A few days ago I treated myself to a month’s subscription to Ancestry.com and their world records. Intent trying to unravel my own family mystery, I found myself pleasantly surprised to get lost in my husband’s family tree, which reaches quite far back into Yorkshire, England.
Seems fitting that a girl named Heather would fall into a family line that spent many a generation rambling in the heath 😉
I’ve always loved history– especially the more anthropological side of it (customs, folk lore, language, traditions, dress, that’s all more interesting to me than war and land-grabbing) so when I start digging into census records and finding little nuggets of long-lost knowledge, it makes my little heart sing in the most nerdy of history loving ways.
While my family tree is complicated by centuries of living in the most rural of the American landscapes (it seems I come from a long line of mountain folk who didn’t take kindly to census takers) Will’s family were neatly accounted for in decades of meticulous English record. I was able to trace his line back to 1520 before I lost the trail. That’s the reign of Henry VIII!
Now, I know I have a good many visitors from Great Britain on the blog, even if some of you are rather quiet 🙂 I hope you’ll indulge me this once however, and perhaps come out of the woodwork to share what you know about where you live!
The earliest Sleightholm(e) I found was from Oswaldkirk, Yorkshire. Then for several generations they lived somewhere called Great Edstone, Yorkshire, before ambling down the road to farm in Scalby, Yorkshire and Kirbymoorside, Yorkshire. In the mid-1800s it seems they left the countryside of rural Yorkshire to work in the mines in Oldham, Lancashire. That’s where they migrated from.
Through bits of census reports, immigration papers, and naturalization records, I’ve been able to piece together that my husband’s great-grandfather left England for Canada as a young man, and soon his parents, siblings, and his sweetheart, a girl named Amy, soon joined him. Amy was a mill worker’s daughter born in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire. I found her working as a servant as young as 15 years old in a small household through records, and she later moved to a slightly larger household in Oldham. The change in the lives of this couple is pretty impressive. Within a decade they went from a miner and a housemaid in England to a family of five in Pennsylvania, with Mr. Sleightholm rising to foreman at an electrical company. I’d say they did pretty well for themselves!
So, if by chance these places I named sound familiar to you…I’d love to hear about them. From what I’ve gathered, Oldham seems to have been a fairly industrial town in the 1800s, filled with mining and mills (cue scenes from “North and South”) I’m curious about these other tiny little towns– Kirbymoorside (which was mentioned on Downton Abbey last week, did you catch it? Whodathought!), Scalby and Great Edstone. Perhaps one day we modern Sleightholms (we’ve dropped the last ‘e’ now) will make our way back over the ocean and see this place where we lived for so many centuries once again. It sounds like a grand adventure!
Til then, I feel a great urge to paint, especially when I see beautiful images of the moors like the photo shown above. What a beautiful place. And how happy I am to have followed our family trail there.