Introduction and Preliminaries


I have always been surprised about how little I know or can remember about the history and background of our family. For some time I have been attempting to discover more about the family’s past and forebears using the many sources that is now available on the internet.

This web site is an attempt to impose some order upon the various sorts of information that I have been able to collect. It would be pretentious to imagine that this was in any way a complete and accurate history of our family over  the last couple of hundred years and more. It is a start and I would hope that others will add to and develop the information I have collected, eventually. It is inevitable that more information will become available on-line in the future.

I think that it will be useful for anyone who reads my account to know how I collected and interpreted the information in order that they can recognise its limitations and, hopefully, to provide a basis for others to check or develop what I have attempted and correct errors. I have, therefore, added a section which anyone interested in checking or adding to this account may find useful.

I would become rather bored if I simply listed the information I have collected, thus I have indulged my own comments and opinions when I have felt like it and occasionally added a few personal memories. It would be good if other family members could, eventually, add their comments also.

The main body of the document is an narrative account. In order to illustrate the account and make it more comprehensible I have added a number of family trees, maps, documents and pictures.


What were our forebears really like, a word of caution


It is one thing to collect and collate what information there is about family members in the past. It is quite another to imagine how they lived and what their lives were really like from our comfortable position in the early 21st Century. One has to make an effort and remember that one is describing people who lived before antibiotics and modern medicine, before any social services or pensions, before motor transport, railways and electricity. The past really was another country which is hardly conceivable for us.

The photograph below illustrates the sorts of events that Henry and Muriel encountered as young adults less than a hundred years ago.



Further back, our forebears were working in dangerous trades such as file makers which relied upon lead in the manufacturing process.


This was the working life of our forebears


I used to wonder why our parents were happy to move to and live in a house in Hall Green Road, Coventry for all their working lives. This is not hard to appreciate when what little information there is suggests that for our parents Hall Green Road must have seemed a rural paradise compared with the pit villages they moved from and that No 51 was a mansion compared to their parents’ and grandparents’ houses.

 From this

Surtees Street, Bishop Aukland

To this

Hall Green Road, Coventry, today


There are examples among our forebears of children working at the age of twelve or thirteen. Mum’s mother left home in Oxford at the age of fourteen and by then without a mother or family home went into service near Liverpool. Youngsters we consider to be children were not recognised as children in the late Victorian era; it was not until 1885 that the legal age of consent was raised from 13 to 16. Families with seven to ten children were common in our forebears’ families and those are the live births we know about. Death in the twenties or thirties was again commonplace. A widowed mother had to go into service in her sixties to survive. Families taking in a relative was not unusual.

There were also among our predecessors some remarkable people who in their own small way overcame considerable obstacles to advance themselves. Our mother’s father was one of ten children who lived in a ‘two up two down’ terrace house, left school at thirteen and eventually went to Cambridge University as a choral scholar. One of our father’s grandparents was the son of a miner and youngest of four sons all of whom were miners, he was working as a miner in his teens and must have continued working as a miner for more than ten years. He eventually became a well established citizen in his local community and left what in the eyes of his descendents must have been a small fortune when he died.


Details of the will of Henry Pearson d 1909 (value £347,000 in today’s money)


As an aid to try and imagine forebears’ lives I find it helpful to refer to pictorial evidence from the times in which our forebears lived and worked and examples of these are included throughout the web site. Where they are available I have included photographs of the houses and streets where our forebears lived. Maps both old and contemporary identifying where are forebears lived are included in the narrative where appropriate .

Interestingly our family members seem to have lived through a number of major wars and managed to avoid active service. There is no record of military service in the family.


Family Trees


I have produced a number of family trees which are located in the Family Trees Page and at times within the text. It is probably easier to read the text in association with them. There are all separate family trees which focus upon different parts of the family line.

I have one hand-written master family tree but at present it is rather unmanageable, measuring over a yard by half a yard, and it is beyond my capability to produce a digitised version of it.

The outline family tree below provides the framework which I have used to organise the family trees and recount the history of the family and hence it should provide a guide to what follows.

The McNamara family are a motley bunch with a mixed and varied pedigree which draws its inheritance from far and wide, including among others: Irish immigrants; Durham and Northumbrian miners; Yorkshire engineers; Oxfordshire agriculturalists; and perhaps even Norman invaders.


Motley Bunch



Muriel and Henry with their daughters in law, Patsy, Ailsa and Anne no doubt amused by their husbands