I had an old  piece of brown paper left over from documents given to me by my mother.  It was an extract of a birth of a daughter – Janet – but she didn’t fit anywhere in the family tree.  I sent off to Scotland’s People for the actual birth certificate and this is the story I have managed to piece together.

My great-grandmother, Jessie, was born in 1866 to a poor family in Glasgow.  By the age of 15 she was a Cotton Weaver and by 27 a Thread Mill Worker.  She married my great-grandfather, James Brown, in 1893 and they had three children – James (my grandfather), Jessie and Jane.  Jessie’s husband, James, (my great-grandfather) was an Armourer in the Royal Navy and was based at Portsmouth.  Sadly he was lost at sea in 1915 and his body never recovered.  He was 48.

A year later, Jessie discovered her youngest daughter, Jane, was pregnant.  She was just 18 and unmarried.  It would not have been a good situation to be in then.  James had died without a will so I imagine that life for Jessie and Jane was already tough.  In 1917, Jane gave birth at home to a daughter, Janet.  There were complications and Jane died ten days later in hospital.  The baby survived and was brought up by Jessie, my great-grandmother.

I can’t imagine how hard it must have been for Jessie to lose her husband and youngest daughter within a couple of years of each other, and then to have to bring up her grand-daughter alone.

I delved a little deeper to find out what became of Janet.  She married a man called Victor Rankin.   I felt a jolt!  Victor Rankin?  I remember my mother talking about him.  She spoke of him a lot and said what a lovely man he was; he was always so good to his wife.   So I think this story had a happy ending.

I plan to return to the UK in 2015 and I want to visit Portsmouth to see a memorial to the sailors lost at sea during the war.  My great-grandfather’s name is on it.  And I know where Jane was buried at just 19.  I want to go there and put flowers on her grave in Glasgow.  I look forward to doing that.

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