Thursday, 28 August 2008

John & Eliza Miller of Weston Underwood

(p.s. Article #100 of this year!)
I have featured my gg-grandfather John Miller (1849-1922) recently in a photograph showing him in charge of a carriage, probably parked in the Nag's Head Yard, Derby. The following two cartes de visite, images of which were kindly sent to me by my Canadian cousin Lynne Tedder, show John and his wife Eliza Sheales née Newman (1844-1919).

Image © and courtesy of Lynne Tedder Image © and courtesy of Lynne Tedder

I have already provided some biographical notes about John Miller in my previous article. Eliza was born on 29 July 1844 at Winterton-on-Sea, Norfolk, daughter of farmer William Salmon Newman (1819-1895) and Elizabeth Knights Sheals (1816-1894). At the age of 16, Eliza was working as a pupil teacher, the family having moved to Heath Farm, Great Rollright, Oxfordshire. On 21 December 1869 Eliza married John Miller at All Saints Church, Mugginton, Derbyshire, and their first child, a daughter Hannah "Minnie/Min" Mary Elizabeth Miller (1870-1956), was born in late 1870 at Weston Underwood. In April 1871, Eliza was working as a school mistress, presumably at the National School in the nearby village of Mugginton. Wright's 1874 Directory of South Derbyshire again shows "Mrs. Eliza Miller" as mistress of the national school, built in 1840 for 20 boys, while Herbert Shaw was master. Her husband John was described in the same census as a brickmaker and member of the yeomanry cavalry.

Ten years later, the 1881 Census describes him as a brick and pipe manufacturer, while Eliza is still working as a school mistress. It was shortly after this date that they opened a grocery and post office in the village of Weston Underwood, and presumably Eliza stopped teaching. The 1887 edition of Kelly's trade directory, presumably compiled late the previous year, does not list Eliza as a teacher. Early the following year, Eliza had their eleventh child (and sixth son), a fifth daughter having died young in 1884. By 1891, the three eldest daughters had all left home, and were working as domestic servants in Derby.

According to notes attached to the image of Eliza by my cousin, she is wearing furs sent from Canada by her sons Fred and Archie. John and Eliza had ten children who survived to adulthood, including sons Frederick Newman Miller (1885-1958) and Bertram Archibald Miller (1886-1979), who emigrated to Saskatchewan, Canada. According to a record in the 1911 Census for Battlefield, Saskatchewan, taken on 1 June, Fred arrived there in 1906 (presumably arriving after 24 June, as he does not appear in the census of that date), and it is likely that Archie followed him shortly after 1911. The style of dress and hat worn by Eliza Miller is appropriate for the 1900s, and I estimate that it was taken between 1906 and 1910. This is a fairly late date for the use of the carte de visite format, but not unheard of, and the corners are square, which became common for both cdvs and cabinet cards after the very late 1890s.

The card mounts bear the photographer's name and address, Levi Yeomans of 119 Crewe Street, Derby. Levi Yeomans was born in Derby in 1865, son of a railway labourer John Yeomans (1820-1872) and his wife Mary née Wildgoose (1823-1899), who was a midwife. After his father's death in 1872, he lived with his mother on Canal Street, and worked as a railway clerk. He married Emma Crispin at Derby in early 1894, and in 1898 they moved to a house on 119 Crewe Street in New Normanton. The 1901 Census still shows him working as a railway clerk, and the 1912 edition of Kelly's trade directory doesn't list him at all, so it is not clear exactly when and for how long he was taking photographs. I suspect that it was only for a short period in the late 1900s and early 1910s. If any reader has photographs taken by Yeomans, which might help to expand on the information that I currently have for this photographer, please get in touch. [Email]

It is interesting to note that John & Eliza Miller's second daughter (and my great-grandparents) Edith "Edie" Newman Miller (1872-1956) and her husband Frederick "Fred" Montague Brown (1870-1960) moved to a house at 121 Crewe Street - next door to Levi Yeomans - between the census in March 1901 and August 1904, when their fourth child was born. The Browns lived in Crewe Street until they moved in with the daughter and son-in-law, my grandparents, at the latter's house in Glenwood Road, Chellaston in the 1950s. It seems very likely that John and Eliza sat for their portraits while on visit to the Brown residence, perhaps even in their daughter's house, and then, since the photographs are now in the possession of Fred's grand-daughter Lynne, sent the cartes de visite to their son Fred in Canada.

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