Ellen S performed the amazing feat of only aging eight years for every ten that passed, if you believe her census records. She shaves four years off her age in 1881, and then adds eight by 1891 and another eight in 1901. It is only when the question of how long she’s been married comes in on the 1911 census, and she realises that if she continues in this vein the length of her marriage (44 years) would have her as a child bride, that she admits her true age.
A shoe maker’s daughter, she would have been involved in his profession as a young child – alongside all her siblings – and probably learnt to stitch neatly.
Balls of wax and stinking water,
Three rows of rotten leather,
Who would have a shoemaker. “
(Traditional song from Northumberland, United Kingdom, describing the conditions of shoe making in the 19th century)
Shoe making was not a particularly lucrative profession, so she would have been expected to earn money early in life. She followed her older sister into nursery nursing, working in a large household for an attorney at law at the age of 14, and helping to look after four children after the age of seven. She married a coach maker, someone who would have been several social class positions above a shoe maker in terms of Victorian social structure.
After she married she had three children, rather than the usual nine or so that Victorian women typically produced. This gave her more time than most other women, and she put her sewing skills to good use by running a dress making business.
Later on, her eldest daughter died young, leaving two very young children. Ellen and her husband brought up their grandsons, caring for them until they reached adulthood.
To find out more about the women in your ancestry, contact Once Upon A Family Tree.