Friday, December 15, 2006

The Britton surname

I didn't know it was French! From

This interesting name does not mean anything to do with 'Britain' as in the British Isles of modern idiom, rather it is a national or ethnic name for someone from Brittany, France, a 'Breton'. In the 6th Century the Celtic speaking Bretons were driven to South West England (indeed the name Britton is frequently found around Bristol) by Anglo-Saxon invaders, and many Bretons came to England with William the Conqueror in 1066. The name can be spelt in several different ways in the modern idiom, ranging from, Britain, Britten, Brittan, Brittin and Brittain to Briton and Britney. The surname has long been established in Staffordshire; William Bryttayne married Elizabeth Cook in Betley, on November 28th 1559, and John Brittain was christened in 1589, also in Betley. In London, the christening of Edward Brittain was recorded on November 17th 1630 at St. Mary Whitechapel, Stepney. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of John de Bretagne (witness), which was dated 1291 in the Assize Rolls, Staffordshire, during the reign of King Edward 1, known as 'The Hammer of the Scots', 1272-1307. Surnames became necessary when governments introduced personal taxation. In England this was known as Poll Tax. Throughout the centuries, surnames in every country have continued to "develop" often leading to astonishing variants of the original spelling.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Nathan Hale

Grandma B used to tell me we're related to Nathan Hale, the Revolutionary War hero. If you don't know who he is, read this. Does anyone know how we're connected?

Monday, August 07, 2006

Wilma Gertrude Fish Britton

Wilma as a young girl (please excuse the photo quality)

The house in which Wilma grew up (on Washington Street in South Walpole, MA)

Wilma in her 20s

Wilma on her wedding day. On the back of this picture, she wrote, "Wilma G. Fish, S. Walpole Mass. June 10, 1950 Just before 2 PM Wedding to Richard C. Britton"

A kiss in front of the South Walpole United Methodist Church, on Washington Street, directly across from the Fish home

Wilma and Dick leaving their wedding, 1950

Wilma with her oldest daughter, Lauren, Christmas 1952

Wilma with Uncle Frankie's daughters, Carolyn and Sally Fish (thanks Kim!)

A picture from my visit with "Grandma B" in October 2004, Petaluma, California

WILMA GERTRUDE FISH was born on 24 May 1928 in Norwood, Norfolk Co., Massachussetts. Her parents were Leslie Willard Fish of Charlottetown, PEI and Ruth Frances Elliott Harris of Littleton, New Hampshire. She was the fourth of six children, and the only girl in the family. She was named for her grandmother, Wilma Gertrude Harris. Wilma had red hair, freckles and gray eyes. She had such fond memories of her childhood, spent in several different places along the East Coast.

I spoke to "Grandma B" in the fall of 2004 and took the following notes from our conversation:
(If any of you are able to fill in some blanks, please let me know, or you can post something yourself, for example, if you have more pictures, which somebody's got to! If you need help posting, please let me know!)

My notes begin when she was talking about living in Bristol, Rhode Island.

Wilma's family moved to Bristol when she was about three or four years old. Grandma always talked about how much she loved living in Bristol, even though she was quite young. There was a large estate* there (on the shores of Mt. Hope Bay), "miles long" that went from the forest down to the ocean. It was owned by the Haffenreffer family, "who may have made their money in alcohol." Leslie, Wilma's father was looking to change work (this was before the Depression), and there was a chicken farm on the estate with dozens of hen houses that came from behind the house and stopped at the beach. There was a lovely house near the hen houses into which her family moved. She could walk to school through King Phillip's Trail or along the ocean. She told me that they could see Fall River across the ocean. It was about 2 miles away, but on a clear summer afternoon, you could see it.

They would go swimming a lot while they lived in Bristol, and she remembers that her dad would only go in up to his knees, but her mom could float. She remembered Lucy and Margaret Patabia, whose father was the gardener on the estate. She said often those girls would come over and help with housework in the morning so they could all go swimming the rest of the day. She remembers that one of them "liked Uncle Hermon a little bit." She had very happy memories of Bristol.

Later they moved to Franklin, MA, when she was in fifth through seventh grades. She lived three miles from school and would walk half a mile to the bus and take the bus to school.

The Fish family then moved back to South Walpole, MA, where her father took a job with the Walpole Woodworkers. They had lived there at an earlier time. Her dad bought Mrs. Mabel Mann's house on Washington Street after she died. It was a big, tall house with lots of land around it and her brothers, she thinks maybe three of them, built houses on the land. See house above.

In highschool, Wilma was very popular. She was the head cheerleader and was voted "best looking" in her class. She had a boyfriend named Bob Lonley, who was not well-liked by Wilma's parents. She remembers her dad saing "I'd rather have you dead than married in the Catholic Church," which she then followed with "he knew things he wouldn't explain to me." I'm assuming she meant that her dad knew what was best for her and had more perspective on things like that.

There were two drugstores in **Walpole Center and one was called "Wellington's." It was run by Mr. Jacob Mens, "a wonderful Jewish man" with two daughters. Wilma worked there as a teenager, sometimes until 10 or 10:30 on a Saturday night. One night she told Mr. Mens that a "certain young man" named Stanley was taking her home, but he wouldn't allow it and said to her, "I told your mother I would see that you got home." Later she changed jobs; she thinks she might have grown out of the drug store, "grew up" and went across the street to the dry goods store owned by Mr. Charles Holt. He gave her a job working "not upstairs where all the ladies' clothes were," but downstairs where they had fabric, childrens' clothes, and a gift-wrapping station. She said she felt much more comfortable in that department, as she never felt fashionable or knowledgeable enough to cater to the women who shopped upstairs. She said if you worked in the womens' department, you had to wear "stockings and high heels." She felt that she "would be [her]self downstairs."

Wilma met her husband, Dick (Richard Clayton Britton), through his sister, Lorraine, who was her roommate during their nurse's training at Sturdy hospital in Attleboro, Mass. Wilma was a bridesmaid in Lorraine's wedding in July 1948, and met Richard at the wedding. He was playing the organ for the ceremony. Dick got along very well with Wilma's mother, Ruth, who was also very musical. Her mother once said to her when she started nurses' training, "Perhaps one of the girls in training will have a nice brother."

She told me of nurses training that there were 12 other young women in her class. There were six months of training before a "capping" ceremony. She remembers that Lorraine mostly wanted to get married.

Wilma and Dick were married in the United Methodish Church on Washington Street in South Walpole, Massachussetts on 10 June 1950. Dick was in the Naval Reserves during the Korean war, and he and Wilma moved for a short time to Virginia. Dick eventually took a job as a commercial pilot for American Airlines. They moved to a house on Sunset Drive in Beverly, Mass. While in Beverly, they gave birth to their first child, Lauren Stephanie. A couple of years later, in 1955, they moved to Dallas, Texas. They lived there for six years, and had two daughters there: Julie Ruth and Kimberly Jean. Then the Brittons moved to Sunnyvale, California. Dick found out that if he moved to Buffalo, New York, he would be made a captain much more quickly, and they lived there for one year. Next they moved to Ridgefield, Connecticut, where their youngest children, Roger Clayton and Steven Richard were born in 1965.

The Brittons joined the LDS church in 1964, and soon moved to Tustin, in southern California, to be around more members of their Church. They built a house in a neighboring town called Villa Park, where they lived for two years. Dick soon found Villa Park too crowded, so he moved his family to Calistoga, CA, where they lived for about six years. Dick took up sailing and moved his family again, this time to El Cajon, CA, so he could keep a boat. He was flying for American out of San Diego. Dick and Wilma moved to Redding, CA and then to Napa.

Wilma moved to Elk Grove, California after Dick died. She worked full-time as a nurse in convalescent homes. You could tell she loved the work and formed close bonds with many of her patients and co-workers. She told she liked nursing because it was "clean and neat." When she first started nursing, she preferred the operating room, but "floor duty was good, too." "I just liked being a nurse." Wilma's uncle Ingham died in the early 1990s and left her a sum of money. She bought a house in Petaluma, California, where her daughter Julie lived. While in Petaluma, Wilma became a worker at the Oakland LDS Temple. She kept her impeccably clean little house in like-new condition. She always took such wonderful care of her things, but she mostly loved taking care of people and was the quintessential "woman who never sits down during dinner."

I also asked her about her parents. She said of her dad, Leslie Fish, that he was the "kindest man," that he was very gentle and quiet and that she "never even heard him say 'Damn.' " She said her mother, Ruth, was a hard worker and a good mother to her. Wilma passed away after a relapse of ovarian cancer on 11 April 2005 in Petaluma, California.

*This site has a little information on the Haffenreffer Estate, as well as some small pictures of the coastline.

**According to Mike Amaral, of the Walpole Historical Commission, both Wellington's and the Holt's store were located in Walpole Center, not South Walpole. Thanks, Mike!

Don't forget, you can click on any of these photos to save them to your computer.

Jay and Kim contributed these pictures (and the one of the house in Walpole, Thanks!). Like Jay said, "many people affectionately called her 'Willy.' Her brothers placed this marker where she is buried, next to her parents." (in Walpole, Mass.)

What do you remember about Wilma Britton? Please add to this post or post a comment. Thanks!

Saturday, August 05, 2006

New Blog, please contribute!

After consultation with my wise husband, I have determined that I will create one blog for each of the four main ancestral lines of our family. There will be links in the sidebar to a blog for the Horn family, the Walker family, the Parker family, and the Britton family. That way, you can each contribute to the blog which pertains to your relatives, and you won't have to deal with all those other people you've never heard of!

Please bookmark those blogs which pertain to you. I feel like we all have a responsibility to contribute to these family histories. It is easy to comment and share your memories or corrections, and I will then post them to the pertinent posts.

I'll post my latest efforts on each blog, and I hope you'll share any information you may have as well. I'll use it as a place to post pictures so you can all have copies. All you need to do is click on the picture and download it onto your computer. Then you can save and print it, or bring it to a photo shop to have to made for you.

Also, please feel free to make corrections. Many of you are more familiar with your specific ancestors than I am, and I may have some information wrong. Anyway, enjoy!