Joseph Charles Abram and Lucy Thompson

Lucy Thompson was the first wife of my great grandfather Joseph Charles Abram.  Lucy and Joseph, a Corporal in the Army Service Corps residing in Aldershot, married on 16 April 1906 in Northampton.

Lucy’s life was short – born in Northampton in 1880, Lucy was the daughter of William and Harriett. She died in Farnham, Surrey in 1907. After Lucy’s death, Joseph re-married. His second wife was my great grandmother, Millicent May Bowers.

I have been able to trace Lucy on census returns. On the 1881 census, Lucy can be found aged one, living with her parents and sisters Emily, Annie and Alice.  Living in the same house is Lucy Munns (described as mother in law).* In 1891, Lucy, aged 11,  can again be found living with her parents and sisters at Great Russell Street.  Her father William is now recorded as working as a Gentleman’s Gardener. Finally, in 1901, Lucy, aged 21, is no longer at home with her parents but is working as a servant for a widow, Elizabeth Peach, at 25 Margaret Street, Northampton.

I have been able to find William and Harriet on the 1901 census. William is recorded as a market gardener and Harriet a greengrocer shopkeeper. The are still living at Great Russell Street. In 1911, William, now 72, is still recorded as a market gardener, living at Burns Street with Harriett.

I am interested to learn more about Lucy and her family, as she has been described to me as ‘a dark skinned lady’ and I have discovered that Northamptonshire has a significant black history, with people of Asian, African and Caribbean origin, residing in the county over many centuries.

* I have located a Lucy Munns on the 1851 and 1861 census returns. She is recorded as having been born in Riseley in Bedfordshire and is married to George Munns.  The couple have a daughter called Harriett.

Joseph and Ann

Joseph and Ann Abram (nee Cox) were my great great great grandparents. I have been able to locate the couple on the 1861 census, where Joseph, a shoemaker aged 23 and Ann aged 21 were living at 4 Lower River Terrace, St Sepulchre in Northamptonshire with three children, Emma, Charles (my great great grandfather aged 1) and Harriett.

I believe Joseph was the son of James and Rebecca and I have located him on the 1841 census aged 3 and the 1851 census aged 12. Sadly, it appears that Joseph died aged just 28.  The death certificate shows he had been suffering from Phthisis Pulmonalis (Tuberculosis) for 13 months.

Ann appears to have married William Maloney in 1869 to and her story continues on the 1871 census, where, aged 31, she is living at St George Square in Northampton but now with William Maloney of Ireland, Charles (aged 11 and recorded as Charles Abram Maloney) and three other children, George, Emma and John W Maloney.

In 1881 William and Ann can be found living at 12 Alpha Street, Northampton, with four children, Jeremiah (aged 9)*, Eugene, William and John Maloney.  Finally, in 1891, Ann can be found at 50 Adelaide Street, Northampton.  She is a widow and working as a laundress. Eugene, William and John are still living with her.

* Jeremiah Maloney does not appear on the 1891 census with his mother and siblings but I believe I have located him, aged 19, living as a boarder at Luther Street, Leceister in the home of William and Sarah Abrams (both recorded as being born in Northamptonshire) and their children Herbert and Amy, along with two other boarders,  Ellen Maloney aged 24 and and Eva M aged 1.  (I believe that Jeremiah Maloney married Ellen Frost in 1889).

Betty May Abram

Betty May was the daughter and youngest child of my great grandparents Joseph Charles Abram and Milly May Bowers.  She was born in Halsted, Essex in 1924 and died in 2015.

Betty served in the RAF for a time but her records show she was dismissed under Kings Regs paragraph 652 for being with child.  She later  married Geoff Bryant in Wellingborough, Northamptonshire – they met while working in the Derngate office of the United Counties bus company in Northampton.  Interestingly, this is the same company her father took on during his time as proprietor of Earls Barton Motors.  Geoff was later a Company Director at C Butt Warehousing, a truck haulage company.  He died in 2016.

Army Life

My great grandfather Joseph Charles Abram enlisted in the British Army on 22 January 1901 aged 19 years and five months. He worked as a Farrier Staff Sergeant (a blacksmith specialising in shoeing horses, a skill that requires not only the ability to shape and fit horseshoes, but also the ability to clean, trim, and shape a horse’s hooves) in the Army Service Corps. During his time in the army he served in South Africa, Egypt and Palestine. He left the army in 1922.

My family is fortunate to have a copy of his service record together with other mementos of his time in the army, including a brass tin (a Christmas gift from Princess Mary to those serving in the armed forces in 1914), the Christmas card that came with this,  his war medals and the Oak Leaf emblems which he received for having been mentioned in despatches on 30 December 1913 (a member of the armed forces mentioned in despatches is one whose name appears in an official report written by a superior officer, in which gallant or meritorious action in the face of the enemy is described).

Further information about the tin can be found below.

The medals are the 1914 Star, British War Medal and Victory Medal, also known as Pip, Squeak and Wilfred.

Further information about the medals can be found below.


Princess Mary Christmas tin

More photos


RAF serviceman

My grandfather Louis Bowers Abram served in the Royal Air Force. I know little about his time in the RAF other than he was a Corporal and learnt to fly in a Tiger Moth at Sywell but war broke out on the day he was due to take his test, so he never saw active combat.

I do however have the wonderful photo below (Louis is stood at the back on the far left), badges from his uniform and his service and release book.

Grandad in the RAF

More photos


Joseph Bowers Abram

Joseph Bowers Abram was the first child born to my great grandparents Joseph Charles and Millicent May Abram.

Growing up I remember often being told about Joseph, although at the time we did not know the child’s name, born to my great grandparents during time they had spent in South Africa. My great grandfather was stationed in Tempe, Pretoria on army service and Millicent was there with him.

There was no military conflict in South Africa that would have caused them to be there but there was a substantial military presence in South Africa following the
creation of the Union at the end of the Anglo-Boer War in 1899-1902 and some British Army units remained stationed in South Africa until the beginning of the First World War.

The British had occupied the town of Bloemfontein and Tempe became a military base – Bloemfontein, as the capital of the Boer Orange Free State Republic and a large town, was established as one of the new Union’s administrative centres and consequently had a local military garrison, Tempe. Today, the Tempe base is reported to be one of the largest Army bases in South Africa.

My grandmother recalled being shown a photograph of the child’s grave which Joseph Charles is said to have carried in his wallet but the photograph can no longer be found – the grave was surrounded by iron railings made by my great grandfather, who worked as a Farrier (a blacksmith – specialising in shoeing horses, a skill that requires not only the ability to shape and fit horseshoes, but also the ability to clean, trim, and shape a horse’s hooves).

However, for many years the search for information about the child proved to be fruitless. Requests for help locating documents or a photo of the grave ran cold. The child was nothing more than an often told family story – there was no evidence he had ever lived.

Eventually information about the child did emerge – a boy, named Joseph Bowers Abram (Joseph after his father and Bowers, his mothers maiden name) was found to have been born on 11 March 1913 – he was baptised less than a month later on 4 April 1913 in Bloemfontein Cathedral, Orange Free State, South Africa.

Detail of the baptism of Joseph Bowers Abram, 4 April 1913

Detail of the baptism of Joseph Bowers Abram, 4 April 1913

Sadly, Joseph lived for two short months – he died of enteritis and heart failure. Joseph and Milly May returned to England soon after. I can only imagine how it much have felt to leave their baby so far away.


Around 2009 my dad made contact with a cemetery recording project, they advised they had the following information on a  DVD.

ABRAM, Joseph
Buried: Rooidam Military Cemetery, Tempe, District Bloemfontein, Free
State, RSA
Note: Joseph Abram
Son of S Sgt Abram. Died 1908-1913 during occupation of Tempe

The information he was told was taken from a headstone recording done in 1993 by Holden, P and Botha but sadly the information did not lead to a photo of the grave.

Both of us also made contact with The Commonwealth War Graves Commission. They advised their responsibility for graves in Rooidam Military Cemetery was limited to the war graves and those of soldiers from the Anglo-Boer War. The cemetery contained many private graves of the soldiers family members but many of the private memorials had deteriorated over time or disappeared and The Commonwealth War Graves Commission did not have records of the civilian burials in Rooidam Military cemetery.

A member of staff kindly visited and checked the private headstones that still existed but was unable to locate any that related to Joseph Bowers Abram which was terribly sad, as it appeared there had been a headstone in 1993.  He went on to advise that many infants appear to have been buried in a plot to the rear left of the central avenue but unfortunately few headstones remain. He sent the photograph of the cemetery below but could not confirm this was where Joseph was actually buried.

Rooidam Military Cemetary

Further images of the cemetery can be found below.


Then in February 2018, when trying to pull together everything I knew into one place to write this story, I decided to do an internet search for ‘the occupation of Tempe’ – I wanted to know why my great grandfather was there and why Tempe was occupied.  I didn’t find the answers to my questions but the search did lead to me discovering four photos of the Tempe memorial which named both my great grandfather and his son.

Tempe memorial

Further images of the Tempe memorial can be found below.

This was  swiftly followed by a church burial record and death entry.

Death entry for Joseph Bowers Abram

Joseph Bowers Abram burial certificate

Armed with the new information I had obtained, I made contact with the South Africa War Graves Project.  They wrote back and advised that a visit to the Rooidam Cemetery had not identified the location of the grave – there are quite a few crosses with no names etc and open patches where you can see there’s a grave but no stone etc.

Updating this story in March 2018, I now believe the chance of locating an individual grave is unlikely – it has been suggested to me that there might have been an individual grave at sometime with or without a headstone. It has also been suggested to me that the graves could have been flattened and the memorial erected and/or the people named on the memorial could be buried at the site of the memorial. Whether we ever find this out remains to be seen – we may never know.

However, finally, the burial certificate shows the place where baby Joseph is buried and whilst the Tempe memorial is not the individual grave dad and I had been searching for, the memorial, clearly names Joseph and his father Staff Sergeant Abram – evidence that the baby who lived for only two short months has not been forgotten.


Many people helped in piecing together the history that appears on this page. Thank you in no particular order and hoping I haven’t missed anyone to Sandy Botha at Bloemfontein Cathedral, Terry Cawood and Glen at the South Africa War Graves Project, the eGGSA library, Cheryl Jacobs on the South African Genealogy Facebook page for providing the links to to the church burial record and the death entry, Riana le Roux, Rod Carkett at the Commonweath War Graves Commission, Rob Palmer at British Military History and the  Ministry of Defence Army Secretariat in Andover.

Margaret and my Australian family

Putting together these pages, I have felt incredibly fortunate to know so much and have so many photos of my family and I am indebted to Margaret Creighton (nee Abram) for sharing so much of the Abram family history with me.

Margaret is my dads second cousin once removed and the daughter of Reginald Abram, one of the many children of my great great grandparents Charles and Emily. After the first world war ended, Charles and Emily stayed in England and Charlie and Millicent (my great grandparents) settled in England too but many of the family emigrated to Australia, with Reg going in approximately 1922 – 1923.

Below are some photos of my Australian family.

Photo one: Margaret with husband Graham, mother Connie (wife of Reginald Abram, one of the children of my great grandparents Charles and Emily) and sister Joan, 20 March 1093
Photo two: Margaret and Graham with Connie aged 90 1/2 years holding her great grandson Robert, also Robert’s mother Teenga
Photo three: Margaret’s eldest child Rodney with wife Jenny
Photo four: Margaret’s middle child, Greg
Photo five: Margaret’s youngest child Andrea

The pommie mafia

The photo below was given to me by my relative Margaret Creighton who lives in Australia. It shows my great great grandparents Charles and Emily Abram (nee  Hutchings) surrounded by many of their children and their children’s families. When Margaret gave me the photo, she told me her husband used to refer to it as ‘the pommie mafia’.  I love this photo to pieces but can absolutely see where he was coming from on this.


Back row, from left to right: Will, Frank, Water, Mabel, Albert, George, Louis, Reg, Will (Millie’s husband), Bet-Martha (Louis’s wife), George (Frank’s son),
Front row, left to right: Gladys (daughter), Alice (Will’s wife), Vera (Will’s daughter, Emily, Violet, Charles, Kit (Albert’s wife) Gwen (Albert’s daughter), Millie, Annie (Frank’s wife)

Margaret’s father was Reginald (Reg) Abram and is pictured on the back row of the photo. Charles and Emily who were  married in 1880, are pictured front and centre, with their youngest daughter Violet, seated in between them  Violet was born in 1906 and lived to celebrate her 100th birthday in 2006.

When asked about the photo in her 100th year, Violet re-called a number of things.   The photo was taken not long after Walter and Mabel’s wedding and one of the brothers, George had come over from America to visit. The dress that Violet wore was of blue velvet.

Charlie Abram, my great grandfather, was not in the photo because he was in Africa serving in the war.  Violet remembered that Charlie had been married prior to marrying my great grandmother Millicent May Bowers and that his first wife had been a ‘dark skinned lady’. (Records show that Joseph’s first wife was Lucy Thompson, her father was William was a gardener and her mother was called Harriet. Joseph and Lucy married on 16 April 1906).

Violet said she was about the same age as Gladys (Frank’s daughter) but Gladys had died aged 29. She noticed that Theresa, who they called Sis, wasn’t in the picture but she couldn’t remember why and that Kit and Albert’s son Sonny had also died young but was unsure at what age.  Also, that there was at least two  other siblings but that they had died – one was a female named Mary the other was a male but she did not know his name.

After the war, Charles and Emily and my great grandparents Charlie and Millicent settled in England but many of the family emigrated to Australia.  Violet re-called that Rose (Kathleen) was not in the photo as she was already in Australia – she had left with her husband, an Australian soldier, around 1919 (see newspaper article below).


Reg followed in approximately 1922 – 1923 and Louis, Bet-Martha and Violet left around Christmas 1924, arriving in Australia on 9 February 1925.  They sailed aboard the Ship Esperance Bay on it’s maiden voyage, which was later turned into a battle ship in the Second World War and sunk. Violet was only seventeen at the time and is believed to have traveled as Louis and Bet-Martha’s daughter.  George didn’t want them to go and had tried to convince them along with Charles, Emily and other family members to go to America.

More photos

Big sis, little sis

My sister Rachel and I were born a little over two years apart. I was born at mum and dads then home in Luton and Rachel was born in hospital in Chester.  Despite being two years older, it did often feel like Rachel came into the world running (there was just so much to learn about), whereas, I took things much slower – mum thought she was going to have me a week or so before she did but it seems I had a think about things and decided to wait a while longer … to this day i am a dotting your i’s crossing your t’s kinda of a gal.

I remember Rachel getting into a fair few scrapes – using her teeth to get out of her cot; a visit to accident an emergency when she ran head first into Stuart McClleland in the school playground (coming off worst with a black eye); coming home from infant school with her cream waistcoat covered in paint; then there was the time she took a liking to my Pluto toy and tried to eat him, managing to bite through the plastic.  Needless to say Pluto didn’t recover.  She was really much too young to know what she had done but somehow has never been allowed to forget what she did.

My childhood seems to have been less eventful, I was much happier in a corner with my head in a book, although I had my moments too. I remember pulling the legs off a plastic spider when Rachel annoyed me one time and throwing her Darth Vader toy out of the window to see if he could fly.

Despite our differences though, she is always the person I have the most fun with and I have very happy memories of the many things we have done together.

Love ya loads little sis.

More photos




Louis and Delia

Louis Bowers Abram and Delia Eileen Clarke were my grandparents on my fathers side of the family.

Delia was the daughter of Northamptonshire Police Sergeant Albert Edward William Clarke and was one of five children. Louis was the second son of Joseph Charles Abram, an Army Sergeant and Millicent May Bowers.

During the 1930’s Louis passed exams set by the East Midland Educational Union in Motor in Practical Mathematics, Workshop Science and Principles of Engineering and Engineering (Mechanical). He later worked at S and W Motors Limited where he was indentured as an apprentice from May 1931 to May 1933, as a Motor Engineer at York Ward and Rowlatt  from May 1933 to May 1934 and at Gilmour and Vale a company that manufactured engineering components.  He also worked at Vauxhall Motors in Luton, retiring in 1970 after 25 years service having established ‘an excellent reputation in respect of loyalty, conscientiousness and timekeeping’. He was a Corporal in the Royal Air Force and learnt to fly in a Tiger Moth at Sywell but war broke out on the day he was due to take his test, so he never saw active combat.

I remember visiting my grandparents at their homes in Luton and Chester. My grandad grew tomatoes in a greenhouse and to this day, I can’t smell tomatoes without thinking about him. My nan I remember would wear more than one pair of glasses at a time and also, back when we had paper money, would use the money as writing paper to work out how much she owed someone or who much they owed her. In writing this, I am surprised at how many photos of my nan I have found where she is standing, as I only really ever remember her with mobility issues  – firstly using sticks to get around and later being confined to a wheelchair.  Nan’s condition went un-diagnosed during her lifetime but today it seems likely that she could have had centronuclear myopathy like dad and I.