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family treeAlmost from the beginning of time have records been kept detailing our ancestry. In Genesis in the Old Testament Noah lists his family tree (Genesis 5). Not many of us will be able to track our family back as far as Adam and Eve, but that doesn’t mean we do not keep a record of those people we can find.

Modern technology makes creating a Family tree so much easier, however, it can still take time and money. It took my sister, Carole and I about 25 years to find the correct information concerning our great grandmother Sarah Riley and part of the reason was the fact that the information we had received from our mother, which she believed to be correct, was actually incorrect.  Asking our living ancestors, such as parents and grandparents is a good way to begin our research, but we need to be aware that what they think they know, may not be right.

These are the things I can remember my mother telling me about Sarah Riley –

  • she was Irish
  • she was born in Kilkenny Ireland
  • she was Irish Catholic and was very involved in the church
  • she married Alfred Tennant
  • her father was Joseph Riley
  • she didn’t know the name of her mother
  • Sarah has a sister named, Annie, who married in Canterbury
  • her father went to Australia and had a sheep farm
  • she had two children, my mother’s father (my grandfather), Alfred Tennant and a daughter Margaret Tennant, who married George Edmondson
  • she owned a cafe on Buck street, Bradford and two house, a garage, a sewing machine shop…?
  • she died from pneumonia after a fall downstairs in a nursing home, where she had gone to live when her daughter Margaret died suddenly, because she was blind
  • she was buried near my mother parents, near the wall, Bowling Cemetery
  • she worked in the cafe
  • she looked after my mother after her died aged 32
  • she was 80 when she died or maybe older

These are the things that turned our to be correct –

  • she was born on 1 July 1877 in Drighlington, near Bradford, Yorkshire, England (not Ireland)
  • she died 25 March 1965 Bradford after a fall downstairs at a nursing home, when a safety gate was left open, she broke her arm and became immobile. There was a coroners inquest, which appeared in the newspaper.
  • she never married Alfred Tennant, because he was already married to Martha Elizabeth Speight in 1897, Armley, Leeds, Yorkshire. Martha Elizabeth Speight died in July 1965, after Sarah. She never went by the name Tennant, she was always Riley.
  • Alfred and Sarah had two children; Alfred Tennant Riley and Margaret Tennant Riley. Margaret married George Edmondson and died in January 1965, Bradford after and heart attack.
  • her father was Joe Riley (not Joseph). He was born in Halifax and died in Bradford. He was a mill manager and moved around the country making it difficult to track him on census records. He married Margaret Salmon in 1871 Bradford. He never left the country.
  • Margaret Salmon’s father was Martin Salmon and her mother was Mary Murphy. They were all born in Laois, Ireland. Martin Salmon is listed on Margaret’s marriage certificate as a cattle driver – he drove cattle across America to the gold mines in California and became very rich. I believe both he and Mary, his wife, died in Massachusetts, but it’s difficult to prove. We believed Margaret was an only child until recently when I found she had 5 siblings; Anne, Elizabeth, John, Bridget & John.
  • Margaret and Joe lived only a few houses away from each other on the 1871 census.
  • Sarah Riley was one of 4 children; John, Annie Marion, Charles Alfred (my mother only knew about Annie). Annie married Arthur Smith at Pound Street, Canterbury estate, Bradford, but she did die in Bedfordshire.
  • Sarah did own businesses, houses and graves in Bradford, including a Sarah’s Cafe, Buck Street, Bradford – it is still a cafe today.
  • she did go blind in old age

Listening to what other people have to say to you is a good way to begin, but don’t rely on what they are telling you to be truth, but remember it is the truth as they know it to be. Begin with a big notebook, which will become your sacred record. Talk to people. If they are willing ask to see photographs and certificates, take copies if they will allow you to, but don’t forget to return things promptly. Share information online; far too many people set their trees to Private, but yet expect you to share your information with them. It is worth paying for a research site and i would suggest Ancestry, but familysearch.com is free, you can save your tree on it for free too, although you will need to set up an account. Living people are automatically set to private, only the person who adds them can see them, but all other people are not. Unfortunately there are no photographs of Sarah Riley or her family that i know of.

Have fun!