X marks the spot

Prime Minister from Liverpool to May

I have featured this coin before. These pictures were the first I took with a new lens that acts as a short range telephoto (90 mm) and macro, or close-up. But what was going on when it was minted two centuries ago?

As mentioned in my blog about the year without a summer, 1816, the country was suffering. Wages were in decline, harvests failing, the price of grain rising and with it the cost of daily bread. There remained a surplus of labour following the end of the Napoleonic Wars in 1815. Continue reading “X marks the spot”


Private James Onion – Remembrance

War Graves at Etaples, via Find A Grave

ONION, Pte. J., 18020. 7th Bn. S. Staffordshire Regt., attd. 33rd Bn. Machine Gun Corps. 14th Oct., 1916. Age 26. Son of James and Annie Onion, of Bishop’s Wood, Brewood, Stafford. VII. F. 3. (From 1914-1918, War Dead of the Commonwealth, Military Cemetery Etaples, France, Part 5.) Continue reading “Private James Onion – Remembrance”

The Farmer’s Boy


Just like most folk a substantial proportion of my nineteenth century kindred worked the land, mainly in back-breaking drudgery, and pretty much until they dropped. Some managed to scratch a living on farms even into the twentieth century (perhaps even into this one, though I don’t know of any). But what of those whose livelihoods were displaced by advances in technique and technology?  Where did they go? Continue reading “The Farmer’s Boy”

When the pieces don’t fit

Tracing family history is sometimes like completing a jigsaw puzzle without the box. To make things more difficult one sometimes encounters the equivalent of a patch of sky where there should be part of a bowling green or a circle of standing stones resting on a cloud. No matter how hard you try it just won’t make sense. It also casts doubt on things that seemed to be undeniable truths. Peeling back the layers of my Onion pedigree has not yet brought me to tears, but I am unable to let the incongruities go unreconciled. Continue reading “When the pieces don’t fit”

Don’t tell

Everyone of us has been in this situation. Usually, it is something from the school playground, but in times of war, especially when it is in your own country, it can be more serious, fatal, even. “Be like Dad, keep mum” was a World War II poster. Toadying up to the enemy might save you in the short term, but it might not save you from your “friends” later. In a land ravaged by almost a decade of war this is what some of my ancestors faced.

White Ladies Priory, near Tong, Shropshire, via Geograph, copyright Richard Croft, creative commons.

On 30 January 1649, King Charles of England was executed. From that point his son, also Charles, pursued his claim to the throne on the battlefields of England and Scotland, the monarchy having been abolished by Parliament on 17 March. The final defeat came at the battle of Worcester on 3 September 1651, when Charles was forced to run for his life. Continue reading “Don’t tell”

Getting to know my Onions

When I found this news clipping about Thomas Onion, I thought he must be related, but the connection was not as straightforward as I had hoped. Once again this would take me back to country lanes in southern Staffordshire that I had travelled many times.

Staffordshire Advertiser 25 Sep 1948

Historically, the area is famous for supporting the Catholic monarchy, helping King Charles II to flee the country after defeat at the battle of Worcester in 1851, the final substantial act of the English Civil War. As as child I was taken to Boscobel House to learn about King Charles and the Royal Oak, the inspiration for many pubs named the Royal Oak. This local quirk would make things difficult. Continue reading “Getting to know my Onions”