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  • Writer's pictureJessica Feinstein

Ari's Derbyshire ancestors in 1921

The release of the 1921 census has given us a glimpse into the lives of some of Ari's ancestors, but some are still proving elusive. I'll go through the branches of his tree separately, starting with his mother's father's side, from Derbyshire.

The Spencer family were living at 29 Mill Street in Belper, the address given on Henry Spencer's marriage certificate in 1928.

© 2022 Google

In the house were Ari's 3x great grandfather David Spencer, aged 57, who was working as a cotton warehouseman for the English Sewing Company on Bridge Street. Elizabeth Spencer, his wife, was 51 and lists her occupation as "home duties". Their daughter Mary Ann, 22, was working as a hosiery linker at George Brettle & Co., Chapel St. Elizabeth, 21 was a cotton doubler at the English Sewing Company. Henry, 19 (Ari's great-grandfather) was a cotton overlooker at the same company, and David, 17, was a cotton packer there too. Also living with them was Elizabeth's mother Mary Ann (Brewell) Pearson, aged 77 (Ari's 4x great-grandmother), who had been widowed in 1911.

Looking at their occupations, a hosiery linker would have operated a linking machine, which "joins two portions of hose or other knitted goods; places two fabrics to be joined, side by side and loop by loop on a circle of needle points which travel slowly round and finally pass into stitching zone where loops are connected by chain stitching" (A Dictionary of Occupational Terms Based on the Classification of Occupations used in the Census of Population, 1921). A cotton doubler operates a machine which twists two or more strands of cotton fibre together to form a thread. An overlooker was someone who examined finished work and sometimes also does clerical work in the factory.

Ari's 3x great-grandmother Elizabeth (Phipps) Sims was 44 in 1921. Her husband Fred had died of Spanish flu in 1918, so she was the head of the household. They were living at Town St, Holbrook (no house number given). Her daughter Emily was 21 and working as a silk winder at Milford Silk Mill. (A winder is "an operative who minds any type of winding frame, winding thrown silk or spun silk yarn; threads ends of strand from skeins through guides of machine to winding-on bobbin, cop, pirn, etc.; stops machine and mends broken strands by twisting-in; replaces full bobbins with empty ones and vice versa; in winding from several small bobbins to one large bobbin, pieces lengths of yarn as necessary"). George William Sims (below) was 17 and out of work, although he gives Drury Lowe, Denby as the place where he wasn't working! (I assume this is the colliery there.)

Then we have Ethel May who is 15 and says that she has "left service and [is] now at home". Louisa is 13 and a home help. Horace, Ari's great-great-grandfather, is 11. Joseph is 10, Walter is 6, Mary Ellen is 4 and Leslie is 3. None of the children are listed as being at school.

Mary Ann (Bunting) Wheeldon, Ari's 4x great-grandmother, was living at Yew Tree View, Holloway with her husband Samuel. They were both 69. Samuel was "unable to work", and died at the same address the following year, of a chronic progressing disease of the nervous system.

Their son, John Edgar Pearson Wheeldon (Ari's 3x great-grandfather) was living at 189 Nottingham Road in Belper.

© 2022 Google

He was 42 and worked as a blacksmith journeyman for George Attenborough, King Street. His wife, Elizabeth Ann (Murfin), was 43 and a housewife. Their oldest son, Lawrence Edgar, was 22 and a rope corporal at Fords Colliery in Marehay, where a strike would break out the following month:

Derbyshire Courier, 9 July 1921. Image © Johnston Press plc

Next is John Henry Francis, 21, who is a dataller ("general term for all workers, above or below ground, receiving fixed time rate of wages, including haulage hands, shafters, labourers") at Old Denby Colliery. (There was an accident at the colliery in 1925 involving George Sims who we saw above, in which he fractured both legs.) Winifred Ethel, 19, is a hosiery hand. Arnold George, 16 and Edward Oliver, 15, are both gangers in the same colliery ("rides on trams or tubs, either underground or on surface; attaches and detaches tubs when necessary; gives signal if tub runs off rails"). Mary Elizabeth (Nellie) (Ari's great-great-grandmother), 10, is at school full time. (There is a school record for her in 1914 showing her at Belper Pottery Infants' School, which she attended until 1914.) The youngest child, John Edgar (3), is one I didn't know about!

The Murfins, John and Mary (née Ford), haven't been found yet.

Ari's great-great-grandmother, Edith Winifred Morris, was 17, and living on Nottingham Rd in Belper (number not given) with her adoptive family, the Rydes. Her occupation was cotton winding for the English Sewing Company.

I have not managed to find to find her mother, Annie Morris, or sister Ida.

Emily Fanny (Williams) Sims, Ari's 4x great-grandmother, had been widowed in 1918 and was living at Alfreton Road, Little Eaton. She gives her occupation as householder. Living with her is her son Walter, 35, who is an out-of-work labourer at Dowding's paper mill. (As late as 1947, local residents were complaining about the soot and grime which descended on the village from the mill's chimneys, blackening washing and babies' faces as they lay in their prams.) Also in the household is Joseph Ashton, 43, and Emily's nephew from Yorkshire. He was a labourer at Andrew Hingley's timber merchants in Duffield.

So I have a few people to follow up on and my Morris mystery is still unsolved.

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