Family fled to South Shields from cholera epidemic

Andrew Grant's aunt Annie
Andrew Grant's aunt Annie

Today we continue the story of local historian Andrew Grant’s family tree, and the links with such famous people as Benito Mussolini and Benazir Bhutto.

Yesterday we heard about his mother Anna Phyllis Grant and his uncle George Glenn, now he tells us about other members of the family.

“My mother’s family originally came from Kings Lynn, in Norfolk,” explains Andrew.

“But they moved north about 200 years ago, following a cholera outbreak, which killed thousands.

“They travelled by stagecoach for part of the journey, but walked the rest of the way, eventually settling in South Shields.”

Andrew said his mother’s sister, aunt Annie, was forced to clean stairs after her husband George died, when he was only 38 years old.

“However, in 1937, she eventually found work with the son of Lord Rochester, Roland Lamb (who was a Methodist Minister) and his wife, who were ‘very kind to her’.

“Even so, she still had only 10 shillings to support herself and her daughter Dorothy.

“My uncle, William Thompson, was a senior manager at the United Nations.

“He was a civil engineer who visited several countries with his family.

“At one time, they were posted to Thailand where they became friends with a man who, like my uncle, was a civil engineer, and a descendent of one of the greatest civilisations the world has ever seen – the Inca empire in Peru, South America.

“When uncle’s family lived in Thailand, they met the wife of the inventor of time and motion.

“Another friend of my uncle and my cousin Dorothy, when they lived in Pakistan in the 1970s, was Benazir Bhutto, who was then, a member of Parliament

“In 1988 she became Prime Minister of Pakistan, which was quite an achievement for a woman and a Muslim.

“It is my understanding that her family felt that helping the poor was a greater priority for her Pakistan People’s Party than it had been for the military government which had previously ruled the country.”

For anyone hoping to search their family history, a great place to start, is to enlist the services of the Northumberland & Durham Family History Society.

And I have been asked to make mention of the society’s annual conference which is coming up soon.

The conference will take place at Brunswick Methodist Church, Brunswick Place, Newcastle upon Tyne,on Saturday, June 18, starting at 10am and finishing at 4.30pm.

The theme of the conference will be “The Making of the North East”, giving delegates an insight into family life and work in North East England in the early 19th Century.

There will be four guest speakers, as well as a project research exhibition by members and a selection of family history stalls.

The morning programme, after registration and refreshments, will feature two talks, the first by Dr W S Howard, of Sunderland University on “Our Peculiar Race of Pitmen – the making of the North Eastern Mining Family”, followed

by Norman Welch, speaking on the migration of families, “What and where were they then? What and where are they now?”

The afternoon speakers will be Dinah Iredale, on “The Bondagers of Northumberland and South East Scotland” and Dr Ian Roberts, on “Metalworkers in the Dales”.

The conference will end with refreshments, giving delegates the opportunity to view the displays and stalls.

The cost to attend the day, including a buffet lunch and refreshments, will be £20, and non-members are welcome to attend.

Bookings can be made by phoning the society on (0191) 261 2159 or via their website

It sounds like a fascinating day, offering a diverse range of subjects for history-lovers to enjoy.