farnworth/Bolton.

gravestone for john crane

Map of Farnworth, turn of the century

For context, here is a 1908 map of Farnworth. You can click through on it to download it & get a higher resolution for zooming in.

large farnworth map

Caroline in the mills

We’ve seen William Crane move from Barrow-in-Furness to Farnworth & remarry in 1871-1872. By 1881 his younger children are with him. But where is his oldest daughter, Caroline, in 1881?

I found her in Great Lever, living with her uncle Henry Crane’s widow, Alice (Lowe) Crane. Alice, head of the household, age 38, is a charwoman. Her sons William 18; James, 16; John, 14; Richard, 12, are coal miners. Henry Junior, the baby, is 3 years old and god knows who takes care of him while everyone is at work. Alice’s brother William Lowe, 36, is an excavator, along with a lodger, John Hazler. Finally we come to 17 year old Caroline, Alice’s niece, Comber Tenter in a cotton mill.

Much respect to Alice who had to keep house for all these people while working outside the home herself. I like to keep in mind they were not likely to have running water so someone would have had to fetch water in buckets daily – and imagine doing the laundry for four coal mining teenage boys!

I found this definition of a comber tenter from the online version of A Dictionary of Occupational Terms Based on the Classification of Occupations used in the Census of Population, 1921. (ah,those females and their e-textiles!!)

comber (cotton) ; comb minder, comber tenter. Operates combing machine, which combs out short fibres in preparation of fine cotton yarns; guides cotton laps on to rollers, starts machine, receives combed cotton, in form of slivers, in boxes or cans, and removes cans as they are filled.

I ended up reading some stuff about the history of cotton mills, which first developed in Lancashire, and about the various roles in a mill. The combing/carding machine, basically a giant toothed roller, was invented in 1760.

Carding: the fibres are separated and then assembled into a loose strand (sliver or tow) at the conclusion of this stage.

The cotton comes off of the picking machine in laps, and is then taken to carding machines. The carders line up the fibres nicely to make them easier to spin. The carding machine consists mainly of one big roller with smaller ones surrounding it. All of the rollers are covered with small teeth, and as the cotton progresses further on the teeth get finer (i.e. closer together). The cotton leaves the carding machine in the form of a sliver; a large rope of fibres.[11]

In a wider sense carding can refer to the four processes of willowing, lapping, carding and drawing. In willowing the fibres are loosened. In lapping the dust is removed to create a flat sheet or lap of fibres; Carding itself is the combing of the tangled lap into a thick rope or sliver of 1/2 inch in diameter, it can then be optionally combed, is used to remove the shorter fibres, creating a stronger yarn.

A carding room in a mill would have been full of dangerous machinery and very fine airborne particles of cotton which caused breathing problems for many workers. Children – if Caroline worked in the mill from a younger age onward — would scuttle around under and inside the working machinery to pick up bits of lint and help keep everything running. I think that role is what “tenter” implies. I don’t have a good source for this photo but it shows a young girl taking a spool of combed cotton from a machine, I think maybe after it is drawn:

combing process in a mill

Being in the mills and mines of Lancashire in the mid 1800s meant some of the family were likely to have been in trade unions. It may be possible to find them in specific unions if I had access to those records! Rochdale (where Caroline’s future husband had roots) was an early example but by the 1850s there were huge union and mill vs. worker fights.

In Preston in 1853 mill owners locked out 20,000 workers for 36 weeks and the workers’ families began to starve. The center of industrialization was also a center for worker organizing! Perhaps Caroline Crane was able to join the Amalgamated Association of Card and Blowing Room Operatives that formed in 1886!

Caroline married Ralph Hutchinson in 1884 in Great Lever.

The Hutchinsons and Doodsons

Let’s look at Ralph Hutchinson and his ancestry. Ralph was my great-great-grandfather!

Ralph Hutchinson was born in 1866 in Kearsley. His parents were James Hutchinson and Ellen Doodson.

James Hutchinson was born in 1843 in Kearsley. His parents were Adam Hutchinson and Ann Allen, both born in Lancashire around 1800. Most of the men and boys in the family (in 1841) worked in coal mines.

Adam Hutchinson’s parents were John Hutchinson and Margaret Tonge, both born in Kearsley in the mid 1700s. My research isn’t solid enough to go further back with any certainty.

Ralph Hutchinson’s mother Ellen Doodson was born in 1842 in Kearsley. Her parents were Joseph Doodson and Mary Rawlinson.

Joseph was born in 1805 in Kearsley; Mary Rawlinson in 1801 in Rumworth. What a weirdo, not even from Kearsley!

The family may have been affected by the Preston riots of 1843, when thousands of cotton mill workers went on strike.

In 1851 Joseph was in the mines and Mary was a weaver in a cotton mill; they lived in Rayley Row with two children and a 73 year old aunt who kept the house.

In 1861, still living in Riley Row, Joseph Doodson is still in the mines at age 56, but Mary has stopped working in the mills. Their son is in the mines and they have three daughters, including 19 year old Ellen, in the cotton mills.

The American Civil War would likely have affected the family as it contributed to the Lancashire Cotton Famine from 1861-1865.

Ellen married James Hutchinson in 1864, in Farnworth with Kearsley. They were both able to sign their names. James lists his father Adam’s occupation as a carder, and Ellen’s father Joseph was a collier.

marriage record from 1864

I can’t find Ellen and James in 1871! They would have been 29 and 28, with their son Ralph around 5 and son James either not quite born or in his first year. They may have lived in Little Hulton, where James was born.

In 1881, Ellen and James are 39 and 38. They have four sons, Ralph, James, Joseph, and William, all living at 75 Primrose Lane in Kearsley. James is a coal miner, as is his 15 year old son Ralph. James, 10, and Joseph, 7, are still scholars. Ellen is notably not in the mills.

Ralph and Caroline

I am now looking at maps to think about how close Ralph Hutchinson and Caroline Crane lived and how they may have met. In 1881, Ralph was in the mines at 15, living at 75 Primrose Lane in Kearsley. His family church was St. John the Evangelist, quite close by. Caroline, in the cotton mills at 17, lived a few miles away at 22 Hall St in Great Lever. I think they may have met when Caroline’s father moved to Great Lever between 1881 and 1884.

Ralph and Caroline were married in 1884 in St. Michaels church in Great Lever. They both claim to be 20 years old, though surely Ralph was certainly lying since his birth date of 1866 is well documented. And they both list their residence as Annie Street in Great Lever, so either that’s where they were going to live when married or they may have both lived on that street and been neighbors. This seems plausible to me since other couples married on the same day have separate addresses. Ralph’s father James is listed as a collier, and Caroline’s father William Crane as a tailor — though at this point he hasn’t been a tailor since 1871; he’s been a brickmaker, an excavator, and a navvy for years. I wonder if this is a sign of his pride (or his daughter’s) in his original profession. And, I’m happy to report that both Ralph and Caroline were literate.

marriage record for ralph and caro

Ralph and Caroline’s life in Darcy Lever

In 1891, Caroline and Ralph lived at Top o’th’ Meadow in Darcy Lever.

In 1891, Ralph Hutchinson, 25, is a coal miner. Caroline (Crane) Hutchinson, 28, is a housekeeper (likely of her own house). Ellen, 5, is a scholar while Jennet, 3, and James, 11 months, are the youngest in the household. Caroline’s father William Crane, 49, widower and farm laborer, lives with them along with his son Henry Crane, 7, scholar, and Ann Ellen Crane, 3. Baby James is my great-grandfather.

Notably, they live next to several houses full of Fletchers, and a household of Norrises which included Martha Fletcher, age 49, sister in law of John Norris, a widow “living on her means”. It looks like Martha came to Darcy Lever to live with her married sister after she was widowed. You can guess why I mention her — William Crane (with his two young children, who need looking after) is on the prowl.

Caroline and Ralph in Farnworth
In 1901, Caroline, Ralph, and thir children are in Farnworth living at 12 Princess Street. Ralph, 35, is a chemical laborer. Ellen, 15, and Jane, 13, were both knotters (Knitters?) in a cotton mill; the initials G.O.P. or C.O.P were written over the entries – maybe an abbreviation for the name of the mill? James, my great-grandfather, is 10; Mary Ann, 8; Sarah, 6; John, 4.

As much as I make fun of growing up in the middle of Pilling Moss, growing up in the middle of the Farnworth gas and chemical works, cotton and steel mills, and coal mines may also have had its down sides, espeically as they were industrial works in the middle of yet another Moss — the whole area is a ginormous peat bog. (“Moses Gate”; Moses = Moss). The younger children seem to be at home or maybe in school, a bit longer, and more of the children grow up to be literate. The ones who aren’t blown up in a coal mine or dead of inhaling cotton fluff in the mills, that is.

Here is Princess Street on a 1908 map of Farnworth.

1808 map of farnworth

Ralph’s father James Hutchinson is 57 and a laborer (plasterer) in 1901. His mother Ellen is 59. William, 24, is a coal hewer. They live at 105 Brackley Street in Farnworth.

William remarries

In 1901, William, age 57, with his wife Martha (Fletcher) Crane, 59, is living in Darcy Lever, Bolton, at the same address (Top o’th’ Meadows, near Radcliffe Road and Crows Nest Road.)

He is on the same road also as James G Hardman (29) and his wife Clara, likely relatives of his late wife Frances Ann.

William is working as a carter on a farm. His son Henry, 17, is a general laborer while Ann E, 13, has no occupation listed.

James Fletcher, 24, listed as “son” is Martha’s son and William Crane’s stepson, a colliery laborer, along with their boarder William Hallows, age 50.

Next door at 407 Radcliffe Road, William’s son John J Crane, 35, a colliery engineer, lives with his wife Sarah E, 32 and their daughter Janet, 13. (Named after William’s mother, who was named after her mother and grandmother!)

About Top o’th’ Meadows

About Darcy Lever:
“The township abounded with coal, but it has practically been worked out. Several mines were worked till recently; one is still in operation. There is a cotton mill at the village.”

This 1860 description of Top o’th’ Meadows is online at

Valuable freehold estate called “BARLOWS,” or “TOP O’TH’ MEADOWS,” Situate in Darcy Lever, near Bolton. To be sold by auction by Mr. William Lomax, junr., at the house of Mr. Gillibrand, the Horse Shoe Inn, in Little Bolton, on Wednesday, the 14th day of October next, at six o’clock in the evening, subject to such conditions as will be then produced.

Lot 1. All that valuable freeshold estate called “BARLOWS” or “TOP O’TH’ MEADOWS,”, situate in Darcy Lever aforesaid, on the Highway leading from Bolton to Radcliffe, containing 14A. 3R. 30P. or thereabouts, statute measure, and comprising a good Farm House, with Two Dwelling-houses, Barns, Stables, Shippons and Gardens, adjoining or near thereto, now in the occupation of Thomas Fishwick and sub-tenants. And also FOUR COTTAGES, in the occupation of George Pickup and others, and the Mines, Minerals, and Appurtenances belonging thereto respectively. Also a ground rent of £3 a year secured on Cottages Coloured blue on the plan.

The Estate is situate within two miles from Bolton, and is connected therewith by excellent roads, and lies contiguous to the Railway from Bolton to Bury, and is half a mile from Bradley Fold Station.

There are valuable Coal Mines under and belonging to this Estate, which are let under an arrangement for a lease of ten years from 1860, at a minimum rent of £50 per annum, the Produce Rent being after the rate of £60 per foot per Cheshire acre.

I figured A is acres and R is roods, but had to look up what “P” stands for in measuring land. It is “perches” and 40 perches = 1 rood; a perch is a square rod.

Setting the scene in early 1911

In the early 1900s, Ralph’s father and mother James and Ellen died.

William Crane, Caroline’s father, wass a 69 year old widower working as a navvy laborer in Bolton, living at 551 Radcliffe Road (this is actually still Darcy Lever and I think may be either Top o’th’ Meadows or very near it.) Living with him were his son Henry Crane, 26, also a navvy; his daughter Ann Ellen Crane, 23, a charwoman; and a grandson, William Crane, age 2. They have a boarder, James Hurst, 25. James Fletcher, William’s stepson, lives two houses down on the same road.

Caroline and Ralph lived a mile or two away, at 130 Hall Lane in Farnworth. If you look on older or present day maps, Hall Lane is a main road running from Moses Gate on the north side of Farnworth, to Little Lever a mile to the east. Early in 1911, Ralph is 45, an “out of work coal miner”. Caroline is at home. Their daughter Janet, 23, is a quilt machinist in a weaving mill. James, 20, is a “side piecer for cotton spinner” in a spinning mill. Mary Ann, 18, has the occupation of “colored weaver (cotton)”. Sarah, 16, is a quilt weaver. John, 14, is a plater in the bleachworks.

Ralph and Caroline’s oldest daughter Ellen, age 25, had just married Walter Bibby, a blacksmith in December 1910. In early 1911, they are living with Walter’s widowed mother and his two younger brothers at 10 Algernon Street in Farnworth. Later, in May 1911, Ellen’s daughter Lily was born.

I’ll write more about Caroline, Ralph, and their 6 children emigrating to Rhode Island in my next post.

William Crane died in August 1917 in Bolton. His brother John Crain died in November 1917.

To sum up Caroline’s life so far:

Caroline Crane was born the oldest child of her tailor parents, in Garstang, 1863 — in the middle of the Lancashire Cotton Famine. She spent some years of her early childhood in Barrow-in-Furness north of Morecambe Bay. Her mother died of smallpox when Caroline was 7. Caroline likely went to live with her father’s brother Henry; at age 17 she was a comber in a cotton mill in Great Lever outside of Bolton. Her father had remarried and had more children — no longer a tailor, he had lost his profession and had to turn to rougher work as an excavator and navvy in the Bolton area brickworks and mines. Caroline married at age 20 to Ralph Hutchinson, a coal miner, and had 6 children with him. Her children went into the mills as teenagers, and the family lived in various locations in the Farnworth area. In 1911, at age 45 her husband lost his job as a coal miner and the family emigrated to Pawtucket, Rhode Island, in the Blackstone Valley where the U.S.’s first cotton mill was built.

Call for stories of childhood games

I’m working on a zine (or maybe a small book) of people’s stories of games they made up as children. This can be a simple story or paragraph or two — or you can go into more detail.

Examples — in one vignette, I describe the rules of a game my sister and I would play that we called “Animal Wrestling”. In another, we get a true confession of what 4 year old me was pretending while in a bubble bath (alien planet; dome cities).

Email me your stories of home-brewed games – whether played solely in your imagination or with siblings/friends!

Jenifa taught me

While researching my family tree I have come across some interesting characters. From just a few records over the years, I try to construct a picture of someone’s life two hundred years ago. I look up the siblings, look up the neighbors, speculate, write emails to random 4th cousins, and bring it all together with solid sources.

My grandmother Esther’s parents emigrated as teenagers with their parents and siblings around 1911, all from a very specific area of Lancashire. I’ve done some work researching each branch of her family.

Here’s a chart that shows an overview of the people I’m going to write about in my next few posts.

tree showing esther's parents and grandparents

Here’s as much as I can tell about Jenny Cumpsty, one of my 4th great-grandmothers, and her daughter Jennet, tracing them and their descendents down to people in living memory. They’re the great-grandmother & grandmother of Caroline Crane from the chart above.

From studying Jenny’s family a bit further back and further onwards, it’s clear she was right on the cusp of the family’s transition from a life of agricultural labor, out in the sticks, to one of industrial work centered around growing urban areas.

For many generations, this branch of the family lived in The Fylde – an area just north of Preston, east of Blackpool, and west of Garstang – This is north of what is now Greater Manchester, south of Morecambe Bay. The land is mostly a peat bog, a lot of it below sea level.

old map of the fylde

relief map of The Fylde

Most of this branch of family were from Pilling and Stalmine. There was not even a road to Pilling until 1806. Just to set the scene, let’s read a bit about the famous Bog Burst of 1745 and the general feeling of this area of The Fylde, north of the Wyre River — Cockerham Moss.

The Pilling Moss Bog Burst of 1745 involved the eruption of the raised mire now known as Rawcliffe Moss, following a period of exceptional rain, but was probably also due to human activity, both from long-term peat-digging and also because of more recent land drainage and improvement for agriculture. More than 40 hectares of farmland were inundated, in places covered in peat up to five metres deep. Property was damaged, but no casualties were reported. Enclosure and drainage after 1830 have ensured that nothing similar can happen again.

The mosses, mosslands or raised mires of lowland Lancashire have always been a noteworthy aspect of the local landscape, in the literature often carrying more than a hint of menace. Thus William Camden [in 1637] wrote of the presence in Lancashire of ‘certaine moist places and unwholsome called Mosses’
– from The Pilling Moss Bog Burst of 1745, William D. Shannon, Contrebis 2018 v36.

Charles de Rance, a geologist, reported in the 1870s that a local proverb said, ‘Pilling Moss, like God’s grace, is boundless’. He adds, ‘this area is very thinly inhabited, and those who live in the area are, I am informed, often subject to idiotcy and rheumatism’.

The folk of Pilling, near Cockersand Abbey, had the legal right for many centuries to take stone from an outcropping in the sands just offshore, Wet Arse Scar; this right came into dispute in 1808.

Histories of the area north of the Wyre are mostly lists of the architectural features of its churches, and heraldry of the families who owned the land on which my ancestors were hapless peasants grubbing in the mud in their clogs and smocks.

Jenny was born in May 1804 in Mains in the parish of Kirkham to James, a husbandman, and his wife Sarah Kea (Key, or Kaye). (Perhaps a distant relative of John Kay who invented the flying shuttle!) Jenny was christened 17 Jun 1804 in the parish church at Poulton le Fylde (St. Chad’s).

Her father was born in Stalmine, and her mother in Hambleton. Mains, (or Maynes, or Means) Hall was a manor in Singleton which had been owned by the Hesketh family. It is in Kirkham parish, just west of Singleton and east of Poulton-le-Feeylde — right across the Wyre river from Hambleton. Jenny’s family may have been tenants on Hesketh land. Oats, barley, potatoes, and wheat were grown in this area; there were also dairy cows and sheep.

The following paragraph is from a history of a village a few miles south, on the Ribble River, describing farming families overlooking a busy road on the weekend. Though the area is not exactly correct — a more populated towns south of the Wyre — and there wasn’t a major road near Jenny’s family, I like the picture it draws of the farmers of the Fylde in their aprons and clogs.

Farming families used to stand en masse in their fields, adjoining the main road, getting their entertainment from the constant stream of traffic passing through the village at weekends, dressed in their hessian ‘Brats’ (sacking aprons) and clogs. The ‘grannies’ wore beautifully made cotton sun bonnets, intricately tucked, generally heliotrope colour and most becoming!

Another history of village life in The Fylde says,

The flat Fylde landscape was a desolate and remote area in early history and remained visited by few outsiders until the arrival of the railway. There are still vivid memories among the older inhabitants of collies sent north by rail from Welsh farms to start work on the Fylde and of calves wrapped in sacks with just their head protruding and bearing a forwarding address label.

The River Wyre, which dissects the Fylde, was a barrier between the communities of this small piece of coastal flatland but occasionally families did move across the river boundary.

During Mr Lee’s research he heard of a family who made every effort to ensure their children were safe during the hazardous journey across the tidal reaches of the River Wyre.

“They put their children into milk churns to make sure they were sufficiently immobilised to keep them safe and prevent them from falling overboard!” says Mr Lee.

Mains, Kirkham Parish

Back to our young family and Jenny’s birth in 1804 in Mains.

Jenny was the third of eight children. It seems likely she was named after her mother’s mother, Jennet Walker of Hambleton. Her name is sometimes listed as Jane, Jain, Jennet, or Jenny; surname Cumpsty, Compsty, or Compstive. In the image of her christening record below, you can find Jenny listed on the right, 5th entry down.

christening records, 1804

The British Census began in 1801, but all I have currently are birth, marriage, and death records for the early years of Jenny’s life. Still, we can construct something of a picture of her home life from her siblings’ births, and imagine her growing up as part of this large farming family.

In 1810, Jenny was 6 years old. Her older brother John was 11; her sister Alice was 8. Younger siblings were Richard, 4, and Peggy, the baby.

In 1816, Jenny was 12. John was 17, Alice, 14. Her younger siblings were Richard, 10; Peggy, 6; Sarah, 3; and James, the baby.


In 1820 Jenny was 16 years old. Her younger siblings were Richard, 14; Peggy, 10; Sarah, 7, James, 4, and Henry, the baby. The older children were born in Mains, while Henry was born in Hambleton.

It looks to me as if the family all moved to Hambleton between 1816 and 1820, perhaps to be near Jenny’s mother, Sarah Key’s, family. Enclosure was starting to affect more of The Fylde as landowners drained, fenced, and marled the peat bogs. But I don’t know why they left Mains. If I look look at which of their relatives were in Hambleton at that time, from birth, christening, marriage, and burial records, it may give clues, so I’ll try that later.

A little tidbit about Hambleton:

Dr. Charles Leigh of Singleton, writing about 1700, states that the River Wyre ‘affords us a pearl fishing, which are frequently found in large mussels, called by the inhabitants Hambleton Hookins, from their manner of taking them, which is done by plucking them from their skeers or beds with hooks.

detail map showing mains

In 1821 her oldest brother John married Nancy Green. They had a son, Richard, in 1823.

In 1824-1825, Peggy, James, and Henry died in Hambleton. Perhaps it was cholera. Whatever happened with the family that moved them across the Wyre to Hambleton, it may not have been a positive change, since within 5 years of their move, several of the younger children died. It must have been a grim time for 20 year old Jenny Cumpsty, spinster. And when she is called a spinster, it seems likely she literally was spinning by hand since the region was known for its textile production.


In June 1825, at age 25, Jenny married William Dobson of Stalmine, Moss Side. Stalmine was (and is) a small village on the Wyre river just north of Hambleton. The “moss side” was to the east of the village, away from the river and the port, and closer to the wild lands of the peat bog — here, the Pilling Moss. In the 1820s, enclosure and drainage of the Moss continued, which meant that more and more of the land & its resources that had been in common use by nearby villagers was now owned, managed, and rented as private property.

A local detail: “A curious wooden track of split oak trees laid on birchwood scrub, known as Kate’s Pad or the Dane’s Pad, crosses the moss. Pollen tests have established that it pre-dates Roman times. Farmers have dug up trees of 50 ft in length.”

stalmine map detail

Jenny and William’s marriage was in Kirkham parish (not sure exactly where). Grace Compstive was a witness, likely one of Jenny’s relatives. The other witness was William Fairclough. Neither Jenny nor William could write their names – same with their witnesses – you can see their names are all in the curate’s handwriting, with “X – his mark” or “X – her mark”.

Jenny and William had three children, John, James, and William. They lived in Stalmine Moss Side. I have not found any evidence of William’s profession.

In April 1835, Jenny’s husband William died. She was left widowed with an infant and two small children under age 6.

In October 1837, banns were read for Jenny’s marriage to John Charnley, a 40 year old lath cleaver — and widower — in Stalmine. However, John and Jenny did not marry. Jenny was born 9 months after the initial banns were read, and her sister Sarah 18 months later.

Four months after Sarah’s birth, in 1841, John Charnley married Nancy Wilson. What a cad!

Later in their lives, both Sarah and Jenny used William Dobson’s last name, like their older siblings.

Jenny Cumpsty was listed in the 1841 Census under her birth name, as a 35 year widow living in Hambleton with her 5 small children, John, James, William, Jennet, and Sarah. Jenny’s occupation is simply listed as “Pauper”.

Notice in the census record that she lived near to James Roskell and his family. And William Fairclough, who witnessed her first marriage, was another neighbor.

Out Rawcliffe

detail map rawcliffe

In 1850 Jenny married John Roskell, older brother of her neighbor James. John was a widower with children, a blacksmith in Out Rawcliffe. He also owned a small farm, and could write his name.

We can see Jenny in the 1851 Census, now married, living in Out Rawcliffe with her husband the blacksmith, her stepson Robart, 15 and an apprentice to his father; her new 5 month old baby John; her youngest daughter Sarah Dobson (really daughter of John Charnley and born out of wedlock.)

In 1851, Jenny’s older daughter Jennet Dobson, my 3rd great-grandmother, was 12, working as a house servant for a family in Nether Wyresdale. We’ll come back to Jennet, but for now let’s stick with her mother.

In 1861, Jenny and her husband John Roskell the blacksmith were now 60 and 57 years old, still lived in Out Rawcliffe. Sarah, Jenny’s daughter, still lived with them at age 20, along with her half brother John, age 10, still in school. Jenny’s mother Sarah Cumpsty, age 87, also lived with them.

Now it gets upsetting. In Feb. 1862, John Roskell was imprisoned in Preston for 9 months for “carnally knowing a girl above the age of 10 years and below the age of 12 years”. He died in 1862.

What did Jenny do to survive? What happened to Sarah, and to John Roskell junior, still a child?

(I looked – And John worked as an agricultural laborer on nearby farms until his marriage in 1877 – his daughter Elizabeth gone in 1881 to live with her uncle, Jenny Cumpsty’s son William Dobson – and I see John Roskell in the 1901 census back on a farm as an unmarried servant, a cattleman. Because of his father’s imprisonment and death, he didn’t have the chance to become a blacksmith like his older brothers did.)

Jenny’s mother Sarah Cumpsty died in 1864, age 90.

In 1868 Jenny married Sylvester Tomlinson in Garstang. Clearly, she could get it. She died shortly after, aged 64.

I see her as a tough survivor of tough times.


Back to Jenny’s daughter Jennet Dobson, my 3rd great-grandmother.

Jennet must have had a difficult childhood, as an illegitimate daughter of an impoverished widow in a small village. When her mother remarried in 1850, Jennet was 11 or 12, and she may have already been in service.

By 1851, at age 12, Jennet Dobson was in service for a farm family in Nether Wyresdale. That was probably a good thing, since her new stepdad John Roskell ended up convicted of being a child molester. The household where Jennet worked (Burn’s Farm) consisted of John Burn, 41, farmer of 104 acres; Ellenore Burn, 36; John Walker, 18, farm servant; Jane Dobson, 12, house servant; Ann Burn, 5, scholar; Jane Burn, 9 months. I picture them as a modestly well off small family with two young children, able to hire and support two extra workers in their household.

Ten years later, Jennet is working for what looks like a more wealthy family, the Heskeths of Upper Rawcliffe With Tarnacre, at Tarnacre Lane. That household was Thomas Hesketh, 74, “Farmer”; his son James, 33 and wife Emma, and their two young daughters. They had 4 servants, Jennet as the “house servant”, two 19 year old men and a 14 year old boy.

In 1863, Jennet married William Crane, a tailor, in Garstang. I’d like to see the parish record of that marriage to find out who stood up as witnesses for the young couple. That may give some clue to how they met.

10 years later, in the 1871 census, Jennet, 32, is listed as a tailoress, so likely worked with her husband. Caroline, 7, and John J., 5, are in school and they have a 1 year old sister Jane E. (I have seen her in some family trees as June Elizabeth). They lived in Barrow-on-Furness.

Caroline and John were born in Garstang, while Jane was born in Barrow-on-Furness. In 1871, the family had three lodgers, Richard (Houdan), 20, laborer; Isaac Ireland, 19; and John Eastham, 31.

Jennet died of smallpox later in 1871, leaving three children under 10.

This information about smallpox comes from my 4th cousin & fellow researcher Janette from Farnworth, who found it on Jennet’s death certificate. She also adds that William and Jennet moved to Barrow-in-Furness shortly after the railway was built across Morecambe Bay, enabling relatively easy transport. Thanks Janette!

I hope Jennet Dobson Crane had a happy life as a young wife, mother, and tailoress from 1863-1871, after her difficult youth. She got the hell out of the Moss lands of Over Wyre, a place that sounded entirely too Moist, even if now the little bits of it that remain are lovely nature preserves. Good work Jennet, rest in peace!

It is hard to picture what would then have happened to Jennet’s young children, including Caroline. Maybe they went to live with their grandfather or other relatives – a few years later she is living with her father’s sister. This crisis may have motivated changes that meant a year later William has moved to a bigger town (Farnworth) and is working as a brickmaker. He and his sons worked in coal mines and Caroline in the cotton mills around Farnworth and Darcy Lever. As I’ll trace in my next post, Caroline and family came to the U.S. to work in the cotton mills of Rhode Island.

There is a lot to say about the mid-1850s cotton mill industry in Lancashire, and the coal mines – I hope to go into some of those details!

Caroline was my grandmother’s grandmother and though she died before I was born, it’s interesting to trace these echoes of her past.

Here she is in 1942 with her son James Hutchinson, her granddaughter (my great-aunt Gladys), and a great-grandson. They came a long way from their ancestral lands of The Fylde!

caroline crane

Beach farm time

Our fridge is still broken. I kept going down to the bottom of the hill today to see if the appliance repair place had unbolted its door to no avail. Later in the afternoon I ran into the owner and he said his wife had been sick and he would try to come tomorrow – and that it is not the rona. I hope she will be ok – she often sits outside the shop in the sun on a folding chair and we say hello though we don’t know each others’ names.

my drawing of some shops

As I was establishing this with the repair guy on the sidewalk outside his shop I ran into Annalee and Jesse – which was hugely cheering – oh how nice it will be to really get to see friends again.

I cleaned out the shed today and put some more stuff up in the Buy Nothing group – Played Stardew Valley 1.5 with a new beach farm – I am starting to hit some new things like Willy’s new plot line.

I wrote a little in my notebook in the morning, which seems like a good sign.

Reading Walter Moseley books, one after the other, very quickly – in the middle of that binge, somewhere, John Le Carre died. I realized I’d never read his latest book so I plowed through that (barely remembering who Guillam was though it started coming back to me). Last week I also had an odd interlude for several L.M. Montgomery books – not the Anne ones but the other popular one – Emily of New Moon. Then a long after prequel about Marilla which was more successful and interesting than I had hoped – maybe showing her as just a bit non neurotypical in some way – And certainly sympathetic. (Spoiler – she helps with the Canada end of the Underground Railroad.)

We went up to the top of Bernal Hill and had a look at Jupiter and Saturn in the early evening yesterday. They were very close! Saturn looked sort of oblong through binoculars, so I guess that was the rings – I could not see Jupiter’s moons as it wasn’t dark enough and the air was kind of misty & my binocs maybe aren’t powerful enough. We took photos through a little tiny scope that clips onto your cameraphone.

Just as the sun was setting I felt comfortable. As it got darker it felt like people got louder and more excited- the crowd on the hill grew – no one crowding us and yet just the sight of everyone looking too close together and the hubbub noise turning to nonsense in my lack of auditory processing started to freak me out.

Increasingly, people I know have a relative or friend ill with COVID-19 and some people are going through having it. Several people I know (health care workers mostly) have gotten vaccinated.

I wrote up a summary of the year for the APAzine I’m part of but didn’t do the proper thing and catch up and respond to each other person’s previous zine pages. Resolving to do it better next time and really catch up after my year long hiatus.

Domestic engineering holiday

A rare occasion – I have two weeks off work, am not travelling anywhere and my mobility is really good. And yet, maybe from the pandemic or maybe general burnout, I have not had much creative drive this year. Little sparks here and there but nothing sustained. So I’m going to do house and garden projects, mostly massive decluttering and organizing. I feel a little boring and sad. Of course I’m relieved not to have gotten the rona so far — with the vaccine now in sight. Maybe some of the zine ideas in progress will start coming together. And I will try to write a post every day during the vacation, no matter how mundane my nattering!

On the weekend I cleaned out our closet. Things are now sorted nicely on the hangers. Some stuff was donated or put in boxes or into the shed. My active pairs of shoes are organized: blue jafa boots, identical red jafa boots that I hand dyed on a low bookshelf; tall jafa boots at the top of the closet with things in them to keep them upright; non-ugly sandals with some kind of orthopedic cork action in the sole; and my house crocs with arch supports stuck into them with masking tape. I still have my adorable purple brass-button-front boots (newly conditioned and polished) but haven’t tried them to see if my (always painful) feet can tolerate them again. The best shoes for horrible foot and ankle pain so far have been Naots (with Shell sole) and Jafa – pro tip – much much better than the standard rec people give (Danskos). Still in the shed: My derby fluevog boots which I can’t quite bear to get rid of, in hopes I can wear them again someday.

Yesterday I put up an extra little shelf and some hooks high up in the bathroom. My nicer silk opera scarves and ties are hanging there now, with woolly or fluffier scarves still on the back of the bedroom door. There is now a sort of extra scarf ball (like a ball of mating rattlesnakes) stuffed into a bin under the bed. It is very satisfying to get out my drill, stud finder, boxes of screws and anchor thingies, stepladder, etc. — feeling handy around the house to the point of smug.

bathroom wall

Then I noticed that the fridge broke.

Then Stardew Valley 1.5 came out.

Sooooo other than cleaning out the entire fridge and folding a load of laundry with one more to go, I might not do much today other than play Stardew! The fridge repair guy is coming from the appliance shop just down the street, tomorrow morning to take a look. At the door as we discussed this he said he’d come by and I asked stupidly if he knows the address. Duh he knows where I live, we are a block away (I can see the store from our porch) and his crew has been up here 3 times already this year when the first fridge broke; plus, I am fairly memorable, as is our weird little witch house!

My beach farm is cute as hell. Laptop has some keys that stick and I cannot get Danny’s game controllers to work with it so I am starting to use some of the CJB Cheats just to spare my hands.

Please wish me luck in having anything creative come back to me at all – it’s so depressing – Dossie sent me a poem and I had absolutely nothing to send back. Will write a letter.

Festival of the battling bugs

My dad has been uploading photos from his mother’s albums and there is an interesting page of a religious festival in San Francisco de Yare in Venezuela. I vaguely remember him telling me stories about that or something similar and we made terrifying paper maché masks for some occasion (Maybe just for something fun to do).

A photo from my dad’s slides that I digitized some years ago:
devil dancer

And here are some of the pics with captions from my grandma’s album.
dancing devils festival

I believe we should have not only fabulous monuments to the Internet and other technical achievements but we should have amazing festivals. As I read out the description of the devils approaching the church, singing décimas and then kneeling in submission, Danny suggested a ceremonial Battle of the Bugs. Noisebridge could host a giant parade where we enact open source bugs (the demons) and the developers defeating them. I can picture different contingents acting out their particular dramas. I bet it would be easy to get companies as well as open source projects to participate.

I just love secular festivals and while I would not advocate stealing anything specific from this Venezuelan folkloric tradition it would be very cool to create some new festivals that are more like a giant participatory play, with dramas enacted, than a parade where we just walk around.

Suddenly imagining the Internet Drama play of the Content Moderators. Wow! It would be amazing!!!!

The mysterious aircar

By reading several locked room mysteries that refer to other locked room mysteries I have gone from The Honjin Murders by Seishi Yokomizo, to The Mystery of the Yellow Room by Gaston Leroux, to John Dickson Carr’s The Hollow Man, to Anna Katherine Green‘s Initials Only.

Initials Only is quite a trip. The murder victim, Edith Challoner, is a fancy society lady with a heart of gold. Unfortunately a heart pierced by a mysterious unfindable weapon though I am pretty sure I know what it is. No one even noticed the wound at first, since she was wearing a giant bouquet of poinsetta flowers pinned to her bosom. There was no blood – then after a few minutes…BLOOD. HMMMMMM. I leave you to imagine the bosom which could pull off a giant poinsetta arrangement.

An inventor, Orlando Brotherson — who is also a skilled, respected anarchist organizer and orator — is in love with Edith, but was scorned and may have sent her a threatening letter. Meanwhile there are some letters he wrote to her, and letters she wrote to someone but never sent, and some entirely different letters from someone else with the initials O.B. who turns out to be Oswald Brotherson, Orlando’s brother, who manages a mill or foundry or something.

No one knew in 1911 how comical this would sound since there is a brand of tampon called O.B. — Bless their hearts.

Sweetwater, the detective, is hot on the anarchist’s trail, becomes his neighbor while working as a skilled carpenter, and spies on him through a hole bored in the wall.

Oswald collapsed from typhoid fever on the same day as Edith’s murder – nearly dies — is nursed back to health by Doris, an 17 year old small town beauty – And Orlando shows up on his doorstep with truckloads of supplies to build his invention in a giant shed.

The invention turns out to be a helicopter (this is 1911, were there actual helicopters yet?!) which for no good reason at all they launch in a hurricane.

BTW I am not done but am pretty sure the inventor killed Edith with a gun that fired an icicle. Just out of arrogance? I mean, he decided just before he went up in the helicopter that really he never loved Edith anyway and 17 year old Doris is his real true love.

Huge props to this book for the poinsettas, dangerous anarchists, helicopter, and icicle gun (will update if that is really what the weapon was!)

Just realized I have no idea what O.B. stands for (the tampon brand) and so looked it up. “The product was named by the gynecologist Judith Esser-Mittag who also developed it. The initials “o.b.” are an abbreviation of the German phrase “ohne Binde.”

p.s. On helicopters: In July 1901, the maiden flight of Hermann Ganswindt’s helicopter took place in Berlin-Schöneberg; this was probably the first heavier-than-air motor-driven flight carrying humans. A movie covering the event was taken by Max Skladanowsky, but it remains lost.”

I miss the Before Times

For months I think of posting and then turn instead to a book or a game, Animal Crossing or Stardew Valley, endless fantasy and science fiction, mystery and romance novels. How to capture any of this? The feeling of the slide to fascism along with climate crisis after crisis. I’ve always said that my hope in life is to avoid living in a country with an active war going on around me, with a side bonus of continuing to have drinkable running water and electricity. Am I going to get to live out my life with those hopes fulfilled or what? The uncertainty on those points continues to grow. Are these, actually, still the Before Times, when we used to have it good, and we don’t know it yet? Horrors.

Work gave us an extra day off last Friday, just because of the stress of the pandemic and the wildfires and bad air. Since the air is so bad, more or less everywhere we could reach, and it was also 100 degrees out (no exaggeration) we spent the 4 day weekend opening the windows any time the air was either cooled off or below 50 on the air quality index, then shutting windows again and running all the air filters. I’m feeling my asthma all the time now with the tight chest and tense, anxious feeling that goes with it. Checking PurpleAir and various fire maps, checking my handheld air quality monitor many times a day inside and outside, taking more showers and cold baths, mopping the floor by skating around with bare feet on wet dishclothes to cool off the room.

I spent a day and a half doing geneology reserach and writing up a narrative of the lives of a great great great grandfather William and his family and then the same for his daughter, my great great grandmother Caroline Crane. You can see the family go from the early 1800s agricultural laborers in a very peaty, marshy bit of Lancashire near Garstang, to William in 1851 getting to go to school till around age 8, then being apprenticed a bit later to a tailor. He was moving on up; he was literate enough to write his name, while his father and grandfather were not. I traced his movements through 3 marriages; he lost his tailoring business and ended up in a brickyard, then as a navvy in a coal mine at Darcy Lever, where his oldest daughter married a collier, James Hutchinson.

This branch of the family was full of examples of both collier and spinner/weaver/comber/whatever in the mills. Whether mines or mills, some patterns emerged. Maybe some schooling up to age 8 or 9, gradually increasing to age 11 or 12 if you were lucky later in the century. A relatively idyllic looking time as a young adult in your own household with a family of young children — if anyone was in school, and if the woman of the house wasn’t in a mill, you were doing GREAT. Then relatives either start moving in as they age or their spouses or parents die, then a couple of decades later you are living in some other 30 year old relative’s house.

I was able to follow James and Caroline’s life in Lancashire for a while. Then in 1911 45 year old James was out of work, and emigrated to the U.S. along with a neighbor. They ended up in Rhode Island where a bunch of my family is from. James and Caroline brought up a great-aunt who I know, so they don’t feel very distant, though they both died before I was born.

After my historical journey I read a book from 1931 called Boy, by James Hanley, about a Lancashire dockworker’s son who is forced to leave school at age 13 by his family to be a dockworker himself. The jobs are horrible and the other teenage workers abusive. (SPOILER ALERT) He then stows away on a seagoing vessel where he becomes basically a slave of the crew, who mostly try to rape him or push him around. He agonizes about his future. Cheerily, he then get syphilis in Alexandria. The captain murders him and throws his body overboard. It was an amazingly written book and I’d say, emotionally stunning. New vow to read everything by James Hanley. But I felt the weekend of 100+ heat and no good air to breathe might be better faced with a more formulaic series….I then plowed through all eight romance novels about the Bridgerton siblings (one book per sibling) by Julia Quinn. They are too mainstream heterosexual for me to be honest but I can “bracket” that by rolling my eyes or some sort of mental magic and they were funny and cute enough to be fun to read. I would also like to complain about how this sort of sex scene is written but there’s no point, let’s just know that it’s completely alien to me and I feel deeply grateful that is so. Nearly ready now to return to the land of war, the ocean, gritty, miserable generational poverty and abuse, etc that James Hanley shall bring me.

Still playing Animal Crossing, and still at the end stage of Spiritfarer, with only Buck and Elena on my enormous boat now, more or less ready to have Stella and Daffodil go through the Everdoor, not without crying I’m sure.