Thursday, November 14, 2019

More about my lost Frosts... and why we need to keep on remembering our history

I'm still trying to trace my little family of Lost Frosts: Eliza nee Worthy and her children Elizabeth, Maria, and Richard junior. Still no luck: they vanished into thin air, changed all their names, were kidnapped by aliens, emigrated under pseudonyms, or just slipped away into the shadows or lost census pages. (I discovered that I cannot find Eliza or her Worthy parents and siblings in the 1861 census because the pages that document the part of Lewin street that they were most likely living on (5 Lewin Street) have been lost: they are missing from all online copies.)

What I have found is two more daughters born to Richard Frost and Eliza nee Worthy: Elizabeth (their first Elizabeth) born 5th January 1871, and Clara born at the very end of 1871 or early in January 1872. This newly-discovered Elizabeth died, only thirteen days old, from convulsions. Clara, who must have been conceived very quickly after sister Elizabeth, little darling, lived until she was five years old... and then scarlet fever killed her, right around the time that her little sister Maria was born. What tragedy for the parents.

I found no other babies between Eliza's marriage to Richard, and his death in 1882. But there are two-year gaps between the other children, and no child at all after Richard Junior's birth in 1878: I'd bet there were miscarriages in the gaps, or unregistered births and deaths.

This is the ongoing story of family history research. My ancestors were poor, all of them, all except a very very few, like one or two generations of Mountneys before they became scoundrels on canal boats, and shepherd William North of Seagrave who had a cottage and a horse to bequeath to his children, or the farmer Bonnetts of Whitwick who had their own tragedies after John contributed to my tree. There are no ancestral knights in shining armour, no "blue blood", no hidden riches. They were hardworking people: blacksmiths and bootmakers and shoe finishers and framework knitters; lacemakers and even a milliner (hatmaker). They fought for the country and were lucky and escaped, most of them, with their lives, their bodies and minds never forgetting.

One thread runs through it all, from the 1500's until last century, the century I was born in: huge families, many children, and so very many - far too many - infant and childhood deaths. So many parents lost way too young, their bereaved partner then finding someone else to help raise the kids. Multiple births and multiple losses; children fading after a parent dies; health problems due to their occupations; parish records with page after page of burials for "an infant", "child of", or aged under 30.

What changed in the 20th century? Several things: first and foremost, the National Health Service, making health care available to everyone, no matter how poor, no matter if they lived in the industrial city streets or in little villages. Equality in voting and election process for women. Schooling continuing into late teens, enormous progress in workers rights and safety at work - made even stronger by the common rules of the European Union. The availability of contraception to those who want it, and sex education for all. And yet... today it feels like the world wants to turn the clock back.

Has everyone forgotten where we all came from?

Before you go and cast a vote for someone who swears they represent you, yet will convert your healthcare to a for-profit business, or will strip away the workers' rights today guaranteed by law, think about what your ancestors too experienced. Remember those who had babies, each and every year, and lost half of them. The parents - men and women alike - who worked until they dropped, including those who managed to survive until their 70's and 80's, because they had no pension to survive on. The families living ten to a room, without the heating and electricity that we take very much for granted today.

They deserve a vote, too. Don't mess it up.

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