Seeking Great-Aunt Ba-ba

Some people make a lasting impression on you and in the case of Great-aunt Ba-ba it was just as well for I only met her once as a child when she was very elderly.  Someone of twenty seems ancient to a youngster, as for being ninety, I just couldn’t get over anyone being that old or that much fun.

Gt Aunt Baba (Frances White) 90th bithday about 1965
photo take by me about 1965, which means she would have been born around 1875

Great-aunt Ba-ba was a ‘spinster of the parish’, a description that conjures up a sad and somewhat diminished individual whereas in reality, if she was anything to go by, they were far from that.  Lively and interesting, I adored her instantly but was too young to ask her any questions about her life.  I doubt if I would have been told much anyway for that generation were far too busy living in the present: perhaps the effect of surviving two world wars.

Frances White - auntie baba - and Clara Joyce Shortland
On the left, about 1925

One story I heard many times from my father was of how when he and his brother were sent to stay with her in the school holidays they were allowed to run wild, something that wouldn’t have been tolerated by their strict parents.  This would have been about 1920 and to reach Rudgwick in Sussex from the Thames Valley took the whole day.  Once there they would spend all day running free through the woods and cowslip-ing in the meadows.  On trips to the south coast my father would always make time for a detour to show me his playground and Aunt Ba-ba’s wonderful house.

postcard of Greenhurst, nr Rudgwick
about 1918-20

So how did she get her pet name?  I have no idea – I understand that her real name was Frances White – and there is no one now left alive that can answer the question. Perhaps her name was Barbara, or is that too simple an explanation? I had another great aunt that was called ‘Toddles’ so perhaps silly names were just a family thing!

Frances White - auntie baba

I’d always assumed that Frances White was just a family friend for, in days past, it was customary for children to call them aunt or uncle out of respect.  Recently I have discovered another old family photograph – that of Charles William Langston-White and this could be a missing link.  His mother Norah Langston (my first cousin twice removed, whatever that means) married James William White in 1909 – he was born in Sussex.

charles william langston-white, aged 3yrs 3mths
“aged 3yrs 3mths” so taken June 1916

Could Great-aunt Ba-ba have been related to this White family?  I would have thought it probable but, so far, my researches have drawn a blank and I have found no trace of her having even existed in the public record books.  Fortunately I have these few photos of her and my memory to prove she existed.

If there are any enthusiastic genealogists or amateur sleuths reading this I will be grateful if you can find out more.

2018 UPDATE:  More information has recently come to light.  You can read about this here

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  1. If you know her date of death or at least the year and can locate a copy of her death certificate, that should list a next of kin (who would be responsible for the disposition of the body), and their relation such as a brother, sister, or niece or nephew, etc., which might lead you into her family tree that way. The death certificate might also give you the parents' names (they do here in the US when that info is known) and the date of birth (if known). Websites like allow you to do a +/- search for a name within a 5 or 10 year range for their birth/death/marriage data. Don't know if you have a similar website in the UK. If you know age at death, that should put you onto the year for where to search for the birth certificate. If you know the address of her house, a title search might reveal where she got it from, i.e., if she inherited it, and from whom, which might also be revealing, as she may have inherited from her parents.

    1. Thanks for all the hints. the trouble is I know so little about her. I've been trying Ancestry and haven't found a listing for her anywhere on that. I'm going to pursue the death line as I am slightly more aware of that so we'll see,

      Will keep my fellow bloggers updated!

  2. Family names . . .terms of endearment ... I had an Aunt Tudy and an Uncle Hammy. No one could or would tell me how they got their names. I now think some things were meant to be kept from younger generations.

    1. Funny old ways that are rather nice. Lots of my friends call me Johnson for no special reason. Some newer friends only know me as that - I suppose that's how these things arise!


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