Weddings during the First World War 1914-1918

I recently bought a second-hand book about wedding fashions, which got me thinking about all the wedding photographs I have of various family members from over the years. Wedding fashions tend to come and go and it can be easy to date a wedding to the 1960s, 1970s etc from looking at the wedding dress. I realised I have never seen a photograph of my grandparents wedding, and had assumed that to be the lack of photographs back then.

My paternal grandparents, Joseph Taylor Dinnis and Annie Cleeve were married on 9 December 1915 in All Saints Church, Hartley Wintney, Hampshire.

Marriage certificate  Joseph Taylor Dinnis Annie Cleeve

Marriage certificate
Joseph Taylor Dinnis
Annie Cleeve

On reading a chapter from the book ‘Wedding Fashions 1860-1980′ by Avril Lansdell she mentions that wedding dresses seemed to disappear for a while during 1915 and 1916 (due to World War 1). Couples would wear their best clothing for a portrait representing marriage. If men had a uniform they would wear this. For women, collars were often wide, leaving the neck bare with the blouse coming only to the collar-bone. A slightly flared skirt would be worn, a practical design allowing easy movement.

In an article from ‘Family Tree’ magazine this month where they investigate old family photographs, they talk about wedding photographs from this period. They state that one would be standing with the other seated and the bride would deliberately display her wedding band.

This led me to look back at a couple of photographs of my grandparents, taken (I believe) in 1916.

Annie Cleeve with Joseph Taylor Dinnis

Annie Cleeve with Joseph Taylor Dinnis

Annie Cleeve and Joseph Taylor Dinnis

Annie Cleeve and Joseph Taylor Dinnis

One standing, one seated, Joseph in his uniform, Annie in her slightly flared skirt and wide collar with bare neck. Focussing on Annie’s hand I notice that she has a ring prominently displayed on the ring finger of her left hand.

Annie Cleeve, close up of ring

She also appears to be wearing a large watch, I don’t know if this is unusual or not. She is also wearing a necklace, which my cousin, Sue still has. This suggests it was a special piece of jewellery and perhaps a gift from her fiancée which she wanted to wear in her wedding picture.

Annie Cleeve and Joseph Taylor Dinnis - Copy

So, I have no proof of these being their wedding pictures, but the evidence is piling up!

Adoption and Naming – Detective Work

On the weekend I welcomed some family into my home for a get-together. My children were here to meet my mother’s cousin Ron and his family. We had a wonderful time as you can see here:

Left to right Kerry, her mother Pam, Pam's husband Graham, his father Ron Cockett, my and my son, Jonathan

Left to right Kerry, her mother Pam, her husband Graham, his father Ron Cockett, my and my son, Jonathan

We had met previously a couple of years ago, thanks to meeting up online at where we had been searching for one another.

To cut a long story short, Mum was adopted and wouldn’t have anything to do with her birth family (the Cocketts). She also never knew who her birth father was. This didn’t bother her, she considered her adopted family (the Howells) as her family.

However it has always been on my mind, and since she passed on fifteen years ago I felt it would be alright to start looking. On finding Ron he made my dreams come true by sending me some photographs of my grandmother (Queenie Cockett). This was more than I had hoped for. However, he had no idea who my grandfather might be, and I put that dream away again.

On meeting them this weekend, I realised I have spent a disproportionate amount of time on my father’s family tree, and got out mum’s documents again. In all the advice about tracing your family tree it always says ‘begin with what you know’. So, I dug out Mum and Dad’s birth certificates and began comparing them.

I noticed a category that said ‘Signature, Description and Residence of Informant’, which I had previously glanced at. My Dad’s father, Joseph Taylor Dinnis had signed his, and Mum’s had been signed by ‘E. Wilson. Present at the birth’. I had always assumed this to be an anonymous midwife, or nurse who was present at the birth.

After meeting with the Cocketts I began to wonder about this ‘E. Wilson’ and looked again at the family tree.

I noticed that Queenie had an older sister named Elizabeth. She had married in 1916. She married William Wilson, so she would have been E. Wilson. Mum was born in 1927.

Elizabeth Cockett Wilson

Elizabeth Cockett Wilson

It would seem to make sense that an elder sister would be present at the birth of a younger sibling. I am now wondering if she would have known more about the baby’s father. Looking at the family tree it appears Elizabeth had no children to tell, so I am now wondering if she would have told her younger sister about it all?

Her younger sister was Jane Nellie Cockett.

Jane Nellie Cockett

Jane Nellie Cockett

I still have so many questions, especially about my mothers name. Queenie was born ‘May Annie Doris Cockett’ but known as Queenie. On mum’s birth certificate she is also named ‘May Annie Doris Cockett’ but I always knew her as Enid May Howells.

I will carry on searching and will let you know how I get on.


The Final Part of the Life and Times of Fanny Dinnis

The final part of Fanny Dinnis’s life was spent in New York and in Glencoe, Cook, Illinois. From the New York State Census of 1925 we know Fanny was aged 79 and living with her daughter, Edith Beatrice, son-in-law Alexander Saunders, two of their children (Alexander and Irma) daughter-in-law Lorna and grandson, Alex Saunders, age 2.

Alexander, the head of the family was aged 60, his son Alexander, 23, and both list their occupation as Insurance Agents.

Fanny’s death is listed in the Illinois Death Index on 19 February 1930, she would have been 84. The burial took place in Evanston, Cook, Illinois on 21 February 1930. It also mentions Fanny had been a resident in the city where her death occured (Glencoe, Illinois) for 3 months 19 days.

This is all the information I have at the moment, but in the following months I am sure to have some added sources which I will update.

The Life and Times of my great grand-aunt Fanny Dinnis (6)

We last left Fanny in 1910, widowed, aged 63 and living with her daughter Edith Beatrice Saunders, her son-in-law Alexander and their three children.

At some point she must have travelled back to England, because the next details in the life of Fanny Dinnis come from the New York Passenger Lists 1820-1957, where we see her listed under ‘List of Alien Passengers’. It appears she sailed from Southampton on the S.S. Lapland on 16 September 1919.

S.S. Lapland

S.S. Lapland

List of Alien Passengers, Southampton to New York, 1919

List of Alien Passengers, Southampton to New York, 1919

There is a ‘Fanny Forbes’ listed, aged 73, female, widowed, English and her last permanent residence is Brighton, England. Her final destination is New York. Under the title ‘Name and address of nearest relative in country whence alien came’ is written ‘Nephew, Mr H. Roberts, 12 Sudbourne Road, Brixton Hill, London.

Mr H Roberts (Robarts) was the son of Fanny’s eldest sister Catherine Ann and her husband Abraham Robarts. They had two sons with the initial ‘H’, Harry and Herbert. We can see from documentation that Herbert died in 1918, so can assume her named nephew to be Harry Robarts. His dates are 1864 – 1957, although these need verifying.

In the 1911 England Census he was aged 47, single and living with his parents in Brixton Hill, London. His occcupation is listed as a builder’s assistant.

In 1920, one year after Fanny arrived in New York again, there is more information available from the 1920 United States Federal Census. It shows that in Middletown, Delaware, New York Edith Beatrice Saunders was the head of a small household. She was 39, married, and was living with her daughter, Irma (13) and her mother, Fanny Forbes (aged 73).

1920 United States Federal Census for New York

1920 United States Federal Census for New York

I must say, the more I find out about Fanny Dinnis, the more I like and admire her. To travel to America on her own aged 73 I find really inspiring. That was a very old age back then, and the journey was a long one. She must have been some tough lady, and I really am glad to have someone like her in my family tree.

Travelling is something I would like to do, but isn’t something I have ever done alone. Finding great grand-aunt Fanny really makes me question myself, and I am beginning to wonder if, perhaps, I could actually do more than I think I can.

I love you Great Grand-Aunt Fanny

Fanny Dinnis (Forbes) and Edith Forbes 1878

Fanny Dinnis (Forbes) and Edith Forbes 1878


Happy Birthday to Me!

It has been a weekend full of the news of the arrival of a special little Princess – Charlotte Elizabeth Diana. But of course every baby is special to their parents, and today (5 May 2015) is my birthday.

I was born on 5 May 1958, only child of Gordon and Enid Dinnis. I weighed in at 7lbs 11ozs and my first home was in Lower Market Street, Hove where I still live nearby. Here I am with my parents, in the garden of my mother’s family in Shoreham by Sea, Sussex.

Gordon Dinnis with baby Jacqueline Ann, aged 6 weeks

11 Enid Dinnis (Howells Cockett) with baby Jacqueline Ann, aged 6 weeks


Gordon Dinnis with baby Jacqueline Ann aged 6 weeks


The life and times of my great grand-aunt Fanny Dinnis (5)

My previous post (The life and times of my great grand-aunt Fanny (4) concluded in 1894 with the death of Fanny’s father, John Dinnis, following on from the deaths of her two youngest children in 1889.

In the England Census of 1891 Edith Beatrice, Fanny’s remaining daughter, was aged 13. On 30 December 1895 Edith married Alexander Saunders. I actually have yet to find any proof of this event. She was 18. Alexander Saunders has an interesting history. The following are copies of his Certificate of Naturalisation, showing he was born aroung 1864 in Berlin, Germany. His parents were Edward and Irma Seligmann. The Naturalisation took place in 1899, when Alexander was a resident in Newland, Surrey.

Alexander Seligmann

Alexander Seligmann 2

However, I also found an entry in the 1891 Scotland Census, listing ‘Alexander Seligmann’ born about 1863 in Berlin, Germany. A commercial traveller, he was married to Katherina Seligmann. At some point he changed his surname from Seligmann to Saunders.

Fanny and her husband, John William Forbes immigrated in 1900. I have definite information about this, which I will show in a moment. It would appear from both the 1910 and 1920 U.S. Federal Census documents that Edith Beatrice and her husband also immigrated in either 1899 or 1900 but I can’t find them listed.

What I have found is the list of Alien Immigrants, listing Fanny and John’s arrival in the United States.

List of Alien Immigrants 1900

List of Alien Immigrants 1900

This shows they were intending to join their son in law in Atlanta, Georgia. The only son in law they had was Alexander Saunders.

It is strange to think of my ancestors being immigrants and heading off on a ship for a new and better start. I am imagining they felt it was the right time, as a family to begin again, after the death of two of their children and Fanny’s father. It certainly must have been a huge adventure for them.

From the above document we can see they travelled on the S.S. ‘New York’, sailing from Southampton on 29 September 1900 and arriving at the Port of New York on 9 October 1900. John and Fanny were both aged 54, John still lists his occupation as a Compositor.

They were landing in New York, although their final destination was Atlanta, Georgia. Their tickets to Atlanta were bought by themselves. They had not been to the U.S before.

I found this image of the S.S. New York, although the dates don’t fit to be the one they sailed on I imagine it looked similar.

S.S. 'New York' 1893 - 1898 from

S.S. ‘New York’ 1893 – 1898 from

Some information in the 1910 United States Federal Census holds information which confirms certain things. It lists Fanny Forbes as having born 3 children, and having only one child living.

1910 U.S. Federal Census

1910 U.S. Federal Census

In 1910 Fanny was widowed, aged 63 and living with her daughter Edith Beatrice Saunders, her husband Alexander Saunders, and their three children. They had previously lived in Georgia, where Alexander Hamilton Saunders and Irma Saunders were born (now aged 8 and 3), little Louis is now 8 months old and was born in New York. Alexander Saunders worked in Life Insurance.

The life and times of my great grand-aunt Fanny (4)

I have had trouble confirming some of the information in this post. I am hoping that in a few months time my American cousins may find some death certificates and then we will know for sure. I will try to say exactly what leads me to my conclusions here.

The England census of 1891 has no mention of John Dinnis Hamilton Forbes or Ethel Lilian Forbes. On looking through various Birth and Death Indexes I found one that lists the death of ‘Ethel Lilian Forbes’ in Greenwich aged 7, in the months of either April, May or June 1889. This fits with the name and age. I then found another list for deaths in Greenwich, in October, November or December 1889 of ‘John Forbes’ age 10. This fits with name and age, and is the same place as Ethel Lilian Forbes death. This is all I have to go on at the moment, but will hopefully be returning to it in some months time.

The England Census of 1891 shows the following:

England Census 1891 for John William Forbes and Fanny Forbes

England Census 1891 for John William Forbes and Fanny Forbes

It shows the residents in Peckham, London as John W. Forbes and Fanny Forbes, both aged 44, Edith Forbes their daughter aged 13 and a scholar. Also living with them is John Dinnis, Fanny’s father, aged 70. His wife, Charlotte had died in 1886.

When I first saw this, I thought Fanny was looking after her father, but perhaps he was also looking after her in the light of the previous news of the deaths of her two little children.

John Dinnis died in 1894, which perhaps led to the next huge step in the life of the Forbes/ Dinnis family. I will write about that tomorrow.

The life and times of my great grand-aunt Fanny Dinnis (3)

Fanny Dinnis married John William Forbes on 9 December 1876, and the next information I can find comes in the birth and baptism records, when we can see their first daughter, Edith Beatrice Forbes was baptised on July 8th 1877 so I guess she was quite premature!

London Births and Baptisms 1813 - 1906

London Births and Baptisms 1813 – 1906

Looking at the entry above Edith Beatrice it shows that on the same day John Taylor Dinnis, son of George and Catherine Dinnis was baptised. We know that sadly little John Taylor Dinnis didn’t live for very long, passing away in February 1878.

My American cousins have sent me this photograph of Fanny Forbes Dinnis and Edith Beatrice Forbes taken in 1878.

Fanny Dinnis (Forbes) and Edith Forbes 1878

Fanny Dinnis (Forbes) and Edith Forbes 1878

From the London Births and Baptisms 1813 – 1906 we see that Fanny and John William had another two children, both baptised on 27 November 1881. John Dinnis Hamilton Forbes was born on 8 May 1879 and Ethel Lilian Forbes on 18 October 1881.

London Births and Baptisms, John Dinnis Hamilton Forbes, Ethel Lilian Forbes

London Births and Baptisms, John Dinnis Hamilton Forbes, Ethel Lilian Forbes

The England Census of 1881 confirms John, Fanny Forbes, Edith Beatrice and John Dinnis Hamilton Forbes (age 1) were living in Peckham, Lambeth. Also living at this address is Lucy Hamilton age 27, a boarder whose occupation is listed as a Milliner. Looking back at the 1871 census, Lucy was also living with the family in Islington. She was born in Brighton, so possibly moved up there when the Forbes family moved. I wonder if John Dinnis Hamilton Forbes was named after her?

1881 England Census

1881 England Census

The next post will tell the next chapter, which looks to be a sad one in the life of the Dinnis Forbes family.





The life and times of my great grand-aunt Fanny Dinnis (2)

Thanks to information gained from the England Census in 1851 it is possible to confirm Fanny was aged 5 in this year and two more children had been added to the family. Harry was born in 1848 and Charlotte Harriet in 1850. They had moved to number 18 Ship Street, and Uncle James was staying with them (John Dinnis’s brother) working as a general labourer.

1851 England Census

1851 England Census

Ten years later, the 1861 England Census shows the family had moved around the corner to number 3, Old Steine, and John Dinnis was the Cook and Publican at the Queens Head. Fanny was 15, and another little boy had been born to the family – George, born in 1854, who would go on to become my great grandfather.

Another ten years passes and the next Census (1871) shows that the family had moved up to Islington in London. The older children (Catherine Ann and John Henry) had moved on and had families of their own. Fanny was 25, working as a Milliner. Milliners were workers in the hat trade, and in the publication ‘Discover your family’s Occupations’ it mentions that “Many of the enhancements for hats were locally made. For example, the silk weaving industry grew up in Spitalfields in Middlesex because of the close proximity to the hat trade, which had established itself in Islington.”

The next information comes from the London, England, Marriages and Banns 1754 – 1921 index, when we see that on the 9 December 1876 Fanny Dinnis married John William Forbes at St Andrews Church, Islington.

Marriage of Fanny Dinnis to John William Forbes

Marriage of Fanny Dinnis to John William Forbes

This shows that John Forbes was working as a Compositor, living at 39 Albion Grove, and Fanny was ‘the girl next door’ at 37 Albion Grove. The two witness signatures are John Henry Dinnis and Charlotte Harriet Dinnis.

I have been trying to find what a ‘Compositor’ did for a living but have drawn a blank so far. I think it’s something to do with Printing, which interests me as it’s the closest I have come to finding someone in the past who shares my interests today. If anyone could give me a simple explanation of this occupation, that would be great!


The Life and Times of my Great Grand Aunt Fanny (1)

Fanny Dinnis (Forbes) and Edith Forbes 1878

Fanny Dinnis (Forbes) and Edith Forbes 1878

A few days ago I made contact with some American third cousins once removed, another branch of the Dinnis family. This has been so exciting and is what makes my ancestry search so enjoyable. I was also astounded to receive the above image, showing Fanny Dinnis with her daughter, Edith. To actually ‘see’ my great grand aunt makes her much more of a real person to me and I am now looking forward to finding out more about her life.

I have written previously about Fanny and her family as she was born and grew up in Brighton, England but thought I would recap her early history. I still get very confused about the members of such large families, and writing about it makes it clearer for me to understand!

Another image I received this week was this copy of Fanny’s birth certificate.

Birth certificate of Fanny Dinnis

Birth certificate of Fanny Dinnis

This confirms she was born on 17th January 1846, the daughter of John Dinnis and Charlotte Dinnis (Sampson). she had an elder sister, Catherine Ann (1837) and a brother John Henry (1843). The family lived at 2 Middle Street, Brighton and her father worked as a Cook at the Old Ship Hotel. Her birth was registered on 12 February 1846.

She was baptised at Brighton Chapel Royal on 18th February 1846, this information is from the Sussex Family History Group data, and their address is confirmed by

The Old Ship Hotel

The Old Ship Hotel

Middle Street

Middle Street leading down to Brighton beach

The Chapel Royal

The Chapel Royal


Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 194 other followers

Follow me on Twitter




Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 194 other followers