Monday, 15 September 2014

Sentimental Sunday

I have been thinking about my maternal grandmother, Dorothy May McCann nee Thomas, rather a lot lately. She was the repository of all family photos, dates and information. Dorothy May passed away on the 8th December 1996 at Southport, just a month after her second great great granddaughter was born.

Dorothy & my mother 1924
I was looking at some photos recently and thought of sharing them with you. Fortunately I spent a lot of time with my grandmother over many years and i got my interest in family history from her. We would spend many hours going through old photos and books with Dorothy May telling me who they were and what occasion was happening.

When she moved house and went into a retirement village I inherited most of the family treasures and photographs and on her death all the remaining treasures. Dorothy would be so pleased to know of my discoveries about the family.

Ald James Thomas 1886
There is one family legend however that I would never have told her was untrue. Dorothy's paternal grandfather, James Thomas, who arrived in Australia in 1860 from England, told her the following story:

His father, also James Thomas, was an artist and when painting the lady of the manor's portrait fell in love with the daughter, Anne Chick, and eloped. The parents, Lord & Lady Chick from Lopen Castle, disowned the daughter and had no more to do with her.

You can imagine a proud grandfather, sitting his little granddaughter on his knee and telling her this lovely story. So of course, some years after Dorothy's death I did some sleuthing. Surprisingly, James Thomas's parents were James Thomas & Anne Chick. So, was the story true? Where to look in England. There was a clue that James Thomas called his house in Mackay, Lopen. Did the Thomas family come from a town called Lopen, and where exactly was Lopen. Could it be a village in Somerset? Yes indeed.

All Saints' Church Lopen

Further investigation showed a large Thomas family in the village. Fortunately, they didn't seem to move far and were all baptized, married and buries from All Saints' Church of England. And no, there was no Lord & Lady Chick or Lopen Castle or Manor House.

In fact, James Thomas Snr., like his father before him was a Master Carpenter not an artist. Though perhaps he did like to paint and draw. We will never know. So, you see, the clue of James Thomas calling his house in Mackay, Lopen was the serendipitous linkage to Somerset and the village of Lopen.

My mother, now aged 90, often says Dorothy May is looking down on me and enjoying the revelations about the various family branches. I do believe she is guiding me in my searches, you know, a real genie fairy.


  1. Hello, stopping my from the Geneabloggers new blogs list. Glad to meet you Helen!

  2. Lovely story. You've given me nother genie fairy link to add to the geneadictionary, thanks.

    1. Thanks Jill, I was very close to Dorothy May and miss her greatly