“Do you have any Valentines from any of your ancestors? Or maybe you have an ancestor named Valentine. How about an ancestor that you wish you could exchange valentines with?”
I must say, I’m not normally one for celebrating Valentine’s day. I suppose I’m a bit of a cynic about it all really. However, when I think about the love my ancestors shared and how I am the product of hundreds of unions, I can see that, at the very least, it is worth setting time aside to celebrate their love and marriages, and be thankful for the life that they’ve given me.
The first couple who came to mind when I read this prompt was Dorothy Daisy Gibbs and James “Jim” Haire.
Jim and Dorothy were married by banns in Gloucestershire, on 15th August 1937. Jim had been living in Old Sodbury, and Dorothy had been living in Acton Turville.
What strikes me about their relationship is that they were comparatively older than most other couples in my tree when they started their family. Dorothy was just shy of her 36th birthday, and Jim had just turned 45 that June. They had, I’m sure, lived quite full lives already by this point, with Jim having served in the Gloucestershire Regiment and the South Lancashire regiment during the First World War. I’ve heard him described as ‘horse man’, having been a groom and a jockey at Lyegrove, Badminton in Gloucestershire before he settled in Derbyshire.
I know little about Dorothy’s life before her marriage, but I know she was not raised with her biological family, despite the rest of her seven siblings living with their parents. She appeared in the 1911 census in her home-village of Stogursey, living as the “companion” of an older woman named Louisa Rich. Amongst the photographs of my great Aunt’s collection was a photo labelled “Mum’s sister she grew up with” who she’d known as “Auntie Emmie”. Through my research I had found that “Auntie Emmie” was in fact Emma Venn, the granddaughter of Louisa Rich, through her daughter, Mary.
The thing that drew me to the love of Jim and Dorothy was the cards/postcards I found. Frustratingly, I don’t seem to have scanned them as I wanted to share them too. From memory, the cards were from Jim to Dorothy, from around her birthday, perhaps. The cards bore simple messages of affection and well-wishes, but the sheer amount of kisses he put on the card was touching. There were ‘x’s dotted all over the place. I’ve never known a man to put so many kisses to their wife or partner like that, and to think that 50-80 years ago Jim was displaying affection in such a relatable way made them the perfect couple of me to celebrate this Valentine’s.