Monday, 21 July 2014

Henry Womersley - father of 13, grandfather to dozens!

Henry Womersley 1847 - 1902 

Henry Womersley, circa 1900

I think it's fair to say that Henry Womersley, my gt gt gt uncle, made a pretty good contribution to the population of Yorkshire!  With just one exception, he has the largest family so far in my family tree, and definitely the largest number of children who lived to be adults.  And although I am still researching his descendants - there are a lot of them to research! - it seems he and his wife Eliza would have been grandparents to at least a couple of dozen children.  He also has the distinction of being the earliest relative to leave a will.

Henry was born in 1847 in Kirkburton, Yorkshire, to Ephraim and Ann Womersley, and was baptised at All Hallows Church, Kirkburton, on 3 October.

He was little more than a toddler when the census was taken in 1851, with an older sister Eliza, aged 9, and a younger one, Martha, aged 1.  The family were living in Newmill, home to Newmill brewery where his father Ephraim was working as a labourer.

Ten years on and his father has a more impressive title of brewer's agent, which was probably just as well given that his family had grown much larger!  Eliza seems to have left home, and I'm not sure where Martha was, but Henry is still there, together with Ann, 9; Ellen, 6; Ada, 4; Ephraim Jr, 3; and Sarah (my great great grandmother), aged just 1.  Henry was 13, and has not yet started work - no doubt he would have been starting within the next 12 months.

Six years later, in 1867, Henry married Eliza Stones, daughter of a fellmonger, at All Halllows Church in Kirkburton, and by 1871 the couple were living in Houghton Glass and had two children - George, 2, and Mary, 1.  Henry was working as a sinker in the coal mining business - this is a skilled position that involved excavating new shafts down to the coal seams. 

Twenty years later, Henry is working as a cutler and grinder.  I'm not sure if this is meant to read cutter and grinder, and relate to running cutting machines in the mines, or if he made a switch to the cutlery business.  I suspect the former, as he and his children all have strong links to the mines.  His eldest children have left home, but it is still a very full house - Henry, Eliza, and eight children!  These are Thomas, 18, a miner; Henry, 16, also a miner; Eliza, 14, not listed as doing anything but no doubt helping her mother and quite possibly working from home too; William, 11; Annie, 9; and David, 7, all scholars; plus three-year-old Albert and baby James.  

Believe it or not, there were still more additions to the family by the time the 1901 census rolled around!  In all Henry and Eliza had 13 children, all of whom, with the exception of one son who died in infancy, lived to be adults. By 1901 Henry was 53, and still working down the mines, as a hewer, as was his son Henry, 25 and David, 17.  Eliza was 50.  The other siblings still living at home were Ann, 19; Albert, 14; James, 10; Edward, 9; and Sophia, 6.

Henry died a year later on 15 January 1902, at Featherstone main colliery, Featherstone, Pontefract.  There is no record of any accident there then, so I assume that Henry probably just collapsed and died while at work.  

As well as having one of the largest families to date on my family tree, Henry also has the distinction of being my earliest ancestor, as far as I know, to leave a will - his effects were worth £34 (about £2000 in today's money), and were left to his widow.

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