John’s photographic memories re-lived

John Robinson
John Robinson

THE sad demise of the engineering industry in Hartlepool led to John Robinson’s emigration.But decades later, he has still not forgot his links with the town he called home. And now, in a report from his adopted home in Canada, he has shared his family tree with the Hartlepool Mail. Chris Cordner reports.

FROM the capital city of the Saskatchewan province of Canada, John Robinson has penned his family tree.

It has taken him thousands of miles back over the pond to his home town of Hartlepool.

Now, for the first time, he has shared his research .

It makes for great reading.

John worked for Richardson Westgarth in Hartlepool between 1949 and 1963. They were great times, “starting as an apprentice and finishing as a technical engineer,” he said.

But they did not last. “Seeing the demise of Richardsons Westgarth, I decided to seek work elsewhere,” said John.

First, he moved to Rugby and then, around four years later, he left the UK for Canada “to work as a consulting engineer”.

But like many people, the lure of the homeland still had a big pull.

He wanted to find out more about his family back in the UK and he embarked on his ancestral trail after he retired in 1997.

John said: “The starting point was some basic information provided by my brother Billy in Trimdon which had been expanded by another brother Jim in Hartlepool.”

And so a study which has taken many a painstaking hour got under way.

But John’s is a genealogical research with a difference. It is heavily influenced by photographs.

He explained: “I have always been interested in photography and have a collection of family negatives dating back to the 1930’s. Billy had the foresight to save old photos from the estates of relatives and Jim digitised some of them.

“Harry, a third brother in Hartlepool, obtained the album of Mary Isabella Cope, his wife’s aunt, when she died in 1986. On trips to England in 2003 and 2005, I obtained digitised copies of these photographs. I also visited other relatives to make copies of their family pictures.”

John soon found himself tackling two tasks.

He said: “In parallel to cataloguing the pictures, I worked on the family tree and tried to find out as much information as I could about my ancestors. One of the things I did was to talk to the family elders and get their memories of their parents and grandparents.

“This involved contacting distant relatives in Australia where two of my grandmother’s siblings lived from before the First World War. Of course living in Canada, I had to rely on the Internet to search for a lot of the information.”

John’s youngest brother Paul, living in Durham, helped with the research and did the legwork in the North- East, both in visiting places and being able to see actual records to verify our findings.

“I was able to combine the research, stories and photographs into three booklets for family members, one each for our Shorthouse, Kell and Robinson families of Trimdon,” added John.