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52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks #6 – Valentine
52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks #6 – Valentine

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks #6 – Valentine

“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?”

This is my first attempt at joining in on the “52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks” challenge. Despite having signed up last year, I never garnered the confidence to actually create anything for it.

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.

Black and white photograph of James Haire on the left, and Dorothy Gibbs on the right. James is a white man with thinning hair, large ears that stick out, and a nose with wide nostrils and a thin bridge. He is wearing a dark suit with a flower that may be a rose or carnation in his buttonhole. Dorothy is on the right of the photo, wearing a floral, mid-calf length dress with a smart over-coat, and a flat brimmed hat.
James and Dorothy on their wedding day, on 15th August 1937.

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.

James “Jim” Haire (centre) on a horse with his colleagues, perhaps at his workplace. Could be at Lyegrove, Badminton.
Postcard sent from Jim to his mother. I believe this is the Gloucestershire Regiment he was in during the First World War. On the back it reads, “Dear mother, Just a P.C. to let you know I am quite well. Will you tell Yeats I shall be home Saturday. Jim”

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.

Dorothy as a young girl.
Emma Venn, the sister Dorothy grew up with, and her husband, William “Bill” Burge. To my knowledge, they didn’t have any children, so I like to take time to think about them often.

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.


  1. Kim

    Wonderful photos and a lovely post. My great grandfather’s family emigrated from Derby to the US in 1870 and I know very little about them. I look forward to learning more about the area through your blog. Happy blogging to you!

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