York and Me: Blood and Beauty

York has always been a place I have loved since my first visit was in 2012, aged only 7 years. I went with mum and grandma to visit the city but also to see the Queen and the extended royal family who were in the city at the time.

My love of York began after this visit. I don’t remember a great deal about the trip in 2012 but we visited countless times throughout the next few years. I’ve been to the Dunegons; Jorvik centre; walls; minister amongst other things.

Me and my Dad at the ruins of St Mary’s Abbey in York (28 Oct 2016)

York blood flows through my veins, with 1893 marking the last time a direct ancestor (my Second Great Grandfather, Arthur Dale) was born in the city. The Dale line represents many tales of dramatic rises but equally as dramatic declines. Rising from being an orphan to a somewhat important local figure, William Dale’s tale represents the unlikely happening to a hairdresser in Jubbergate. He still had to face death in the eye throughout his 55 years, even meeting a morbid, sudden end himself.

The death of his grandson, Alfred Dale, at the hands of cancer, in 1906, left 7 children fatherless but also a widow who had to support them. They moved away from the city to find work in the mills of West Yorkshire, arriving in the Batley and Dewsbury areas by 1908.

Alfred Dale and his wife Mary Jane

Walking the streets felt different when I visited last week. Stories I had never known could be seen as I walked them and I felt a connection across the decades and centuries to those that preceded me in this city. Regardless if you’re a spiritual person, the spirits of the ancient city’s former residents truly do walk its streets.

Me otuside St Michael Le Belfrey’s Church (27 May 2021)

When the organ played as I walked around All Saints Pavement Church, it was the strongest connection I had ever felt to my ancestors. The fact that they were sat or stood in the church I was stood in centuries ago, celebrating birth and marriage but also grieving the loss of their family and loved ones struck me at the moment. I appreciate (even more) the ability to tell these stories and the hours of research and frustration is worth it when you see the bigger picture.

Ostensibly my connection to York was simple; it was one of a local city where I made a few memories but that’s not the case as it is much deeper. The stories and fragmented memories of my ancestors can be lived and breathed down the ancient winding streets of the city which is truly a rarity in a world that forgets about its history.

Please visit your ancestral homelands if you ever get the opportunity. It is very much worth it! I wouldn’t fret if you can’t though as merely remembering your ancestors is something to be proud of. Remember that we are not our ancestors but we can always still walk in their footsteps. Possibly learning something along the way.

4 Comments

  1. Dana says:

    Hi George. That was an excellent blog that mirrored exactly how I feel about both York and genealogy. Your writing is excellent. Although I live in Canada, my father and his ancestors came from York and surrounding area and I get the same feeling each time I visit the churches and streets that they walked. Interestingly enough, a few. branches came from Dewsbury and Batley, were Tailors, Drapers and mill workers and it never occurred to me that it was as a result of the cloth mills being in the area.
    I am just rereading Ann Victoria Roberts book “Louisa Elliott” and I can see the streets I have walked down in her beautifully written story that takes place in nineteenth century York. Thanks for a great read.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. George Hall says:

      Thank you so much for the kind words! The Batley/Dewsbury is where the vast majority of my ancestry lies with the Hall family residing in the area fro the best part of 500 years. There will be plenty content on the area to come! I might have a look into the book you have suggested. I could do with a new one. 🙂

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  2. Trevor Keeler says:

    Hi George. I was born and grew up in York. There was a family called Dale who lived in the next street to me. They had two sons, John and Peter. We all played football on the cinder field behind my house. Sadly the whole area was flattened in the sixties. It was good to hear your story.

    Trevor

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    1. George Hall says:

      Thank you so much! I know that many houses where my York ancestors lived were also flattened in the fifties and sixties. There could be a connection to me with the Dale family but who knows? 🙂

      Like

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