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  • Writer's pictureWendy Percival

Surprise coincidences

Family history connections can take you by surprise sometimes, as I wrote about in a recent post, Shock Shared Ancestor.

A couple of years ago (before socialising became virtually non-existent due to the pandemic!) friends who live in our Devon village came to our house for a meal and commented on a watercolour of the Guildhall in Lavenham, Suffolk, hanging on our dining room wall which my husband had painted.

My husband’s family come from Lavenham - his maternal grandmother, Caroline Matilda Long, was born there in 1885. We’d once rented a holiday cottage in the village opposite the Guildhall to do some family history research. As you can see from the painting, it’s a beautiful building – in common with much of Lavenham.

While we were there, we’d bought a copy of the book, ‘Lingard’s Lavenham’, subtitled A Photographic Tour of Lavenham Past. And there on the front cover was the cottage where we were staying (left in the photo), and next door was the tailor’s shop. The photographs in the book had been taken by the village tailor and amateur photographer, Francis Lingard Ranson. His grandfather, Jeremiah Ranson, had opened the tailor’s shop in 1840.

It was Francis’s passion for Lavenham which we have to thank for the architectural gems which remain standing today. He helped set up the Lavenham Preservation Society in 1944 and campaigned to save the historic integrity of the village, which was under threat of almost total demolision.

What we didn’t discover until much later - long after our holiday - was that Jeremiah Ranson was my husband’s 2x great grandfather! His daughter, Susanna, had married Frederick Saunders and their son, Alfred, had married Caroline Long, my husband’s maternal grandmother.

Wedding of Caroline Long & Alfred Saunders, July 1913

But back to the story of friends and the painting of Lavenham in our dining room. It turned out that our friend’s family also come from Lavenham – her grandfather was born and lived in the village, and she regularly visited him there during her childhood.

A quick browse of the censuses revealed that in 1891, my husband’s grandmother, Caroline, then aged 6, was living just three doors down from our friend’s great-grandparents in Market Place.

Quite an amazing coincidence to discover a shared family connection to a place 300 miles away on the opposite side of the country!

Have you come across any similar surprise family history coincidences?


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