Wouldn’t it be great if we could jump in our time machines and interview our ancestors? What questions would we ask? What secrets would they reveal? GeneaBlogger’s prompt Wishful Wednesday gives us an opportunity to imagine such a meeting.
Today, my choice is my great-great grandmother, Elizabeth “Rose” Webb. The place: somewhere in England, most likely Hampshire county where she was born. Rose was a middle daughter of George Webb, a master mariner, and his second wife, Louisa Bedford. They lived in the hamlet of Woolston, a town with Norwegian roots dating back to the 10th century. The date is December 23, 1893, a few days before Christmas Day and the day Rose turned sixteen.
Like other girls her age who are not privileged at birth, Rose has left school and is now ‘in service’; a polite way of saying she works as a domestic servant in the home of a wealthier family. Her duties would include cooking and cleaning, along with caring for any children her employer may have. Her days would be long and tiring. Rose would wake early to build the fire to warm the house and to prepare the morning meal. Before the end of the day, she would ensure the chamber pots were emptied. It was a hard life but Rose comes from a middle class family so there is hope that within her social circle she will meet a man of good means who would take her for his wife. She would give birth to children, attend church on Sunday and engage in less demanding work, such a needlework or mending.
I am sure that is what you dreamed of. What I want to know is where did all go wrong?
I wish you and I could sit down together for a cup of tea and maybe a biscuit. I want to know about the child you are carrying, the little girl who will one day be my grandmother. I want to know who the father is and why he did not support you, either through marriage or finances. Was it because he was already married? Or was he just a stranger in the night. I have to be honest, it’s difficult for me to imagine girls in your time having sex outside of marriage but you probably would blush and say girls will be girls.
Do you love him? Does he love you?
I want to know about your parents because looking back on your life with 21st century eyes, they seem more supportive than one would expect. It was customary for pregnant girls to be sent off to another town to have their child in secret. And for those who could not care for themselves financially, there was also the work house. But you did neither. You will give birth in your parents home and I have to wonder what kind of people they were to have been so kind.
Please understand, there is no judgment here, only questions.
I wish I could give you hope that all will be well, but I know how your story ends, and it is not a happy ending.