Saturday, 22 June 2013

Emma Makes Her Mark

One thing that interests me is geneaology, and I recently got hold of the birth certificate of my great-grandmother, Jemima Pointer (nee Baker), who was born in July 1877.

What struck me as sad is the section Signature, description and residence of the informant for the answer begins:

X. The mark of Emma Baker, mother

Not a signature, a mark.

Emma was married in 1860 - so unless she had problems conceiving or her husband George had difficulty fathering children, Jemima would have elder siblings. Of course, they might not have lived - one great-grandmother of mine had 5 children, of which only 3 survived to adulthood (the other 2 died from meningitis, which is why my gran got very worried when I was at university and she would hear news stories about outbreaks of meningitis among students, anywhere in the country).

Emma would have been in her forties when Jemima was born - so Emma was born in the reign of William IV, when the only records were parish ones.

And she was so illiterate she couldn't sign her name.

Considering the opportunities I had - free compulsory schooling till I was 15, free sixth-form college for 2 years after that, undergraduate education for 3 years with tuition fees paid by Hampshire taxpayers, and then two post-grad degrees - I find it sad that my great-great-grandmother was from an era when going to school was just a pipe dream.

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