Friday, 17 November 2017

The Keeper Of Lost Causes -Tackling The Family Albums


I come from a long line of hoarders. The dress my great grandma wore for her wedding in 1906 lives in the bottom of my wardrobe, my great great grandma's mourning jacket hangs on a rail encased in a suit carrier and my great great grandpa's top hat lives in a box on top of a cupboard. You'll find the Chinese parasol Grandma and her sisters played dress up with as children in the umbrella stand in our hall and her collection of Victorian mourning jewellery is safely stashed away in a box in my dressing table.

Inherited stuff - Victorian top hat, shot silk and velvet mourning jacket with jet beading and my ivory Edwardian wedding dress

Great grandpa's Cheshire Rifleman's regimental jacket survived the Boer War and now lives, complete with the corresponding waistcoat, on a vintage French mannequin in the dining room, occasionally worn by me.


But what of the endless paperwork and photographs my family have held on to for over a hundred years? Newspaper cuttings, party invitations, greetings cards, tickets, travel passes, identity cards, letters, postcards, holiday snaps, wedding photos, mementos of family gatherings and even envelopes of hair stuffed in lidless shoe boxes and yellowing paper folders, crammed into dressers and chests of drawers gathering dust and largely ignored for most of the past century.


With my brother uninterested and our house already bursting at the seams, I've spent at least an hour a day this week trawling through all the boxes, reading letters, retrieving interesting photos from the endless envelopes and unearthing the odd curiosity, finally managing to whittle down a century of memories into a single (vintage) album.


Here's Thomas William Harris, Mum's paternal grandfather, outside Grandpa's childhood home, Hamble Cottage in Kings Avenue, Stone in Staffordshire.


I knew my Grandma's father worked for the railways but had no idea that my Grandpa's father also did. I found his first class rail passes from 1916 and 1920 in amongst the boxes of stuff. While researching them I found an eBay seller listing a single "specimen" one for £145!


I also found this letter from the London-based chairman of the London, Midland and Scottish Railway Company awarding him a medal for remaining at work during the General Strike of 1926.


The Coppack family were cousins of my Grandma and also family legends. John Coppack married Sarah Ellen Davies in 1859 and had fourteen children (William, Annetta, Elizabeth, Isabella, Agnes, John, Florence, Mary, Evelyn, Fred, Ernest, Harold, Cecil and Anne) all of whom survived into adulthood.


My Grandma's mother was one of seven sisters. I'm not sure which one she is (possibly seated, second on the right) but I think the mother is wearing the mourning jacket I inherited.


Here she is again. How incredible is that dress?


Here she is with my great grandpa. The scribble on the back of the photo reads "Silver Wedding 1888 - 1913". I don't think it was a happy marriage. My Grandma told us that he was a notorious womaniser and her older sisters were often sent off to retrieve him from public houses around Chester.


My Dad's James Bond lifestyle - exotic places, beautiful women, fast cars, daring pursuits and mysterious foreign gentlemen. These photographs were taken in 1949.


Meanwhile, also in 1949, while Dad was gallivanting with glamorous brunettes, hanging out with Moroccans on the Champs Elysee and climbing mountains here's Mum, still a little girl, off to catch a train from Chester station with my Grandma and her other sister, my amazing Great Auntie Maud.


I'm assuming one of these Victorian schoolboys at the British School in Chester is my Great grandfather. I'm loving the teacher in the bowler hat. 


Here's the Crosby family (Grandma, her sisters, parents and family friends) on a trip over the border to Rhyl in North Wales in 1924 ..... and there's my parasol!



A few snapshots from my maternal grandpa's life. Reg was an only child, born in 1913. He qualified and worked as a chartered accountant but the love of his life was cricket, acting as a scout for Worcestershire C.C.C for many years. His mother, Mary Alice Chapman (b. 1880) was the original wearer of my wedding dress.


Here's Grandpa as a boy. I loved this poem his Aunt Dorothy (b.1884) wrote to little Reg in 1919 about her recovery from Spanish 'Flu - which between 1918 and 1920 claimed more victims than WWI.

Here's Mum with her youth club gang, busking their way around the Scilly Isles in 1963. Always a sun worshipper - just look at that tan!


Mum's mum, my grandma, was one of three sisters. This is her older sister, Florence in 1910. The kimono was a gift from a relative who travelled to Japan and was a favourite family dressing up item for years. Unfortunately, after Dad developed dementia in 2010, he threw it in the bin. Florrie died in 1943 after joining a religious cult which didn't believe in modern medicine.


That's my Mum introducing me to my brother, Marcus in 1968. I was so jealous I stole a pair of scissors and cut every pom pom off his clothes.


Grandma's father on a Great Western Railway employee trip. Great grandfather is the mustachio-ed chap standing at the back on the right of the photo. Aren't the boots the man seated at the front of the picture incredible?


Joan's school was scribbled on the back of this photo. That'll be my Grandma (Mum's mum). She was born in Chester in 1915 so I imagine this picture was taken in around 1920. She's the little girl with the brown bob standing at the back.


Wearing Cheshire Rifleman's jacket (circa 1900) with psychedelic printed velvet maxi dress by John Marks (Bought from a vintage trader at the Clothes Show Live, 2009) worn with 1960s-does-Victorian leather lace-up boots (car boot sale) and felted wool hat (charity shop)
Still here? Thanks for sticking with me! Blogging really is such a brilliant incentive for cracking on with stuff. I'm pretty sure that if I couldn't share these photos with you they'd still be festering in a pile of boxes for another hundred years.


Can you believe that I still haven't watched Peaky Blinders? I've been trying to avoid Facebook since Wednesday night in case somebody blabs. Can't wait to catch up tonight.

See you soon!

84 comments:

  1. Really interesting post vix and some great photos , Check out the price of old photos on ebay before you part with the ones you don't want though a lot of the cabinet photos are worth quite a bit , That made me laugh about your brother no wonder you like pom poms xxx

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    1. Thank you! I was an evil sister! xxx

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  2. What a fab collection of photos & memorabilia.
    I love that photo of you holding the bunny & looking not too thrilled with your brother.
    Looking gorgeous in that scarlet red!
    xox

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    1. I was never thrilled with my brother - the poor boy! xxx

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  3. Have you been able to see any family likeness coming down through the generations? I never knew my paternal grandfather and had only seen photos of him as an older man. After my grandmother died we found a photo of him when he was 21 and if you put your hand over his hair there was my sister's face staring back at you. It was quite a strange sensation! It's so helpful if you've clues as to what you're looking at on the back isn't it!
    Arilx

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    1. Several people have commented on my resemblance to my Great Grandma - I hadn't noticed. That picture of Mum in the black hat is uncannily similar to how I look now, though! xxx

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  4. Your Grandmother's striped dress is fabulous! Maybe you cut the pom poms off your brother's stuff because you love pom poms because it seems you still do? Good excuse anyway

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    1. Ha! Maybe that's true. I've never liked babies, maybe that's where it all came from - having my brother inflicted on me as a toddler! xxx

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  5. That’s why I like a blog. It’s like picking up a good book and this was a cracker. You look so much like your mum and I can see the family likeness in a few pictures.
    Your family have left you with quite a unique history. We haven’t got anything anywhere near as interesting.
    Well done you for putting it all together xxxxx

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    1. Thank you! It was always my brother who looked like my mum - I never looked like anyone when i was little. It's a bit scary how much I look like Mum now! xxx

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  6. What a beautiful set of photos and an amazing history. That is so god that you still have photos going back so far. I don't really have many photos of my family, Mum keeps them all. I wonder what we will do in the future when all our memories are stored on phones and computers? Not quite the same as a real photo album. Your wee face in that picture with your brother. You look so forlorn. What a stylish woman your mum was. I can see where you get your love of hats from, hers is fab. Xx

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    1. Nothing beats a real photo album, does it? Mind you it's taken hours and hours to get the collection down to the bare minimum! xxx

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  7. great photos, your gt grandma ( on the silver wedding photo ) looks like Meryl Streep I think. I have managed to acquire some old photos by connecting with relatives through Ancestry who have shared photos on line. I love old photos. PS Peaky is excellent !

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    1. You're dead right, she does look like Meryl Streep, doesn't she? Maybe she's a distant relative?
      PB is amazing! xxx

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  8. What a treasure trove you discovered. That must be the most interesting blog ever. Fancy still having that wonderful wedding dress. Can you build another shed on your land and set it up as a family museum?
    Then it would be all available for browsing. What an adorable baby you were. I'm not surprised you were jealous of your brother he looked so cute. Your great grandfather may have been a bit of a rake but very handsome and those in retrospect make a family history interesting. Adore your red skirt. Looking back it is easy to see why you have such style. Thank you so much for sharing.xxx

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    1. I'm so glad you enjoyed this post, Sally! Being able to share some of the pictures on my blog was a real incentive for me to get them sorted and reduced down to a manageable amount! xxx

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  9. You are so like your Mum that I thought it was you in the photograph! Thanks for sharing these photos with us. Catriona

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  10. Great pictures! I love vintage pictures. And that striped dress was fantastic,I'm sure the material was wonderful. Thanks for sharing.

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    1. Thanks, Lynn! I'd love to have had the opportunity to handle that dress, I can almost hear it swishing! x

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  11. Such a strong resemblance between you and the lady in the beautiful striped dress. I love your photos and the things that you have from all those years of your extended family, so lucky.

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    1. Thanks, Maureen! I'd never clocked any similarity until I shared this and several people have commented. My parents weren't the type of people to have photos on display bar the one of the girl in the striped dress and a tiny daguerreotype of a handsome cousin who ended his days in an asylum. I haven't shared his photo on my blog for years but I'll have to dig it out, he's a dish! xxx

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  12. My favourites are the one of your Mum, Grandma and Great Auntie Maud. Close second that beautiful picture with Great Grandma(?), in the striped dress. As much as I love old b&w pictures, the ones of you in that amazing velvet maxi, are rather fabulous!
    Zxx

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    1. Thank you!! Having seen photos of you as a little girl I don't half think you looked like my mum! xxx

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  13. yes, the stripped dress is amazing. Looks like it might be silk taffeta.

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    1. It's fabulous, isn't it? I wonder if Great-Grandma came from a wealthy family - the doorway and the dress look rather opulent. Maybe I should do some research when I've got more time. xxx

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  14. Wouldn't they love to know how long their parasol has lasted and how you treasure their jacket etc. i often ponder how long our things will last and outlast us. I wonder about the things I've made and sent out into the world. They are my legacy!

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    1. Its crazy, isn't it? I bet the idea of it surviving into the 21st Century would have blown their minds! xxx

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  15. After cutting the pom poms off your brother's clothes, did you glue them to a pair of flares, or a lampshade?
    Wonderful photos, and that poem about the flu is really quite a treasure.

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    1. I suspect I squirreled them away in a drawer for later use - things haven't changed much! x

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  16. Thank you so much for sharing these wonderful photos with us! Most enjoyablešŸ˜‰

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    1. Hello Gloria and thank you so much for reading and commenting! xxx

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  17. Hi Vix, it's so beautiful that you know so much about your family history and have some treasured items. The jacket on the mannequin is such a good way to display it. Xx

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    1. Thanks, Jess! I love having the jacket on display (there's a waistcoat that goes with it underneath) - it's too lovely to keep in a wardrobe. If only it could talk! x

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  18. i had to come back this morning - yesterday evening i was to overwhelmed and fascinated to find some english words...
    i´m impressed that you know all the names, connections, jobs and such from your ancestors. and of cause that such fragile items like clothes, parasols or photos did survive. congrats to facing the huge task to sort it out down to sensible and useful amount. fab!
    the psychedelic art nouveau dress suit the rifleman´s jacket perfectly - and you look gorgeous in it!
    xxxxx

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    1. Thank you so much, Beate! I suppose the next thing to do is to label the photos in the album that haven't got writing on the back just in case whoever finds them after I've gone didn't read my blog! xxx

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  19. Oh my, what wonderful photos, thank you for posting them. I love the one of your great grandma sitting on the step in the striped dress. She looks like a girl from a Tissot painting, where he places pairs of pretty girls in striped dresses amongst pairs of girls in plain dresses. You look fab in the military dress jacket. Regards Sue H

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    1. Thanks, Susan! After reading your comment I spent some time admiring some gorgeous Tissot images on Goggle you're quite right about the striped dress. xxx

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  20. So much social history - I love it. x

    p.s. my friend and I met you in London, Bethnal Green. My friend bought an amazing pink dress from you.

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    1. I'm glad you enjoyed it!
      I do remember you and your friend - that pink dress was insanely fabulous. I hope your friend threw a crazy 1970s party and wore it, like shed planned to! x

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  21. Thank you for sharing a little of your family history. I loved looking through the photos from your family album. Looking back in time is fascinating.
    The red outfit you're wearing is just wonderful, I love the way you've put together the military jacket with the bold floral dress, it's so eye catching. xxx

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    1. Thanks, Sally! I was quite ruthless, keeping the photos that made some kind of statement about the lives the subjects lived rather than everything. I think having less actually makes me appreciate them more. xxx

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  22. love the fact that you have some of the clothes and the parasol from the photos that really stands out for me, the vintage aspect. You have so many keepsakes we don't really have that many photos at all, only a few of the grandparents and really nothing before that, almost like they never existed at all which is quite sad.

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    1. That is really sad, Julie. I'm fascinated by having clothes my ancestors wore and quite uncannily both the wedding dress and the mourning jacket fit me like they were intended for me - although I suppose both women must have been bigger than me, they were just encased in corsets! xxx

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  23. What a wonderful post! You're so lucky to be able to treasure all those family heirlooms. It must have been a daunting task to whittle down all those letters, documents and photographs. I have boxes of photographs as well but, unlike you, I don't know who the people are in most of them, and had to use my intuition to identify my great grandparents. I've no one left to ask, which I think is quite sad. xxx

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    1. Its very frustrating to have the photos but no names, isn't it? I wish everyone would write on the back of old photos like some of the ones I came across. xxx

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  24. With my librarians head on, if any of these things (party invitations, greetings cards, tickets, travel passes, letters, postcards, are in scrap books/albums you can donate them to a museum or library. When I was at the Bodleian they had a lot of them classed as ephemera and they were actually very popular in terms of people research local and social history.

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    1. Maybe I'll bequeath them to Walsall's local history society when I kick the bucket although it's only me & my brother who were born here. Dad was from Cannock but all his photos seem to be of foreign adventures - I don't think he was much interested in Walsall! xxx

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  25. That's a great history collection. I have a box of photos to sort but put it off for years as I am unsure who half the people are! I think it's brilliant that your family were such hoarders.

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    1. It is a bit off-putting when you don't know who these people are. I'd never seen a photo of my dad's mother - she'd died years before I was born - but I think I've identified her in some of my Dad's photos - she's definitely not one of his glamorous women! xxx

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  26. That was sure fun to read and see. I would love to be a time travelor.

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  28. don't please go instagram only as so many bloggers do, you are my constant consort with your informative posts and your sense of "lasting"; i have ahead of me sorting through photographs of ours (my husbands and mine) families so i'll draw from your experience

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    1. Hello Zbroia! I'd never stop blogging, I get so much joy from having my own little space on the internet to write about whatever I fancy. Instagram's all very well but lacing in substance a bit like how reading the book is always better than watching the film.
      God luck with your mammoth task - it is daunting (a bit like selling the family home) but such a relief when you've tackled it head on! xxx

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  29. Hi Vix, you are so fortunate to have all of these historical family photos. I'm so envious. Thank you for sharing. I'm still smiling about little you cutting off brothers Pom poms. What a brat! Love you. šŸ˜˜

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    1. I thought all this hoarding was normal until I left home and discovered it was us that were odd! xxx

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  30. What wonderful photos! I could happily browse these for hours. You are lucky to know so much about them, so often that information is lost to time. My mum's the family history buff in my family, so I'm hoping she'll finish sorting and annotating all the photos so I know who's who! We do have a Victorian black silk parasol that's pretty cool.

    Your poor little brother and his pom poms...xx

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    1. When Grandma developed Alzheimer's Mum compiled a few albums to help her try and remember her past, it's proved very useful now I've got nobody left to ask.
      My poor brother, I think he's still a bit traumatised! x

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  32. You've made this special post a creative combination of "Time Team" and "Who Do You Think You Are?", Vix! When we were sorting out my father's WWII military memorabilia, we discovered he had had some adventures he never mentioned -- and later learned details about a mission that even he might not have known. One suspects your father's overseas business trips might have entailed "work" he didn't wish to connect with his family life. Who do you think he was, indeed?
    We do well to remember that the ancestors were once young...

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    1. They never spoke about their war stories, did they? I know Jon's Dad was a war hero but never said a word, he's got some wonderful albums of his time as a Desert Rat in WWII. xxx

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  33. You are so lucky to have all those wonderful photos, and other items, and to know so much about them. Old photos are always so fascinating, even if the people in them are a mystery.
    So the pom pom fetish started quite early then?!?! xxx

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    1. It's lovely but a huge burden of responsibility especially as neither me or my brother have ever had any interest in having kids! I feel a lot better with having a much reduced collection! x

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  34. What simply amazing photographs and what a history they they tell!

    I can see you so clearly in the lady in the amazing striped crinoline dress...

    There's something deeply Freudian about you cutting off your brother's pom poms and your love of them today!

    Fabulous maxi dress you're wearing and the jacket is just perfect with it.

    Have a lovely week and I hope you enjoy Peaky Blinders. I've been riveted by 'I Know Who You Are'.

    xxx

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    1. How good was I Know Who You Are? The endings didn't disappoint.
      I wish I'd inherited that stripy dress. xxx

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  35. Thanks for sharing Vix, this was a really interesting post xx

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    1. Thanks, Sarah! Glad you enjoyed it! x

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  36. I was just talking to my mother the other day about holding on to a few of my things from my youth like my prom dress, dance recital costumes, my leather ankle boots with the flames on the side from high school, etc. I think it would be so cool for my kids and their kids and so on to see the things I wore in person. Neither my mom nor her siblings have a shred of anything from their pasts, no documents, ID books just a few photographs. The same on my dad's side of the family too. I'm not sure what my family has against preserving family history but I'm trying to hold on to a few of my own little family's mementos to pass down and share.

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    1. You ought to save a few things - your kids will love them when they're older! x

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  37. Incredible post!!! The Victorian jacket and top hat!! The black & white striped dress!!! The kimono! You cutting off all the pom poms from your brother's clothes!!!!

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    1. Thank you! Gotta love a top hat! xxx

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  38. I too have been going through the family photo archive of my late aunt and from my mother's move to assisted living. I ended up posting the images on Facebook since that is where the family gathers online.

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    1. There's only one member of my family alive - my brother. He hates all form of social media! x

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  39. Oh golly, those are lovely. So many memories and stories. There's a real slice of local history in there - does Walsall have a museum or local history society?

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    1. It does, although the opening times are very restricted due to cuts! Its only really me & my brother who are first generation Walsall so I'm not sure they'd be interested. xxx

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  40. So many amazing pictures, and so interesting to see all those details enlightened, the anecdotes, the stories!. And you cut off the pompoms from your brother's clothes!!, mwhaha, that could be the origin of a pom pom obsession?!
    And your velvet dress is a fabulous piece, and it looks even more fabulous when paired with the red jacket. You look magnificently psychedelic!
    besos

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    1. I'm glad you enjoyed the post, Monica! There must be something in that pompom thievery, maybe I need analysis?! xxx

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  41. I so enjoyed this mini tour of your family history. I have so few family photos - my Mom has some which I'm sure will end up with me when she passes. Unfortunately, I don't know anything about my great-grandparents on either side, and never met my maternal grandparents. I envy the connection you have to your ancestors via the photos and other items, especially when you can actually wear something that belonged to a distant relative.

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    1. Thanks, Shelley. I only know about my Mum's side of the family. When I was filling in Dad's probate forms after he'd died I didn't even know his parents' names or even if one of his siblings was still alive. Maybe one day I'll do some research! xxx

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  42. How lovely to have all of these and to know who's who, and to own some of the items pictured! I had to laugh at you cutting off the poms poms from your brother's clothes, perhaps this was when your love of them began? :)
    xx

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    1. There's definitely something in those pompoms.
      I must admit, leafing through those hundreds of photos was very daunting but I started to recognise the same faces and began to piece bits and pieces together. xxx

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