Every now and then while I'm trawling the records in Ancestry I find something interesting...could be an unusual name or a sudden realisation...today it was the fact virtually everyone who lost a spouse remarried within a couple of years...sometimes it was much sooner.

And it didn't appear to matter much whether you had half a dozen children from your deceased spouse either...or how old you were. I found a man of seventy taking on a woman with nine children and then she had another baby with the new husband...

I suppose much had to do with some sort of financial security...it must have been appalling to be left with little ones in the days before the advent of benefits and child allowances and such like.

Something else I found today which I'd not come across before was a 'wet nurse'...on a census return for 1851 there was a woman, her husband, and two step-children plus a six week old baby who was described as the 'child being wet-nursed by the woman of the house'...as there was no mention of her own baby or toddler I'm presuming she may have lost her own baby and had plenty of milk to feed another.

And her name...which I've never come across before, was Sabra.

Putting your baby out to a wet nurse was common practice...more especially if you were upper class when it wasn't considered to be 'nice' to feed your own baby...so you either brought a woman into your home to act as a wet nurse or you farmed the child out. This wasn't without risk though...many wet nurses took on several babies because the pay was good and simply couldn't feed them all so there were too many cases where tiny babies died through lack of food and basic care.

I'm unsure whether it happened in England but in Ireland babies were often fed by dipping the end of a piece of cloth into the fresh goats milk and then letting them suck on it...if you happened to have an obliging goat some women fed the child directly from the goats teat. I can't think that would work with little babies though...goats teats are bigger than a cows and when they are swollen with milk would simply be too big for a baby's mouth...

In the census of 1881 I found a member of my English family owned a toy shop! Wouldn't it be wonderful to go back in time and visit...this was almost at the beginning of the period when children were being considered children rather than simply small adults and were being allowed the freedom to be a child...which included having toys to play with as well as wearing looser fitting clothes.

Mum had a doll which she'd been given as a child...still in her original clothes which included lace trimmed bloomers...she was carefully wrapped in layers of tissue paper in a special box...she was only allowed to take her out to play with on a Sunday afternoon. The doll was actually rather creepy though I never said that I found her so to Mum...it wasn't a cuddly sort of a doll at all. Sort of stiff and formal looking with her hat and her real leather boots.

Another relative on the English side was a 'supplier of oysters' something which I've never tried and have no intention of ever doing so either...they look sort of slithery to me...whether he caught the oysters himself I have no idea...perhaps someone else did that and he just sold them on.

One of the nicest occupations was that of a 'coffee house owner'...that was a remote cousin several times removed in 1851. I wonder what the coffee shop was like though...probably quite dark and perhaps rather gloomy with old oak tables and a strong scent of freshly ground in the air...I wonder who his patrons were. Did he have stables at the back where customers could leave their horse while they huddled together discussing business affairs? I think the cups in which the coffee was served would have lacked handles...been more like a small bowl to be held in both hands and I wonder if it was drunk black or with milk and would there have been sugar on the table? Oil lamps for lighting of course...but I'm not certain about the sugar. If it was on the table it'd have been brown unrefined sugar...not sparkling white like ours is.

Lacking in photographs of these places, I'd so like to be able to sketch a picture of what it would be like. But I have trouble drawing a stick man so that isn't an option...

Changing the subject completely...we reached double figures in the temps today. It was actually warm enough to sit outside with a coffee...instant coffee in our case, not being sufficiently posh or rich enough to have ground...!