Knowing Your Onions

Tracing Family History: NarrowBoat, Summer 2014

Steve Hayes

Steve Hayes sniffs out his boating ancestors in Lincolnshire

Many years ago I remember my mother saying that the smell of frying onions reminded her of going up to Torksey with her Uncle Albert on a boat when she was a child. Later, when I got bitten by the inland waterways bug, I asked her if she could remember anything about the boat or the cargo, but it seemed that the only thing to make an impression on her was the onions! I don’t think she had been very old at the time. Later, when I researched my mother’s side of the family, I was delighted to find my great-grandfather, John Smith, in the 1881 census, living at 3 Foss Bank, Lincoln, by the side of the Fossdyke. His profession was listed as a ‘waterman’ as was that of his son, Albert. Albert was the one with a partiality for fried onions! I got really excited when I managed to find John again in the 1891 census as master of the 60-ton sailing vessel Ocean, registered number 208 in Lincoln, a Humber keel employed on inland navigations. It was moored at Queen’s …

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