Sunday, December 22, 2013

Joseph Green and the Christmas Rose

The Christmas Rose (Helleborus Niger)
from Wikipedia Commons
by Archenzo Moggio (Lecco)

Throughout the year I look for family history stories which apply to Christmas. I found one for this year, but I must warn you, it is a little sad. In my research in British newspapers this year I came across a story about my three times great grandfather, Joseph Green. Now, to clarify, this is the great grandfather of my maternal grandfather, William Sanderson, and not one of the Greens related to my maternal grandmother, Alice Sanderson, nee Saunders.

A little background: Joseph Green was born about 1819 in March, Cambridgeshire, England, the son of Joseph Green and Ann Banes. He was baptised on August 2, 1819 at the Church of St. Wendreda. He married Mary Pepper, nee Smart, also known as the “widow Pepper” on December 23, 1841, the same year her first husband died. She had two small children, Jonathan, 5, and Elizabeth Ann, 4, from her first marriage. Mary was born about 1815 in Downham Market, Norfolk, and was the daughter of John Smart and Elizabeth Wanford. Joseph and Mary (see, already a Christmas connection) went on to have at least five children together, including Joseph, (my great great grandfather), Susannah, Ann, Joanna, and Grace.

The Joseph Green of our story had a few different occupations during his life, including operating an alehouse, and being a “carter” far away in Lancashire, possibly for a coal mine or a quarry. He also had a farm, more of a smallholding, of about sixteen acres, on Whittle End Road in March. Some of the newspaper stories I have found which seem to apply to him, may also apply to his father, Joseph Green, who was also a farmer of a smallholding in March, of about ten acres. Unfortunately, Joseph Green the elder met his end at the age of seventy-one due to falling off a “load of peas” in August of 1862.

from Cambridge Independent Press, August 23, 1862
accessed via Find My Past
So, one of the Joseph Greens grew a plant called Helleborus Niger in his garden, a plant which was also known as the Christmas Rose. There is a legend that it got its name because it sprouted out of the snow from the tears of a young girl who had no gifts to give the Christ child in Bethlehem. Apparently, it has been a favourite among cottage gardeners because it continues to flower in the midst of winter. It is also poisonous. I found the following article in The Cambridge Independent Press, dated December 29, 1860:

The “Tuesday last” of that week referred to in the article would have been Christmas Day. So, to recap:  Joseph and Mary may have awakened on Christmas morning in 1860 to find that several of their precious sheep had died from eating the Christmas roses in their garden. Where were the shepherds when they needed them?

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Elizabeth Watson, Wife of Joseph Long Johnson, Whitby, North Yorkshire

Elizabeth Johnson, Wife of Joseph Long Johnson Gravestone
St. Mary the Virgin's Church Cemetery
Whitby, North Yorkshire
(by permisson of Charles Sale, Gravestone Photographic Resource

I am happy to present to you today a photo of the gravestone of Elizabeth Johnson, wife of Joseph Long Johnson, in St. Mary the Virgin’s Church Cemetery in Whitby, North Yorkshire. This was kindly provided to me by Charles Sale of Gravestone Photographic Resource, and is reproduced here with his permission. (Thank you, Charles).

I believe this to be the oldest gravestone of which I possess an image from my direct lineage in England. We can know that it is Elizabeth because you can see that she is the “wife of Joseph Long Johnson”, although there is little else that is legible. It is possible that others are buried with her, but so far, we have no evidence of this.

This is what I know about  Elizabeth Johnson, nee Watson, who was my three times great grandmother. According to the 1841 census, she was born about 1796 in Yorkshire. She married Joseph Long Johnson on May 2, 1824 in Whity, North Yorkshire. She had at least six children: Sarah, Mary Ann, Joseph, Elizabeth, Benjamin, and Thomas Henry. She died in the second quarter of 1843 In Whitby and, as mentioned, was buried in the churchyard of St. Mary the Virgin’s Church, which was Anglican.

St. Mary the Virgin Church
via Wikipedia Commons
from author Tom Richardson

I mentioned Elizabeth in a previous blogpost, Marlow Line: Joseph Long and Joseph Long Johnson in the Newspapers, and stated there that her mother was Ellis Watson. I no longer believe that this is so. This is because the Elizabeth Watson who was the daughter of Ellis Watson had a baby named after her stepfather, Francis Fishburn, a year after our Elizabeth married Joseph Long Johnson. The baptism record of the baby gives the mother as Elizabeth Watson, and mentions no father. I believe it is unlikely that this could be our Elizabeth, who was a married woman at the time, particularly as the child, born May 24, 1825,  would have to have been conceived after Elizabeth’s marriage.