Wednesday 24 August 2016

What was life like for Violet?

I have a new challenge. I am looking for information that will tell me what life was like for Violet Walker, my wife’s half-aunt. Sometimes we get chasing family lines so much we forget about the individuals – to paraphrase, we don’t see the trees because of the forest. I thought it was time to try to focus on people, one at a time. That might tell me more about family dynamics.

Half-aunt is a strange term. It just means that she was a half-sister to my mother-in-law. That’s where Violet’s life took its first divergence from the main line family.

We know when and where Violet was born and died as we have the documentation: born 25 December 1905 (Christmas Day) at 81 Oran Street, Glasgow; died 22 September 1982 at Hairmyres Hospital, East Kilbride, Glasgow, her usual residence being 47 Closeburn Street, Glasgow.

Violet was illegitimate. We don’t know who her father was or whether she ever found out. That’s an important part of her story that we would like to discover more about. She never married nor had children, so she was the end of a line. That removes an important source of data – bloodline. Her mother, Lizzie (Elizabeth), was a domestic servant at the time of Violet’s birth.

Her birth place, 81 Oran Street, was the same residence shown on her mother’s marriage record which occurred three years later. 81 Oran Street is also given as the place of death for one of Violet’s aunts, aged 11, in 1906. So it is possible that was also the residence of her maternal grandparents, John and Sarah Walker, and that Lizzie lived at home until her marriage. Violet appears on the 1911 Scotland census, living with her grandparents on Fernie Street which intersects Oran Street.
Part of ordnance map showing Oran and Fernie Streets in Glasgow, published 1899
The story is that, following, the marriage of Lizzie Walker to Alexander Cooper, Violet was left with her grandparents to be raised. More information is being sought about that state of affairs.

We are aware that she was a dancer. Rumour has it that she was an exotic dancer. Her death record says her occupation was “Dancer (retired)” which gives us something to go on.

We have only one photo of Violet, taken in 1928, brought by my mother-in-law when she immigrated to Canada in 1930. Perhaps other family members have others which we will check.
Violet Walker, standing, with a friend, about 1928
As I was writing this short blog piece I found out that I had more information about Violet and her family but just had not put the pieces together. Again, it’s the problem with seeing only the forest sometimes. I will begin digging into more records in my files to see what else I can put together, not just for Violet but for her mother, half-siblings and grandparents as well.

I think the search for more about the life of Violet Walker will prove interesting but also challenging. It’s just another step in assembling the stories of our ancestors. It is important and valuable to know how people lived not just when.

Wayne Shepheard is a volunteer with the Online Parish Clerk program in England, handling four parishes in Devon, England. He has published a number of articles about various aspects of genealogy in several family history society journals. Wayne also provides genealogical consulting services through his business, Family History Facilitated