Sunday, March 27, 2011

Census Day

The 2011 census is a 32-page booklet, full of questions about everybody in the household. A hundred years ago, it was just one sheet of paper, with instructions on the back, and a form to fill in on the front. Census day in 1911 was April 3rd, but I'll be away from the computer then, so this seems as good a time as any to subject you all to one final exhaustive summary of the Pridmore family. If nothing else, this is a good place for me to compile all my notes about them...

My great-grandfather William Thomas Pridmore (02/08/1855 - 02/05/1932) and his offspring are the family members who fascinate me the most in all of my family-tree research. For one thing, William's ancestors are easier to trace than usual, just because there aren't many of them - William was illegitimate, whether or not he knew who his father was I can't say, but I certainly don't, and there seems to be no way we're ever going to find out. His mother, Eliza Pridmore (c1835 - August 1886) was also illegitimate, and her father is equally unknown to posterity. William thus has only one grandparent to trace, rather than the usual four - Jane Pridmore (1816 - 1870s). We have to go back as far as Jane's parents, James Pridmore (1777 - 1848) and Elizabeth Ward (1787 - 1867) before the family tree branches out any further. And with the big generation gaps in my own branch of the family tree (I was born 121 years after William), the Pridmores obligingly give me much fewer 18th-century ancestors to research!

Furthermore, William was the one who moved the family in around 1880 to the industrial city of Sheffield from the tiny farming village of Pickworth that he grew up in. And he produced a vast legion of offspring who almost all stayed in Sheffield for the rest of their lives and produced hordes of children themselves. William had 13 children and 36 grandchildren, though he didn't live to see all of them born, and researching them has been no end of fun.

They all seem to have individual personalities bursting from the dry records of births, marriages and deaths, so much so that I almost feel like I know them. There are plenty of things that the records just don't tell us, obviously - given the time and place that he lived, I'd say William was probably known as Bill to his friends, but there's no record of that. I don't know if it was his idea or Eliza's to move the whole family to Sheffield, just that they all lived there together for a while; Eliza, her husband and her four children, including William who had grown up with his grandmother while Eliza moved away with her new family. The records tell us that William struggled to find work for the first few years in the city, was a boiler firer at the ironworks for eight years, spent a few more years floating from job to job and then settled into a successful and long career as a bricklayer, but I don't know whether that was the job he'd always wanted or something he ended up doing without really meaning to.

I do know that William outlived the majority of his children. Three of them - Beatrice (06/05/1887 - 01/04/1889), George Richard (06/11/1890 - 29/09/1891) and Percy (16/07/1898 - 28/07/1899) - died in infancy, then four sons were killed in the First World War, followed by William's wife, a daughter and another son in a pneumonia epidemic of 1920-21. Just four out of thirteen living to old age is a low ratio even by the standards of Sheffield in those days.

Here's his census form from one hundred years ago:

The Pridmores had only recently moved into 34 Hunt Street, within the last couple of years. A five-room house was something of a luxury compared to the places they'd lived while bringing up their large family. They'd got it, I'm guessing from circumstantial evidence, with the help of the money of the Palmer family William's daughter Florence married into. It remained the family home until at least the forties, passing to Oswald (he being the only child of William's who had never married and left home) after the parents died.

William and Sarah had married in the rural wilds of Rutland when he was 21 and she was 17. She was also five months pregnant at the time - this seems to have been the rule rather than the exception in all the marriages I've seen in that area at that time. How well they got along is something we can only speculate, but Sarah continued to have a baby every couple of years on average until she was over forty years old. She died of pneumonia in 1920, aged 59.

Starting with the youngest, the ten surviving children of the marriage were:

Sydney Pridmore (06/05/1900 - early 1982), called 'Sidney' above, but changed it to Syd by the 1920s, determinedly followed in his father's footsteps by living and working in Sheffield his whole life, first as a general labourer like most of the rest of his family, then becoming a railway porter in 1923. He stayed with the railways forever after, by 1940 moving from porter to shunter. Also in the early twenties, he and his wife Catherine (nee Millership) moved to 72 Robey Street, which became the family home for decades. He followed the Pridmore tradition by having an army of sons, the last of whom was my dad, and also one daughter just to show that the Pridmore y-chromosome isn't completely infallible. After Catherine died in 1960, daughter Cath took over the 'woman of the house' duties. Syd passed a passion for trains onto his offspring, and must have been a pretty contented man, all in all. He died when I was five, I just barely remember him. His children, without the hardships and diseases of the first couple of decades of the century, lived long lives - with the exception of Philip, who died of diptheria aged five, they all lived to see the 21st century.

They were: William Thomas (Bill, born 18/09/1922), Arthur Edward (Ted, 08/11/1923), Sydney (Syd, 07/03/1926), Catherine (Cath, 24/07/1927), twins Michael (Mike) and Philip (02/11/1929), Lawrence (Lol, 27/01/1931), Samuel Bernard (Bernie, 08/03/1934), Cyril (08/01/1936), Robert (02/01/1940) and George (28/09/1946).

The reason behind the names is intriguing. William Thomas was obviously Syd's father's name; the traditional way to follow it would be to call the second son Sydney, but instead they went for Arthur Edward, who I suppose must have been Syd's favourite older brother - one of the four who died in the war. It's not a Millership name, certainly. Then, after Sydney junior joins the family, we move on to Catherine junior and then a more random selection of names for the subsequent sons. Samuel Bernard was one of Catherine's brothers, while George was another of Syd's. Whether it was a deliberate naming or just for want of any other boys' names left that hadn't been used, I don't know, but I think it was appropriate. Both Georges were the brains of their families, from what I can see.

George Harry Pridmore (23/06/1896 - 31/08/1918), who was in what seems to me the awkward situation of being named after a dead brother (recycling of names of dead infants was very common in those days), an errand boy in 1911, later became a labourer at the steel works, but only until he was old enough to join the army. The first world war broke out shortly after his eighteenth birthday, and it was both the making and the death of him. He was on the front lines from 1916, quickly promoted to corporal, was wounded in action and was then sent to Scotland for officer training, while the rest of the family remained in the rank and file. On leave in 1917, he went back to Sheffield and married May Foster, then was commissioned Second Lieutenant and posted back to the fighting in France. He might have gone on to life in an altogether higher social circle than the Pridmore family had experienced before, but he was killed in action, aged 22, two months before the end of the war.

Oswald Pridmore (18/12/1893 - 24/10/1967) was a bachelor boy. While his brothers and sisters married and moved away from home one by one, Oswald kept on living with his parents, a single man. Whether he fought in the war, I don't know. He would have been called up in January 1916, like all single men, but two-thirds of the army records from that time were destroyed during the second world war, and the paperwork that would tell us whether Oswald was fit for military service seems to have gone up in smoke. He worked at the gasworks for most of his life. After his mother died in 1920, he and his father were left to rattle around the big house in Hunt Street for another twelve years. When William died in 1932, Oswald inherited the house and lived there alone.

Then, in 1944, at the age of fifty, Oswald married Annie Askham, a 42-year-old spinster. What persuaded them to take the plunge at that late age I can't imagine, but the marriage lasted until Oswald's death 23 years later. After the war, they moved to the Park Hill Flats, finally leaving the Hunt Street house behind.

Wilfred Pridmore (12/03/1892 - 08/03/1921) moved around from one job to another for all his short life. A labourer in 1911, a carter when he married in 1913, a soldier for a short time before leaving the army on a pension, presumably in ill health, then a file stripper at the time of his death from 'pneumonia and asthenia' just before his 29th birthday. Wilfred married Chloris Gertrude Moorhouse at the age of 21 - she was the daughter of a jeweller with a penchant for unusual names; she had a sister called Dacier. They had no children. I'm assuming that it was because of Wilfred's poor health that his death certificate records him as living with his sisters' families at 10 Brough Street, while Chloris (who registered the death) was living on Silver Street, but it's not impossible that they had separated. Chloris also died quite young, of cancer in 1933.

Lilian May Pridmore (12/05/1889 - 02/06/1968) was a servant in 1911. Many women of her class and generation were already married and a mother several times over by the age of 21, but Lilian was 28 before she married John Charles May in 1917. They must have known each other for many years before that - John's older sister had been living with Lilian's older brother since 1900 - but their first child was born a respectable ten months after the Christmas Day wedding, so there was no urgent need to tie the knot at that time. John was thirty and not in the army, so he must have been unfit in some way.

Lilian May May, as her marriage renamed her, had four children: Charles William (04/11/1918 - the birth was registered on Armistice Day), Florence (08/11/1919), Lilian (31/03/1921) and Mary Ann (25/10/1922). The Mays lived at 10 Brough Street along with Lilian's older sister Florence and her family, also taking in younger brother Wilfred. They moved away in 1926, I don't know where they went, but by the time of her old age Lilian had left Sheffield and even Yorkshire behind, and was living in Droylsden, Lancashire when she died at the age of 79. Her daughter Florence was still in Sheffield to witness Oswald's late wedding in 1944, so I assume the big move to Lancashire came after the war.

Florence Pridmore (08/04/1885 - 13/05/1920) married John (or maybe James) William Palmer at the age of 23, and he seems to have been quite a catch. The Palmers lived at first at 34 Hunt Street, all five rooms of it, before apparently swapping houses with Florence's parents and going to the slightly smaller house on Daisy Walk that the Pridmores had lived in before. Four rooms to themselves was still above the norm for Florence's siblings.

Florence's husband, with the unusual profession of 'mineral water carter', seems to have had a strangely fluctuating name. He was born John, was married under that name, but at the birth of their first child nine and a half months later, had changed his name (and that of their son) to James. He's still James in the 1911 census, but by the time their second son was born, later the same year, he's John again, remaining a John until 1914. He joined the army and fought in the war. Florence moved into Brough Street with Lilian, and James (as he was now calling himself again) joined them there after the war was over, working as a stableman. Their children were James William (17/05/1909), Norman (17/10/1911) and Jennie (17/06/1914).

Florence died of pneumonia in May 1920, aged 35, just seven days before her mother died of the same illness. James and the children continued to live with Lilian and her family, even after James remarried in early 1926.

Arthur Edward Pridmore (01/04/1883 - 18/10/1914) was a soldier. It was something he did for his whole life, from joining the army at 18 to fight the Boer War, to dying at Ypres at 31 years old. His active service and career as a recruiting sergeant took him away from the family home in Sheffield - when he married the widowed Annie Ashworth in 1909, he was in barracks in Southampton. Maybe it was the distance from the rest of his family, maybe it was the fact that Annie's father had been a sergeant-major, or that he was Irish, maybe it was just a creative imagination, but Arthur gave his father's occupation as 'master brewer', as opposed to 'bricklayer', on the marriage certificate. They had no children. Soldiers of his rank marrying was tolerated by the higher-ups, having children was unofficially somewhat frowned upon - distracts them from their duties, you know. Who their baby visitor recorded on the census form was, I have no idea. But when war broke out, Arthur was in the British Expeditionary Force and in the thick of the first fighting. Sadly, though, he didn't last long.

John Thomas Pridmore (23/02/1881 - 14/10/1914) seems to have struggled to find a direction in life. He was the first of the family to join the army, and fought in South Africa throughout the Boer War. Despite his 1899-1902 medal, he never moved up the ranks like his younger brother Arthur. Posted to York in 1907, he met and married Harriet Annie Myton (in the register office, the first non-church wedding in the family), leaving the army after the birth of their first son. He took his wife and baby back to Sheffield, moving in with his ever-accommodating oldest brother Ernest (after whom the baby had been named) and drifting from one job to another rapidly over the next few years - railway labourer, porter, steelworker and then soldier again when war broke out. Still a Private, he was among the first British soldiers killed as the army slowly advanced towards Ypres.

John and Harriet had three children: Ernest William (13/03/1908), Gladys (03/05/1910) and Frederick (14/07/1913).

Albert Pridmore (01/05/1879 - 22/06/1917) wasn't married, despite what the census form says. He had been living with Margaret May since 1900, she was known as Margaret Pridmore, and they had had six children, but they had never tied the knot. Margaret (and her younger brother John, who married Lilian) were born Richardsons, out of wedlock, and changed their surnames to May when their mother married. Perhaps that's why she and Albert didn't see it necessary to get married. Nonetheless, in December 1913, with Margaret seven months pregnant with their seventh child, Albert belatedly made an honest woman of her in the register office. Why then, after thirteen years of common-law marriage, I can't imagine.

Their children were: Albert (24/03/1901), Frederick (16/08/1903), Lily (22/11/1904), George (11/01/1907), Ernest (04/11/1908), Harold (13/12/1910) and Mary (05/03/1914). Frederick and Lily died in infancy, and Albert junior met a tragic end in 1915. At the age of 14, he was working as a wagon greaser on the railway when he was run over by a train and killed. The death certificate records "Accidentally killed, his leg being cut off by his being run over by a railway engine or a goods train." That they didn't know which train had done it, and the nature of the injury, makes me think the death wasn't quick or pleasant. This makes me wonder about my grandfather Syd - although he and Albert were uncle and nephew there was less than a year in age between them, they lived in the same area and their fathers had worked together as bricklayers. Syd's life on the railways came after losing his close relative in that way when they were boys.

Albert senior thus had a more tragic Great War than most. He joined up shortly before his son's death - at the age of 36, with a wife and five children to support and his two brothers already killed, I can't imagine he was enthusiastic about it. When he died, it wasn't even quick; he was wounded on 2 May 1917, shipped back to Bradford hospital for treatment and died on 22 June. Margaret, with her four remaining children still all very young, worked as a charwoman, and in 1919 had an illegitimate son, John - who carried on the name Pridmore, despite not being a blood relative. Who his father was I don't know, but I hope he at least helped Margaret out with some cash.

Ernest William Pridmore (28/07/1877 - 06/10/1948) seems to have been a well-respected oldest brother - Albert and John both named sons after him. Unlike his brothers, he came through the war without joining the fighting, probably for medical reasons. He was within the upper age limit for conscription, just, but throughout the war and afterwards worked at the steelworks. His school records twice show him absent for long periods due to medical certificates, but whatever his infirmity was, it didn't stop him producing a big family. The juggling act of fitting all his children and various boarders into his three rooms doesn't seem to have bothered him either - the lodgers shown on the census are his wife's father and brother, and the previous year he had accommodated his own brother John and family when they returned to Sheffield. That small house on Shepherd Street had been their home for nearly ten years, and Ernest remained there until at least 1928.

He and his wife Elizabeth had eight children: William (29/12/1901), Eliza (04/11/1903), Nellie (06/03/1906), Lilian (20/07/1908), Elizabeth (06/06/1911), Ernest (02/06/1914), Hilda (28/02/1916) and Rose (02/07/1918). The preponderance of girls, unlike the usual Pridmore boy-centric families, makes me wonder if Elizabeth was cheating on him. Eliza and Ernest junior died in infancy, but Hilda just passed away last year, at the age of 94.

Which seems like a positive note to end on. I really like this family!


Geoff said...

If being a professional layabout doesn't work out, you could probably find people willing to pay you to write histories of their families.

Zoomy said...

Yes, but, see, they wouldn't be my family, so I wouldn't be interested. Would anyone like to pay me to write about my own relatives?

Barbara said...

I only recently came across your blog - and it is fascinating! You have written about my family!! Albert Pridmore (Sydney's brother) was my grandfather. His son Ernest Pridmore was my father! My brother John Ernest researched and drew up a family tree a number of years ago but I have learned so much more from your blog! My brother sadly passed away in 2005 but I know he would have been so interested in it too! My father never talked about his parents or deceased siblings. I knew his parents had both died while he was young but never really knew the circumstances. You mentioned you didn't know who John William Pridmore's father was. My brother came up with the name John William Duffy although I have no other data.
You didn't say but I presumed that your father was George, the youngest of Sydney's sons. So he would have been my father's cousin, Sydney being his uncle. I think that makes you my second cousin. I'm still going through the wealth of information you supplied and trying to incorporate it into a new tree.
Naturally, I did a bit of research to find out about you and came up with some impressive stuff. And, for some reason you remind me of my brother.

Zoomy said...

Hi, Barbara, thanks so much for commenting! It's great to hear from another branch of the family! Yes, George was my dad, he was never really close to his many siblings and as far as I can remember he never so much as mentioned all his uncles and aunts (lots of them died decades before he was born). I only found out about most of the people mentioned in this blog in the last year or so of research...

Thanks for the information! I'm glad to hear that Albert's family line is still going on - I haven't followed up the next generation of Pridmores yet, that's a project for when I next have a lot of time on my hands - and it's great to have a name for John William's father! I'd love to see your family tree and pick up any other family history that I've missed!

I think I feel more sorry for Albert than any of the others - I can't help feeling that he joined the army out of a sense of patriotism once he was sure that his 14-year-old son was in a position to take over as the man of the house, only for Albert junior to be killed a couple of months later, leaving the other children aged 8, 6, 4 and 1 to end up as orphans...

roy.stacey said...

I stumbled upon your blogs about the Pridmore family and quickly realized that we are related.
I think you must be a first cousin although you seem to be young compared to me!
I am Roy Stacey the youngest son of Elizabeth Pridmore who was the daughter of Ernest William Pridmore(the one with all the daughters!)
The information you have shown about the Pridmores is fascinating and much more comprehensive than my efforts to date. I have been able to fill in some of the blanks with your info.and for this I am grateful.
I think it's great that for someone so relatively young you are obviously so interested in your family history!
Our great uncle George Harry the second Lieut. is of special interest. How did this lad (who resembles me when I was young!)with his background and obvious lack of education achieve so much. I can only imagine that he must have done something during his early service to single him out for greater things.
As I live in Sheffield I recently visited the church where he was married to Sarah Jane and it's quite close to where they used to live.
To have an officer and a world champion memory man in the family is quite something! T!
his could only be bettered by discovering that we had an ex professional Sheffield Wednesday footballer in the family who happened to score a winning penalty against Germany.
I do have a photo of all the Pridmore girls together which we have always referred to as "The Big Five" and if the system allows me I will send you a copy of this for your records if interested. I hope this info. reaches you OK as this is the first time that I have tried to reply to any blogs.
With best wishes for all your future competitions.



Zoomy said...

Hi Roy! Thanks for the message, it's great to hear from another descendant of the people in this blog entry!

I'd really love to see the photo - if you want to email me, the address is zoom_zoom_ben at

George Harry fascinates me, too - I'd love to know how he came to be picked out as officer material...