Although I never met her, my great great grandmother Sarah Womersley is the one who is to blame for my obsession with family history. I was given a photograph of her several years ago, so that I could include it in my scrapbooks. But I didn't feel able to do a scrapbook layout about her without knowing something about her as well - and so the journey along my family tree began.
Here is the photo, showing Sarah in what I assume is her backyard in Wakefield, Yorkshire. Note the trellis and the flowers - it looks as if either Sarah or her husband enjoyed a little bit of gardening in their spare time.
Sarah, like so many of my ancestors in this particular branch of the family, was born in Kirkburton, which is about five miles south of Huddersfield. The daughter of Ephraim and Ann Womersley, she was born on 28th March 1860, and was baptised on 28th December 1862 at All Hallows in Kirkburton. You may remember her father from a previous blog post - he was the one who escaped death a couple of times.
The 1861 census shows Sarah’s family living at 3 New Mill, Fulstone. She was the youngest of six. Her siblings were Henry, Ann jr, Ellen, Ada and Ephraim Jr.
Ten years on the family had moved to 121 Bay Hale Lane, Huddersfield. Henry had already left home. Ann and Ellen were both working, and Ephraim Jr and Sarah were both at school.
In 1881 Sarah seems to have been the only one still living with her father. Her mother had died, and Ephraim had re-married. They were living in Brighouse, and Sarah was a dressmaker.
Four years later, on 13th August, Sarah married Matthew Ward, a groom, at the Holy Trinity church in Wakefield. By 1891 they were living at 174 Mount Pleasant, Wakefield. Matthew, aged 30, a was now a warehouseman for a chemist, and they had a daughter, Elsie. Ten years on, the family was living at 39 John Street, Wakefield. Matthew, 40, was now a maltster. Elsie was already at work, aged 14, as a woollen weaver. The family had been joined by son Herbert M, 7, and daughter Clara, 5.
In 1911, they were still in John Street, Primrose Hill, Wakefield, but at number 17. Matthew, 50, was a maltster's labourer. Elsie, 24, was a worsted drawer, Herbert, 17, was an armature winder (probably also in the wool business), and Clara, 15, was a worsted spinner. Also living with them was nephew Willie Sykes, 32, single, and a self-employed piano tuner and repairer.
As is so often the case, little is known about Sarah after 1911. Family recollections tell of her being a demanding tyrant in her old age, although I suspect this may be partly, if not largely, due to the senility mentioned on her death certificate. She used to live back to back to her daughter Clara, and would bang on the shared wall to summon her. Each time poor Clara would have to go out of her house, down the road, round the side of the terrace, and back up the road to see what Sarah wanted.
Sarah died on 20th Sept 1942 at 61 Flanshaw Crescent, Wakefield. The doctor gave causes of death as being cardiac failure, myocardial degeneration, senility and obesity. She was buried two days later at Saint Paul's Church, Alverthorpe, Wakefield.