My dearest Papa…

I have my family history group tomorrow and as ever, trying to think ways that people can tell the stories of their ancestors, and bring them to life so that others can enjoy and access their history.

One of the group is writing her story using letters her uncle write during the war and it occurred to me that although we may not have actual letters, we could imagine what people might have written.

My great-grandmother Lois was cut off from her family after she became involved with a man she could never marry – he was Jewish, she a Christian. I am imagining her writing to her father after he marries again following the death of his first wife, Lois’s mother.

October 1881


My dearest Papa,

I hope I find you well, and my brothers and sisters also. I am writing to offer my warmest congratulations to you on your marriage to Miss Loversidge, now Mrs Penney. I hope she brings you much joy and happiness for many years to come.I do not know the city of Nottingham at all so I do not know where this happy event took place, but Sarah tells me it was a joyous occasion.

I am sure Mrs Penney has been a comfort to you after the sad loss of our mother and my dear sister Georgiana; I understand that Georgiana’s relict Mr Blow is a hairdresser, living in Cambridgeshire, in Chatteris,  where we used to live, so I suppose you and he have not been in each other’s company often.

I received the news that I am now an aunt to Ann’s little daughter, Mildred; I am delighted and my heart is full of joy for ‘little Ann’ as she always is to me! Please tender my best wishes and love to Ann and Mr Bester. I also hear that George and his wife Jane have a happy addition to their family, young Charles, named for you, father! My fondest love to them also. The Penney family is growing, is it not – Mary and her six little Dawson children, three boys and three girls, and Martha and Mr Roberts and their four children. How I long to see my sisters again and meet their husbands and my nieces and nephews!

I am living in London as you may know, in an area called Willesden which is very pleasant. I am  housekeeper to a gentleman from the colonies, a Mr Walford who is a dealer in the woollen business working in the City. Mr Walford hails from the colony of Tasmania. His family is very respectable and prosperous; his late father was a JP and his widowed mother now has an establishment on Regent’s Park. I look after Mr Walford’s house and take care of his little boy George Frederick who is two years old and a sweet obedient child.

I hope with all my heart dear father, that I will see you again, and be in the company of my brother and sisters and their families. I miss you with all my heart, and pray to God to keep you safe in his care.

With sincere and fondest best wishes,

your daughter

Lois Penney

The sad thing about this letter – even though it is made up, is that George Walford is Lois’s own child.

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