Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Regency Relatives or Early Eastenders

For many years I’ve had a passing interest in researching my family history, but generally hadn’t pursued this further than the last couple of generations of folk who were within someone’s living memory, not least because with a bunch of very commonly named folk, many of whom were manual (particularly farm) labourers, I didn’t think there’d be much recorded about them.

But, of course, it’s so much easier to research now that so many records are available online and, since communicating with other family members (some for the first time) who are researching their parts of the story, since my mother died in 2011, I’ve been unearthing all sorts of records I didn’t think I’d ever encounter and the further I go back, the more fascinating and magical it becomes.

I’m particularly interested in my mother’s father, because now two of us, separately, believe him to have been Jewish (from his mother’s line), but while the circumstantial evidence is pretty great for having at least some Jewish blood, I’ve yet to prove it conclusively. When the 1911 Census records were first made available online, I’d acquired copies of the records relevant to both my maternal grandparents, who were children at the time, but got no further with my grandfather as searches had come up fruitless.

Throughout her life, my mother had been most pedantic that her maiden name was spelled Sweeney “with three Es.” Of course it should have occurred to me earlier to ignore that and, lo and behold, I find that most of the records from 1901 backwards are listed with the spelling of Sweney, sometimes Sweeny and even Swaney.

Hence, by trying various spellings – but always double checking other details, such as dates, ages and other family members listed together, via the various census records, I’ve now got as far back as one John Swaney (as he’s listed in the 1841 Census) born 1809, who by the time he died, in Poplar, in 1892, was John Sweeney, even though his son and grandson were often listed with alternative spellings.

St Leonard's, Shoreditch
On 11 Jun 1832, in Shoreditch at the church of St Leonard (often known simply as Shoreditch Church - this is the church mentioned in the line "When I grow rich, say the bells of Shoreditch" from the nursery rhyme Oranges and Lemons), this John Sweeney married Anne Elizabeth Gabbeday (sometimes Ann Gabbedy, later Ann Sweeny by the time she died, in Whitechapel, in 1855), who was baptised at St Anne, Limehouse on 14 Apr 1811. She was the daughter of John & Isabella Gabbeday (nee Cleghorn).

John & Isabella sound like names you’d find in a Jane Austen novel of the period (indeed, Emma’s sister and brother-in-law are John & Isabella), while the surname of Gabbeday wouldn’t be at all out of place in a Dickensian novel, me thinks.

1811 dance dress
Going back to John and Ann Sweeney … they had a son, also John Sweeney. His son was named Job and he, Job Sweeney also had a son, Job Thomas Sweeney, who was my grandfather. Thus, by my calculations, Anne Elizabeth Gabbeday was therefore my Great-Great-Great-Grandmother. And the origin of the surname Gabbeday, I'm told, is Jewish.

To put these ancestors into their historical context:
See: Timeline of the formal Regency

Limehouse terrace
In 1841 John and Ann Sweeney were living in Stepney, by 1851, they had moved to Mile End and in 1861 the family, minus Anne who had died in 1855, had moved back to her native Limehouse, but they never stray outside of the area of Tower Hamlets, the main area of the East End of London; an area famous for very poor people and successive influxes of foreign immigrants - in particular Irish weavers and Ashkenazi Jews.
(Left) Early Georgian terrace and Grapes pub in Narrow Street, Limehouse, Tower Hamlets. These would have been familiar surroundings to John and Ann Sweeney, (minus the cars, of course.) Whatever would they make of it now, I wonder?

It’s difficult to gauge what my ancestors must have been like, although I doubt they were of Austen-like gentility. One imagines scenes more in common with William Hogarth's depiction of London vice, Gin Lane (1751).
By the 19th Century … “The 'Society for the Suppression of Vice' estimated that between the Houndsditch, Whitechapel and Ratcliffe area there were 1803 prostitutes; and between Mile End, Shadwell and Blackwall 963 women in the trade. They were often victims of circumstance, there being no welfare state [1] and a high mortality rate amongst the inhabitants that left wives and daughters destitute, with no other means of income.”
[1] (Much like things are becoming once again then!)

Knowing that much of my family came from the East End, I’d previously assumed that they were ‘umble, working class oiks. John Sweeney, however, had his occupation listed as a carpenter and his neighbour was a cabinet maker. So these were people with skills and a trade for which they had, presumably, served an apprenticeship and would therefore have been a smidgen further up the class ladder and, hopefully, not have been starving.

Monday, 28 April 2014

Breast cancer mammograms: overrated, overhyped and over-diagnosing women

It is time to radically re-think the flawed philosophy behind the 'early detection' tenet of the breast cancer awareness movement.

They go against the Hippocratic Oath (they do harm)! At last somebody else is saying it. It's why I've been refusing mammograms (and certainly NOT supporting pink-ribbon "awareness" campaigns) for years; that and the pain of them (real fucking awful unbearable pain when you have fibromyalgia) and having had a false positive diagnosis of breast cancer myself back in the late 1990's.

With all the accompanying stress that brought. I cannot really adequately describe how that diagnosis affected me (severely compounded by the fact that it was delivered with a total lack of tact and compassion, publicly in the busy corridoor of a Spanish hospital), but I basically 'lost' several days where I could not function, could not speak, could not think, could not sleep, could not eat ... That stress alone was enough to cause PTSD.

Yes, undoubtedly, this is not as bad as actually having cancer, but there was no way for me to know that at the time and, by then the harm was done.
"In calculating the role of population-based screening, the absence of benefit is only compounded by evidence of harm: 21.9% of breast cancers found through mammography screening represented over-diagnosis, according to the Swiss Medical Board. This means that one in five women who was told she had breast cancer after mammography screening received unnecessary treatment."
It's lucky I was sceptical and rejected the (barbaric) treatment offered me as the only option, or the end of this tale might have been very much worse indeed.

Breast cancer mammograms: overrated – and over-diagnosing women

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Detectives hunt hit and run mobility scooter driver

Not for us feral teenagers, here in New Milton we get ferocious pensioners:
It is the second time in recent months that a mobility scooter has injured a pedestrian in Hampshire.

Susan Daniels was left with a fractured knee and a ruptured tendon in her left arm after an 88-year-old man crashed into her in Station Road, New Milton.

The 69-year-old now finds it difficult to get around due to her injuries, and she called for the law to be changed to stop people buying scooters without tax or insurance.

The headline is almost comical, but all joking aside, it certainly would be beneficial to impose some sort of proficiency test with these things. An attitude test might be better!

Navigating Station Road in New Milton is like undergoing some sort of military training in trying to avoid the onslaught of oldies, either those on mobility scooters, or the hoards who use the shopping trolley walkers like snow ploughs to barge their way wherever they wish.

Both examples of this species suffer from the same delusion: that they have some RIGHT beyond that of all other mere mortals to traverse the pavements around town and, because they are old and infirm, that includes the right not to have to deviate nor give way to anyone else under any circumstances.

If you should happen to come face to face with one, they will glare menacingly, while ploughing directly on. If you don't quickly move out of their way, they seem to consider you "fair game." And if, like me, you are mobility imparied also, but haven't yet joined the ranks of these mobility tank drivers, then heaven help you if you can't move out of their way fast enough!

Detectives hunt hit and run mobility scooter driver (From Daily Echo)