It was a
pleasure to welcome Lizzie Jones back to Chorley again albeit at
a different venue, the Community Centre opposite the railway
station. Different again was that Lizzie was not in costume for
her performance. She did, however, talk to us about the 16th and
17th centuries, a big interest for her, that mixed social
history with her family history.
Lizzie confessed she had found no Normans in her ancestry but
did find ancestors with plain surnames like Dawber, Webster and
Mason. These names reflected the occupations of those people;
Dawber was someone who painted or dawbed, Webster a weaver and
Mason, well, they were a stone mason.
Lizzie said she has taken 25 years to complete her family tree,
virtually all done without computers, back as far as 1588.
She did, though, take 2 years to decide which of 2 Richard
Websters she had found, was her ancestor. But in the end they
were found to be the same person. One was found to be,
naturally, a weaver. The other was a farmer. People led a
subsistence life and farming is dependent on the seasons.
Weaving supplied the necessary income that was needed in order
During the 16th and 17th centuries Lizzie’s ancestors lived in
west Lancashire. During those times Lancashire had 50% of
England’s Roman Catholics. In turn west Lancashire had 50% of
all Roman Catholics in the north. The parish of Wrightington had
more Roman Catholics than any other parish in England.
Catholics were under threat in these times and no record was
kept of any births and deaths due to no records in the catholic
church. Children needed to be christened in the Church of
England. Lizzie added that all Catholics fought for the king in
the civil war.
Lizzie’s research journey had also taken to the USA,
specifically Chesapeake Bay on the east coast. She was in search
of an ancestor who was a 28 year old married man with 4
children. He left his wife and family and sailed across the
Atlantic to Boston. He went on to establish a catholic community
in Maryland. Why did he leave? Lizzie did not know for sure but
there were troubles in England for Catholics due to a Jesuit
plot to kill the King and the royal family.
It was in 1701 that an ancestor, Richard Webster – a catholic,
was married at the Church of England at Standish to Deborah, a
16 year old protestant. The date was May Day – the only summer
holiday – and he went on to father 12 children. Deborah died at
the age of 34. Richard, a farmer, married again but was branded
Lizzie said it was all downhill for the family in the industrial
revolution. The Jones name is Welsh and she traced that line of
family from Caernarfon in the 1860’s. A subsistence life in the
countryside was left behind for a hard life down the coal mines
An interesting fact was that average life spans became shorter
in the 19th century than for her earlier ancestors. Obviously,
life in the countryside, however hard, was better for living a
longer life than for a life digging coal.
As always Lizzie illuminated her subject matter and this led to
an entertaining and interesting evening. Here’s looking forward
to her next visit to the society.